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Chain of Command
8/12/2016 12:00 AM

Board & Administrator Editor Jeff Stratton said a visual representation can teach board and staff members the proper relationship between the two.

A Minnesota executive director is frustrated because she is having little luck trying to get her board to understand that staff communication should be funneled through the executive director.

In this case, a teaching tool might help board and staff better understand the connection between the two parties.

Think of the relationship as an hourglass: The board occupies the top end of the hourglass and the staff occupies the bottom end of the hourglass, while the executive director occupies the thin part of the hourglass in the center. Teach your board and staff that image to get them to respect the organization’s chain of command and direct all communication through the executive director.

7/29/2016 12:00 AM

Why does “ugliness” erupt between the board, its stakeholders and the executive director?

It does happen, you know. Things can get pretty ugly between the board and its executive director very quickly.

It’s much rarer to see a shouting match between board members and the organization’s supporters when the board is in conflict with its administrator. But it happened at the Northwest Child Development Center in Roanoke, Va., recently. The board caused an uproar by firing its executive director, Jacqueline Wiggins.

“Trustees who run the Northwest Child Development Center fired its executive director Wednesday night, prompting a shouting standoff between community members and the board outside the day care,” reported.

The controversy erupted over financial issues, as a key funder for the organization pulled its funding over concerns about board competence.

“United Way of Roanoke Valley said it had stopped funding the center because of concern about the board’s management,” reported.

“Jacqueline Wiggins, who started work as executive director over the summer, said the board gave her a letter of termination that said she was being fired in part for insubordination,” reported.

“Wiggins said she believes she was fired in retaliation for criticizing the board,” reported. “She, and other members of the community, have been critical of the board after it announced earlier this month that the center would close unless significant money was raised in a matter of days.”

Remember: From Day 1 on the job, stress education to your board members.

It seems to me that the board is in dire need of board education. If the board were educated, it would be more aware of its governance legal duties: duty of care, duty of loyalty and duty of obedience.

Members of the well-educated board would be particularly in tune with their duty of loyalty in which they have an obligation to place to prioritize the organization’s interests when they act.

These three duties should be some of the first board education materials you review with your board members. If the board understands the high calling it assumes when governing the organization, it is far less likely to find itself in a shouting match with disgruntled stakeholders—the people the board is supposed to be serving.

For more information, go to


Jeff Stratton, Editor


Board Role and Staff Contact
7/28/2016 12:00 AM

Executive Director Audrey Schremmer has a nifty way to get the board to come to agreement about its role, as featured in this Board & Administrator article.

Board member/employee interaction creates confusion all around: confusion about roles, confusion about who is in charge and confusion about whether the executive director is truly the boss.

For example, when a board member tells a staff member how to perform his job, the employee may very well assume that since “a board member is telling me to do this, he is speaking for the board.”

Executive Director Audrey Schremmer (Wamego, Kan.) seems to have hit on an effective way to prevent this problem, because the words “legal liability” clear up board member role confusion very quickly.

Schremmer ( said she had some significant incidents along these lines when she first started as executive director. This was during a period when the organization had been without its executive for a period of time.

“Numerous critical staffing changes had to be made in order to address a budget deficit,” Schremmer said. “Fortunately, I only had one board member who overstepped his role and gave feedback to staff. The staff acted upon these instructions, assuming that board direction overrode my decisions.”

The organization’s attorney consulted with Schremmer in this case and provided guidance. “I had a one-on-one discussion with each board member to educate them on their personal legal liability if they acted solely without the approval of the full board,” she said.

After this discussion, the majority of the board requested the attorney draft a document for all board members to sign, which acknowledged this principle of unified board action, Schremmer said.

This was a somewhat dicey issue for the organization, Schremmer said, because it was important for board and staff members to feel comfortable working together on agency projects, fundraisers and consumer events. “We didn’t want to squelch communication, just guide it,” she said.

Schremmer first worked with the attorney and board on this issue, then moved on to guide the staff through it. “I held an all-staff meeting to present the same information to staff members while still assuring them we wanted collaboration and conversation between the board and employees,” she said. Employees just needed to be aware that they could put individual board members at legal risk by coming to them individually with problems, she said.

“This approach to the issue has served us well through the years,” Schremmer said.

Going forward, any time an unhappy employee sent a grievance letter to board members, they forwarded them to Phillips, most often without even reading them, she said. “Those words ‘legal liability’ resound with most everyone,” Schremmer said.

8/19/2016 12:00 AM

Use this board member job description from B&A to teach the board its role and prevent problems.

Board Recruiting
8/5/2016 12:00 AM

Use this Board Composition Survey from Board & Administrator Editor Jeff Stratton to ensure the board’s makeup is well-rounded and diverse.

6/17/2016 12:00 AM

These Board & Administrator guidelines clarify board responsibilities and duties for advisory committees to prevent role misunderstandings.

Advisory committee members, as well as board members, need help in understanding the purpose of an advisory committee. Use the following guidelines to clarify the purpose of your advisory committees.

Board committees: The board shall approve all matters pertaining to the business and policies of the organization. The board may appoint standing committees; however, no individual member or group composed of less than the full membership of the board shall exercise the powers of the full board.

Temporary ad hoc and/or advisory committees: With the approval and direction of the board, the chair of the board may appoint ad hoc and/or advisory committees to assist the board.

The following guidelines shall apply to all temporary ad hoc or advisory committees:

Committees shall be appointed for a specific and well-defined purpose. Their authority shall be limited to the task assigned to them by the board.

All committees shall be fact-finding or advisory in nature and possess no executive powers. Committees and committee members shall have no power to make monetary or other decisions for the board.

The board will provide such committees with a meeting place. The executive director shall provide these committees with an administrative presence. The administrator or his/her designee shall be a member of all committees.

All reports of any temporary committee shall be made to the board and executive director.

Ad hoc or advisory committees shall be dissolved upon completion of their assigned tasks.

Final authority in the decision-making process will reside with the board.

Standing rules:

The purpose of any advisory committee shall be to: (1) advise and comment to the board concerning the conduct of the organization’s services, structure and policy; (2) inform the community of services offered by the organization; (3) assist a specified office or program with community relations, marketing and fundraising, and provide other support as appropriate; and (4) provide consultation and direction on the development of resources.


The chairperson shall preside at all meetings of the advisory committee and shall be responsible for informing the advisory committee of projects and programs established by the board.


Upon recommendation of the advisory committee, a member of the advisory committee shall be appointed by the chairperson of the board to serve as liaison with the board. Where applicable, an advisory committee member who is also a member of the board will serve as the liaison. The liaison shall be responsible for the flow of information between the two bodies. The liaison will provide a written report of the advisory committee’s activity to the board as needed.


The advisory committee will meet only as needed to study assigned issues. The time, date and place of the meetings will be determined by the advisory committee.


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  • Meet the Editor

    Jeff Stratton

    Jeff Stratton has edited Board & Administrator since 1992. As the Board Doctor, he has advised thousands of executive directors and board members on issues like prevention of
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