In the board room with Walker and Grace

Since we’ve been talking about effective boards so much recently, I thought it would be helpful to compile some advice from two of our Page to Practice™ expert authors on boards. They complement each other well, reinforcing the main points and going deeper in different areas. With two lifetimes of experience, Julia Ingraham Walker in A Fundraising Guide for Nonprofit Board Members and Kay Sprinkel Grace in The Ultimate Board Member’s Book give it to us straight.

Primary function

Walker insists the board members are leaders and role models who carry the mission forward through communication, giving, fundraising, advocating.

Grace calls board members “keepers of the mission,” like Walker. She emphasizes board members should not be managing daily operations, but ensure all resources are used effectively. She also asserts, “Development, or relationship building, is the most important role for a board member…If all board members were committed to developing relationships, fundraising would not be a challenge.”

Role of board members vs. staff

Walker states, “Boards are reflective of their leadership. The best boards have active, involved leaders who encourage board engagement in the nonprofit’s fundraising activities but stop short of micro-managing the development operation. Open communication, sharing of goals and mutual respect between the board and staff are also big factors in forming strong board relationships.”

Walker gives a clear distinction between the board and staff:

The board members are the leaders who represent and communicate the mission and vision of the organization.
The staff supports the board’s directives and implements the programs.
The board with its fiduciary responsibility needs to ensure all activities feed into the mission and vision, are transparent and accountable, and have no conflicts of interest.

Grace focuses on a positive relationship between the board and staff as well:

Communication between the CEO and board is critical to set clear expectations. The CEO runs everything but has to report to the board, so an honest relationship is critical.
The board should not get involved with the staff too intimately or there will be a feeling of “too many bosses” and it will strain the relationship with the CEO.

Watch for next week’s blog when we’ll compare and contrast the two authors’ views on recruitment, fundraising and donor motivation. You can download either of these book summaries at the Summary Store or subscribe to CausePlanet for access to the entire library of titles and live author interviews. For Grace’s book, visit www.emersonandchurch.com and for Walker’s book, visit www.wiley.com.

 

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