Monday, April 22, 2013

Are the board and CEO tuned into the same station?

By Sherman Skelton

For a nonprofit to be successful, and sustainable, the board and the CEO must be in tune with each other. After all, the board chose the CEO to carry out their organizational vision. The CEO is a reflection of what the board values, while possessing the qualities that they feel is important for organizational leadership.

In her article, "Non-Profit Organization: Management Roles and Responsibilities," Constance Wolushu writes, "The board of the nonprofit organization confirms the mission statement and the philosophy of service for the non-profit organization. It also develops the strategic plan and direction, the goals and the objectives for the work to be done." "One of the most important responsibilities of the board of a nonprofit is hiring the best CEO or executive director (ED) possible to implement its strategy."

If the board is responsible for confirming the mission statement, developing the strategic plan, organizational direction, goals, and objectives, then it must choose a CEO to lead the organization whose vision is in line with their own. It will be this person who advances the board's vision. The CEO becomes the face and voice of the company.

Now that a CEO is chosen


Once the board has chosen its CEO, it then becomes the responsibility of that person to carry out and implement the mission and values that the board has established. An article on  states, "A close and trusting partnership between the board and the CEO is also essential for good governance. Board members need to have enough confidence in the CEO to trust that the operational micro-issues are being looked after."

It's important that the CEO feels that he/she has the full support of the board to carry out the day-to-day operations. This includes personnel management, budgetary responsibilities, drafting contracts, overseeing fundraising, and a myriad of others. To maintain the trust and confidence of the board, one of the main duties of the CEO is to keep the board involved. A board that feels disengaged and out of the loop is more likely to micromanage. 

It is one of the functions of the CEO to keep the board informed and as Alice Korngold puts it, "fully engaged." She discusses the importance of a "fully engaged board" in her article "Developing Visionary Leaders."   

Importance of avoiding interference

This tip sheet, provided by, does a good job of identifying some additional roles of the CEO and board, while outlining the importance of avoiding any confusion in the roles of each. It goes on to further state that "It is important that both the board and the CEO are fully aware of where their roles begin and end. If there is any confusion in an organization about roles and responsibilities, it can lead very quickly to conflict, inefficiency, and low morale. 

These types of issues can be avoided by clear communication between the board and CEO. Both parties need to have an understanding of their roles and respecting the roles of others. 

The relationship between the board and the CEO can be a delicate balancing act. Both parties must work together to find some equilibrium. If balance is found, then the organization has amazing potential to fulfill the mission and vision that was initially outlined. This can allow an organization to have a dramatic impact in the community it serves. 

The following slide show by Avtar Singh does an excellent job of further outlining the roles and responsibilities of the CEO.

Click on the links below for additional information


  1. Hey Sherman,
    I think you brought up a good point in that the in order to maintain a great relationship with the board, the CEO must be transparent with the board. Having a great working relation can lead to a more effective working environment that benefits everyone. Good post.

  2. Thank you Tim. I do think it is best when there is enough respect for the job the CEO is doing that the board can give them the latitude to handle the day to day business. Your right that a strong working relationship can benefit everyone along the hierarchy.


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