Nonprofit CEO Board Chair Relationships – Anything Works

Nonprofit CEO Board Chair Relationships –Anything Works!!

A recent NPQ Nonprofit Newswire (March 13th 2012), report concludes, that to build good nonprofit CEO-board chair relationships, “Task lists and job descriptions often propose a “one size fits all” recipe for the CEO-Board chair relationship, (but the lists have little to do with real world effectiveness.)”

As a former chair of several national and local nonprofits, I agree with this research-based conclusion. The unique interpersonal chemistry between the two people really leads to success or failure. It is like the teaching-learning situation. No learning will take place in the classroom if the interpersonal chemistry between teacher and student is poor.

However, I think there is one area to which the nonprofit CEO and board Chair must set some defined guidelines — what is an operational decision and what is a policy/strategic decision?

For example, one CEO with whom I, as board chair, had good relationships signed a five-year lease, on his own, for office space at a cost of $6,000 a year. He viewed the decision as an operational one because he clearly had budget for it. I agreed to a point but indicated that he also had obligated the organization to a long-term contract. We solved the difference by agreeing that I should take the contract before the nonprofit's board of directors for formal ratification.

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  1. Agreed! There is a clear need to articulate the lines between operational matters and governing matters. The relationship is key… When trust is earned and present, the CEO can be free to lead and dream. Stay current, and maybe “do life” together in a retreat setting once a year. Maybe those who play together are more apt to stay together.

    Gary Coiro, nonprofit leader and former pastor


  2. I agree an annual retreat can be helpful. But the CEO or minster still has to be a visionary and at the state of the art in the field, even when the board is composed of field experts from the field. He or she has to be a peer not a powerhouse!!


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