Your staff have better things to do than spend a full workweek generating a report for a board member. Those types of requests eat up far too much of a staff member’s time.

No board member should treat the nonprofit’s employees as his personal assistants. To resolve the matter, treat it as a full board issue and not something the board should expect its executive director to “fix” or handle for the board.

For boards where this is a serious, ongoing problem, I recommend the board adopt a one-hour rule to manage requests from board members for staff work. Here’s how it works: For a board member to make a request for staff work, the work must take no more than one hour of staff time, and must be related to one of the nonprofit’s strategic goals. If the request meets these criteria, then the board member must present the request to the full board and get a majority of board members to approve the request.

This approach takes the onus off staff, who may be uncomfortable being asked by a board member to perform work, and removes the executive director from the equation. It makes board requests for staff work a board issue, which is where the responsibility lies for these types of decisions.

The Board Doctor’s recommendation: Write a board policy on board requests for information. In your policy, consider these areas: requests for information during board meetings, requests for information outside of board meetings, requests for information related to the board meeting agenda, program-specific requests and how responses from staff will be disseminated to the board.


Jeff Stratton, Editor