Four tips for excellence in governance

Photo of Don Tharpe

By Don Tharpe
Senior VP, Lexington & Central Kentucky Market

I recently had the pleasure of presenting to a group in Lexington about the relationship between nonprofit staff and their board, alongside several of my Ashley|Rountree colleagues. We hope to bring the full presentation to more cities in the coming months, but in the meantime, I’ll share a few thoughts from our discussion.

Good governance is essential to keeping a nonprofit fiscally sound and capable of achieving its mission, and part of our conversation included some best practices for an effective relationship between the board and staff. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Transparency: Ensure information is readily available to stakeholders and decisions are made in an open and accountable manner. Transparency must run throughout every element of the organization. The nonprofit must make available to the public any information contained in board books, minutes, bylaws, and policies.

Accountability: Establish clear performance metrics and hold individuals and the organization responsible for meeting these targets. The CEO should hold staff accountable for performance metrics pertaining to delivery of program services as well as operational goals, such as fundraising. The board should hold the CEO responsible for the organization’s overall performance and how they meet the nonprofit’s strategic objectives.

Participation: Engage stakeholders in the decision-making process and create opportunities for feedback and input. Each nonprofit operates with volunteers who serve on the board and various committees. The nonprofit must develop methods to allow the volunteers to contribute and to hear them. Value their contribution. They are well meaning and give of their time and talents, and they need to be heard.

Responsiveness: Proactively address issues and concerns raised by stakeholders, and adapt to changing circumstances and needs. The board meets on a regular basis, generally monthly or quarterly. Since they meet so infrequently, and usually for a short time, items that need the attention of board and staff need to be addressed quickly. Doing so gives the board and staff the confidence that the organization is managed in an orderly manner.

Stay tuned for an upcoming (free) coffee chat that expands on this topic! In the meantime, feel free to reach out to me with any board development or governance questions.