Take a Seat, Then Find a Chair

In Board Development, Evaluations, Strategic Planning by Geoff Burns

Now that you have decided to join the board of directors, there are several tasks for which you are responsible to the public and to the charity. So take your seat, its time to get started. You are now responsible for the overall governance of the organization through policy and programs. You have a duty to support the development of self and the effectiveness of each of the other board members.

It is your responsibility to participate in the development of, and uphold the strategic purpose and direction. Additionally, you must monitor the effectiveness of the strategy, the Executive Director, the programs, yourself, and the other board members.

You must participate in fundraising. First through planning, then through participation as it is your responsibility to secure the necessary resources to support the operations, programs, and services offered by the mission. You play an active role in representing the organization, its programs and services to the public including stakeholders, community at large, funders, and clients.

In short, you are a member of the board so you build relationships, bring your resources to the table, contribute financially, attend all the board and committee meetings, participate in events and activities, regularly volunteer for assignments and complete them thoroughly and on time, and prepare yourself for meetings, reviews, reports and other concerns.

While this is the role of every board member, it is important to remember that there are some specific roles of officers as well. Most organizations have a chair, treasurer, and secretary. There may be other officers as well, depending on your specific needs. Of all the officers, when it comes to leadership, there is one role that is especially important, that being the Chair of the Board.

In addition to all of the responsibilities of every board member, the Chair is also the leader of the Board of Directors as well as the Supervisor for the Executive Director. Along with the ED, the Chair develops the agenda for each meeting. The Chair leads discussions in conjunction with the ED on issues of concern to the board. The Chair also is responsible for regular, formal evaluations of the ED and the effectiveness of the board and board members.

The Chair ensures that the board leads the strategic planning and holds the board accountable. The Chair ensures fiscal accountability through planning and reporting. The Chair also plays the lead role in fundraising activities, from planning, to giving, to ensuring that there is 100% participation from board members in their giving, planning, and development.

The Chair is Ex Officio of all committees and attends those meetings when invited or needed.

Ultimately, the person selected for the role of Chair must exemplify leadership in both word and deed. This is not a “fill the seat” role. It is a crucial component of effective governance and mission achievement. Ineffective Chairs don’t hold others accountable, thereby creating a culture where the board doesn’t only fail to achieve their goals, but devalue the importance of their responsibility to the organization and the public trust.

In organizations plagued with attendance issues and financial woes, look first to the Chair. This is not always the fault of the Chair, but expect other board members to look to the Chair for leadership. Don’t expect other board members to go above and beyond the actions of the Chair.

Chair Job Description

Chair Role Relationship

Board President Job Description

Chair-Executive Relationships

Choose Board Members Wisely