Nonprofit Network Blog

The Executive Director and Board Chair Relationship

Thursday, June 05, 2014 2:39 PM | Deleted user


Recently, Brian Philson, President and CEO of Highfields, Inc was a guest facilitator at a recent Nonprofit Network Executive Director Morning Networking event. He noted some practical tips about how to navigate an effective relationship with your Board Chair.

The Board Chair and Executive Director relationship can either help the nonprofit "thrive in tits mission" or severely hinder the nonprofit's growth and success. When it goes "south" it can cause long - term damage to the nonprofit. When it is in perfect harmony, the agency will thrive and experience success.

From my experience and training I believe there are some important keys to making this relationship "highly effective" and allow the nonprofit to thrive in its mission. There are three keys to cultivating a successful relationship:

Good Communication I believe a monthly face to face meeting is important. In addition, setting agendas together and a "dress rehearsal" prior to each board meeting is a good idea, even if by phone or email. There should be no surprises!

Role Clarification Having a good understanding of what the Board Chair and Executive Director roles are is very important. There are some basic roles that should not overlap, but depending on the organization and the personalities, these may be unique in each and every situation. In some cases, the roles may even overlap, underscoring the importance of “good communication”.

Decide where you (might) put these roles:

·         Fundraising

·         Fundraising - Board Member involvement
·         Daily personnel and budgetary issues
·         Sharing the long-term vision of the nonprofit 

Good Chemistry With a High Level of Trust This is pretty critical in my opinion and having an ability to be candid and open with one another is important. There are time when you need to talk about sensitive information and strategize on how to move forward. Examples might be about staff, donors, board members, finances, etc. This takes work based on time and investment.

Brian D. Philson, LMSW, ACSW President/ CEO

Brian started with Highfields in July, 2006 as the director of residential services. He was promoted to vice president of programming before being promoted to President/CEO in August 2008. Brian earned his master’s degree in social work at Michigan State University and bachelor’s degree in social work at Spring Arbor College, where he later became an instructor. He is a member of the National Partnership for Juvenile Services, a Board Member of the Michigan Federation for Children and Families and a member of the National Association of Social Workers.

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