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Board Relationship
6/30/2016 12:00 AM

Board & Administrator Editor Jeff Stratton said the executive director must be very careful when the board’s reason for hiring is “to improve fundraising.”

When the board hires you with a main emphasis on “boosting” fundraising, be very careful.

The North Valley Arts Council’s board fired an interim executive director recently, reported. One reason for the termination? The new exec’s “failure to boost fundraising,” the website quoted a board member as saying.

NoVAC’s board asked Gary Edwards to leave his position during its monthly meeting because he couldn’t improve fundraising and had conflicts with the nonprofit’s staff, reported.

I’d be very wary of taking a job at a nonprofit when the board is focused on improving fundraising. It’s a good chance the organization is facing severe financial difficulties, as the North Valley Arts Council was in this case.

Sure, the administrator needs to have a firm handle on the organization’s finances, but being “fundraiser extraordinaire” really shouldn’t be the only part of your job description. There are programs, personnel and physical plant concerns that take up plenty of your time as well.

When the board has money concerns, and really it’s the rare and fortunate nonprofit that doesn’t, focus your board on diversifying revenue as outlined in a recent Board & Administrator article.

Key things to remember about engaging the board when it has revenue concerns include:

  • Don’t let the board shirk responsibility. Get them involved in discussing solutions to money issues by asking them questions. Show the board the financial data and ask the board for options and ideas on improving the revenue situation. This way, the board owns the solutions.
  • When you write a strategic plan, write a fundraising plan as well. Remember, the board has an obligation to pay for their plans for the nonprofit.
  • Get outside help and train your board to fundraise. If you are in a dire situation financially, the best gift your organization might ever receive is a donation to bring in an expert to speak frankly with your board about how they view fundraising at the organization (why does the board not contribute in this area?).

A consultant can also train the board in the steps they need to take to become contributors to the nonprofit’s fundraising activities.

For more information, go to

Sincerely, Jeff Stratton, Editor


Nonprofit Executive Compensation
6/24/2016 12:00 AM

This chart from Board & Administrator illustrates leave benefits B&A readers receive on average.

If your board didn’t grant you enough time off this year, you might want to compare the leave you receive with other executives who read Board & Administrator and use this information in compensation negotiations with your board.

The chart below shows the average time off executive directors receive in the areas of vacation, sick days, personal days and holidays, according to last year’s Survey on Nonprofit Executive Compensation.

Board Micromanagement
6/10/2016 12:00 AM

President/CEO Brad Barry (Havertown, Pa.) stresses six strategies to his board to avoid being micromanaged.

President/CEO Brad Barry (Havertown, Pa.) said he keeps board members from micromanaging by stressing competence in two areas: his management team and staff performance in providing services. His six strategies for emphasizing these two areas are:

  1. Keeping the board informed of both good developments and potential problems.
  2. Hitting all financial and performance targets.
  3. Stressing governance. “Present the board their responsibilities in terms of their fiduciary responsibility of public oversight, not hands-on management,” Barry said.
  4. Communicating effectively about governance issues. Barry presents a written report at each board meeting that covers topics such as changes in the environment the organization works in, pending legislation and progress on strategic goals.
  5. Stressing committee work. “We have an active board committee structure that meets regularly and hears from various members of our senior management team,” Barry said.
  6. Having an informal board participation policy of “nose in—hands off.”
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.

4/1/2016 12:00 AM

Use this Board & Administrator post-meeting evaluation form to ask board members to assess their work.

3/25/2016 12:00 AM

Develop a roles and responsibilities chart to teach nonprofit board members to focus on policy.

Sometimes the nonprofit executive must be a mind reader.

That’s because nonprofit board members can be really hard to figure out. Sometimes they want complete authority over decisions. And other times they look at you as if to say, “Why didn’t you just go ahead and do this? It’s your responsibility!” That’s where the talent for mind reading becomes a career necessity.

Yes, ideally the board makes policy decisions and stays out of your management decisions. But rarely are things so cut and dried. That’s because there are three real-world problems that can make your decision-making dicey:

  1. Many board members don’t know their proper responsibilities, even after they have been oriented and trained. So they don’t know which decisions are the board’s and which belong to you.
  2. There are plenty of gray areas where responsibility is not clear.
  3. A board has the power to make any decision it wants to — right or wrong.

What the nonprofit needs is a clear-cut list of responsibilities for both board members and the administrator. That way, board members will know their own responsibilities — and respect yours. Who does exactly what isn’t really the key issue here. What’s vital is that everyone on the board and administrator team discusses and then agrees who will be responsible for what — and sticks to the agreement.

If you and your board make the time to develop a decision-making chart, you should see a positive effect on board meetings. Once the board has specified who will make decisions, meetings should become shorter and smoother because everything has been sorted out in advance.

As a team, the board and administrator should decide who is responsible for making each decision. Be sure to tell your board where you think you should be responsible, but be willing to live with their consensus — even if you don’t agree.

Note: I’ve listed a few responsibilities below to help you and your board get started. But be sure to customize this list to your own organization and the types of decisions you typically face.

When developing your own list, you will have a good opportunity to discuss board responsibilities. Give your board some guidelines, such as the following:

  • The board handles the “what” — such as our organization will provide a new program. The executive handles how the policy will be implemented — such as who will staff the new service, where and when.
  • The board makes decisions that set the direction for the entire organization. The executive makes decisions that affect individuals.
  • Law often dictates who must make a decision.

Responsibility Chart for the Administrator and Board

Label each item with one of the following:

A = Administrator has complete authority to make the decision.

I = Administrator has authority to act and then inform the board.

P = Administrator must seek prior approval from the board to act.

B = Board must make the decision.

  1. Write a grant proposal.
  2. Submit a grant to a funding source.
  3. Discipline an employee who comes to work intoxicated.
  4. Change board-meeting times or frequencies.
  5. Purchase new computers with budgeted funds.
  6. Set minimum salary for new staff.
  7. Determine rules for staff dress.
  8. Terminate a supervisor’s contract.
  9. Accept audit of the organization’s finances.
  10. Appoint people to an advisory committee to advise the administrator about community needs.

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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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