The Ten “Must” Agreements between Board and Executive Director

 Post by James V. Toscano

There must be agreement:

1. On  Vision. Do all agree on the overall Vision, how it is articulated and explicated into program, or are there major differences? Do  all agree that this Vision is still relevant and essential to social benefit?

2. On Mission. Is there agreement that the organization’s mission is still the critical pathway to achieve strategic goals? Is there consensus on the processes and/or programs that will achieve Vision? Do all participate in and agree on strategic plan or strategic priorities? Is there agreement that the organization is still viable should it merge or go out of business?

3. On Board member job description. Do all agree on the major roles of the Board: policy, planning, finances, oversight?  Do all agree on the boundaries for Board members and for the Executive Director?  Is there clear agreement on what is policy and what are operations?  Do all agree on an annual Board self-evaluation?

4. On fundraising responsibilities.  Is there consensus on who raises funds and how resources are developed? What is the fundraising role of the Board, the Executive Director, volunteers and the staff? Do all agree to contribute significant resources to the organization annually?

5. On the Executive Director job description. Do all share the same expectation of what the Executive Director is to achieve? Do all agree on current priorities and time to achieve them? Are there outstanding employment issues that still need to be settled?

6. On organizatonal priorities and annual work plan. Do Board and Executive Director annually agree not only on budget, development, future direction, and processes of change, but also program priorities, annual work plan, and expected results? Do all agree on the methods of reporting impact, measurement of results, and the operational definition of success?

7.  On Board meeting protocol. Do all agree on what is expected and what should result from Board meetings?  Does the Board characterize itself as a working board, an oversight board, or a policy board? Where does the Executive Director’s responsibilities fit into this characterization?

8. On responsibilities of Board Chair. Does the Board and the Executive Director agree on the specific responsibilities of the Chair? Is there agreement on the role of the Chair in the interim between Board meetings? Is there consensus on the Chair’s responsibility for the organization in the community? Do the Chair and the Executive Director agree on their respective roles in the community and in the organization?

9. On communication between Executive Director and chair and Executive Director and Board. Do the Chair and Executive Director agree on the relationship between their respective roles? Do they communicate over an expected range of important information?  Are all confidential matters shared with the Chair by the Executive Director? And on what issues and when the Executive Director should communication directly with the Board?

10. And on annual job review and succession. Do the Executive Director and the Board, or Executive Committee, agree on terms for evaluation of job performance, review, compensation and potential bonuses or other amenities as part of the original hiring of the Executive Director? Agreement on payment of  staff at market rates, or an alternative formula, should also be part of the initial negotiation. Agreed-upon processes should be in place for  succession planning, notice of departure, retirement, and termination terms.   Is there agreement on  longer-term development of potential internal talent for the top posts as part of an overall organizational development plan?

If any of these do not have the consensus needed, mechanisms to reconcile differences to allow optimal operation of the organization must be in place.

Such agreements covered above are  necessary parts of the relationship, although they are insufficient to guarantee overall organizational success. Other internal factors, external forces, changes in the environment, economics, and a multitude of other variables will and must be taken into consideration in running any organization. However, without fundamental consensus on the ten areas above by the Board and the Executive Director, the organization will not succeed.

Special thanks to Don Taylor of the Chandler Group for his significant suggestions.

Copyright 2011, The Good Counsel, division of Toscano Advisors, LLC. May be duplicated with citation.

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