The Line Between Board & Staff Isn't Black & White. It's Invisible.

Who Does What in a Functioning Nonprofit?

By Jean Block | January 10, 2018

A few years ago, I was introduced at a conference as “Jean Block, who has more than a half a century of experience in the nonprofit sector…”

Gasp! Well, it is true, since I organized my first fundraiser at age 13 and am now 75.

In the years since I was 13, I have served as both board leader and staff leader for many local, regional and national nonprofits.

I’ve been there and I’ve done that. And, since I began consulting and training nearly 20 years ago, I’ve heard it all. From board members who are passionate about a mission but don’t really know their role…executive directors who feel overwhelmed and unable to share the work with their board…and, even those instances when both teams are fractured and at the breaking point.

As a trainer, I searched for a way to clarify who does what in a high functioning nonprofit, but couldn’t find a concise, user-friendly way to make sense of the line between board and staff. Unfortunately, the line between the two critical nonprofit teams is rarely black and white…indeed, the line is invisible.

Invisible like the yellow line on the field that we see as spectators watching a televised football game. That line moves, can be hotly contested and is invisible to the two teams playing the football game.

The same is true in nonprofits. There are two teams (board and staff) and, as leaders change in the nonprofit or the organization goes through growth or other dynamic change, the line moves…but it is still invisible.

Voila! We have a way to clarify our roles and a language to use as we navigate the ‘who does what’ conversations!

The challenge is to find common ground between the two teams…common ground in a nonprofit is the organization’s mission and purpose…and develop a useful way to define key roles of each team in serving that mission.

The five primary areas in which each nonprofit team must play an important role are governance, finance, planning, human resources and resource development.

February 1, 2018, join me at the Center for Nonprofit Excellence for my workshop: The Invisible Yellow Line™. We’ll explore the roles of the board team and staff team in these key areas so that we start from a common point and everybody wins the game: the board, the staff and, most importantly, the mission.


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