Friday, March 2, 2007

Board Roles & Responsibilities – Round 4

Today, we ponder the board’s responsibility for programming decisions and members’ role as organizational ambassadors.

Responsibility 7: Determine, monitor, and strengthen the organization’s programs and services. This is my favorite part of board service, because this is the heart of governance. The process begins with mission-driven decisions about which programs and services to offer. Note the “mission-driven” reference. The board should be diligent in ensuring that everything the organization does advances its mission in some way. Once those decisions are made, the board should work together with the executive director to ensure that processes are in place to monitor and evaluate programs.

Some potential exists for confusion about board vs. staff roles in program management. The specific mix of who-does-what may differ from one organization to the next. It is important to clearly identify the individuals or groups responsible for each program or program component. This should take place in planning – goals should include both clear assignment of responsibility along with a target time frame. It also plays a role in evaluation processes. Whatever the right fit might be for your organization, it is important that defining and providing highest-quality programming that advances your mission become the bottom line.

Responsibility 8: Enhance the organization’s public standing. Board members act as the organization’s ambassadors to its key stakeholder groups: the community, current and potential donors, opinion leaders, policy makers. As community leaders themselves, they have access to, and high credibility with, personal and professional peer groups. Board members should be willing to regularly communicate and advocate for the organization with those groups, raising awareness and building support for its mission.

I recently facilitated a planning session for a local nonprofit where this role was spotlighted. It was interesting – and heartening – to see this group take a proactive approach to speaking out on behalf of the organization and nurturing stakeholder relationships. They came up with an interesting balance of goals related to specific issues of today while looking to the future. They identified both formal ways for board members to promote their organization and informal opportunities to raise awareness in their daily activities as civic leaders.

How refreshing that was to witness! If board members succeed at meeting those goals, the community will have a stronger perspective of the evolution of the organization, its place in the life of our town and the importance of ensuring that it remain a viable resource.

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