top of page

Is your nonprofit board working, governing or a hybrid?

How amazing would it be to have a strong, active and diverse nonprofit board? A board that helps with recruiting new board members, is excited about fundraising and active on committees? Or maybe you have a full staff, and your dream board would be one that serves in a more advisory and policy making role?

Is your board style in alignment with your needs?

As the legal team at WilkMazz put it, “An active board provides invaluable oversight and foresight to a nonprofit organization. The board steers the organization towards a viable future when it adopts sound, effective policies, and ensures the organization can obtain adequate resources to pursue its mission.” They also have a great FAQ on Nonprofit Boards of Directors that is a lightning fast and enlightening read.

There are many different types of board models, but the most common are a “governing board” and a “working board.” Many times, I have found misalignment where the Executive Director, or organization, is wanting or needing one but has the other. Want to know a secret though? Working boards are governing boards, just as governing boards are working boards. Both are responsible for strategy, policy, financial oversight and so on. Both are looking at the big picture. The main difference being that your working board is working to implement those strategies.

The Power of the Working Board

Working boards are often found in new organizations, smaller organizations and community groups that do not have the funding yet for paid staff. These boards are powered by a passion for the mission and community the organization serves. The organization and the board will flourish when there are enough board members, however challenges can present when workload and available hands become out of balance. When this happens, you risk board member attrition, low board energy, difficulty recruiting new board members and ultimately a threat to organizational sustainability.

The Importance of Governing Board

Your governing board tends to be focused on the big picture and oversight of the organization. They are looking at financial strategy and approving the annual budget, but they are not the boots on the ground managing that budget. The board reviews and approves program and development plans, however individual board members are the ones to work in the areas of the programs and plans to help see them through to fruition.

"If your dream board is not in alignment with your existing board, it is worth looking at the type of board you have, to see if it is in alignment with the board you need. --Tammey Grable-Newton, MBA (Click to Tweet)

Can you Transition from One to the Other?

As organizations mature, it is not uncommon for the board to naturally begin to talk more about transitioning to more of a “governing” role. As an example, this can mean subtle changes like transitioning from doing program work to overseeing program work. This change really is subtle though. It creates new opportunities for new types of board members to join the board, but it does not stop the individual board volunteer from volunteering and sharing their expertise in the areas they are most enthused.

Ultimately – they are your most invested volunteers

Your board members are among your most reliable and invested volunteers. There is a difference between what the role of the “board” is and what roles and activities your “volunteer board members” will take on outside the board. Just as with any volunteer, matching skills and passion for your board outside the structure of the board meeting will make for better engaged and more knowledgeable board members at the table. Thoughtfully engaging and appreciating them is key.

Final thoughts

So, which is the best kind of board to have? Bottom line, an engaged board is the best board. As you can see, all boards are governing. All board members are volunteers. Communications between the board, the board members and the executive director are paramount. Cultivating a culture of appreciation and communication will help your organization flourish.

The FREE and live #TuesdayTraining through the month of August is all about From Ordinary to Extraordinary – Board Building with Intention. Come join the tribe in the Ignite Your Nonprofit Facebook Group.


About Taniant: Taniant is a consulting company with a passion for pairing the heart of non-profit and public sector with established business methodology for greater organizational success. Taniant can help your organization with reach new levels of success in grant writing, fund development, volunteer mobilization, community partnerships, strategic planning, operational management, process development, project management and budgeting.

About Tammey: Tammey Grable-Newton is an executive level consultant, powerful speaker and inspired author who guides others to embrace their experiences and create purpose from pain.  As a proven change agent, she has helped many organizations transition to new levels and make the necessary culture shifts that have resulted in improved workflow, a more positive and successful work environment and expanded reach. After completing her MBA at the University of Washington, Tammey was diagnosed with stage 3 metastatic breast cancer. Tammey transitioned from her elite, corporate positions to a career of passion, purpose and reach.  As a remarkable professional and motivational speaker, Tammey shares her stories, lessons and perspectives with humor, candor and empathy.  Whether speaking with the board, staff, funding entities, media or the public in general, she leaves audiences inspired and with tools to achieve. 

Your passion is her passion and Tammey can’t wait to help you IGNITE your GROWTH.

99 views0 comments


bottom of page