During my many decades of consulting with nonprofits in almost every area of philanthropy, I have seen high-performing nonprofit leaders who encounter pushback and friction from difficult board members. This can lead to fear of losing one’s job and damaging one’s career. If you are experiencing this problem currently, or you want to avoid the issue in the future, it is important to implement several effective steps to protect the CEO and other top administrators.
Friction between board members and administrative leadership not only puts jobs at stake, but can also have an impact on fundraising efforts. Board members are volunteers who are willing to work hard and support the needs of the organization. But there are times when disagreements come up which might turn board members against the CEO. Unfortunately, a CEO has little or no recourse or protection if they lose the backing of the board due to an unfair circumstance.
Protecting the Nonprofit CEO
Here are several steps that can be implemented to protect the CEO from “bad” board members:
- Engage a Third-Party Advocate: If conflict resolution is needed, it can be helpful to have an outside, third-party advocate act as a mediator. Mutually chosen, this individual can propose workable solutions to difficult situations which should be acceptable to both sides.
- Provide Feedback Opportunities: Mutual evaluations can be used to allow both the executives and boards to provide feedback to one another. These evaluations can take place at the same time every year, with the clear understanding that honest feedback can be given without the threat of retaliation. As a board assesses their performance regularly, it will help to keep the focus on everyone’s core responsibilities and expose areas where the board may be encroaching upon the CEO’s rightful domain.
- Have an Effective Management System: Consider the function of the management system and look for change opportunities as needed. Some boards are disproportionately dominant in the organization, which can result in mistreatment of organizational leadership. Balancing the power and responsibility creates a stronger organization overall.
Quality training is key to supporting both board members and executive leadership. An outside consultant to assist in this relationship can be a powerful tool for your nonprofit organization. For more information about available services, Mirenda & Associates is just a phone call away. Our team provides nonprofit training and leadership support to move your organization from good to great! Contact us to schedule a free consultation and learn how we can help.