Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Wednesday Wisdom: Govern, don't manage

Period. End of story. Roll up the carpet and call it a day. Boards are here to govern, not manage.

I chose this quote for its evergreen nature, and for its "current events" applicability (let's just say it it always seems to hit a little too close to home).

Stating the obvious is the title of the publication containing Kenneth Dayton's quote, Governance is Governance.  We may occasionally be called to advise on management functions. We may sometimes have to manage aspects of the work, especially in a nonprofit's early days when there may literally be no one else to complete those essential tasks.

But in the end, our ultimate responsibility as board members is to govern - to guard and advance the vision and mission of our organizations. If we don't govern, it doesn't happen. Sadly, many of us need Dayton's reminder to not let that core reason for being get lost in the day-to-day shuffle.

Are you governing, or are you managing?


Anonymous said...

How does one tell the difference? I am on the Board of a very small not-for-profit, and the Board has just removed the treasurer from office; an unprecedented motion by a Board in this organization to the best of our knowledge. The treasurer was acting as a manager, outside the scope of his position, and was not doing his actual job to our satisfaction.

I am wanting to learn more about our functions and duties as a board, and am searching for tutorials and informational websites like this one.

Thank you very much.

Debra Beck, EdD said...

One free resource that does a marvelous job of distinguishing between governance and management (in fact, that's its name) is an article from Great Boards newsletter. It's one that usually ends up being shared with boards with which I work (yours is a very common question). A direct link to it at the moment is a *little* tricky. Best way to get you to it is to give you the newsletter's main address: and point to the hotlink to the article (found on the "Top Resources" list in the center. Today, it's the fifth title down.).

Also, not free but a really good, general overview, is a brand new book (that I probably should review soon), The Invisible Yellow Line: Clarifying Nonprofit Board and Staff Roles. Goodreads link to that title is here: It gives you a variety of online purchasing options (and, of course, your favorite local bookseller would be glad to order for you).