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Blog > What Kind of Board are you on?

What Kind of Board are you on?

posted on Feb 3, 2017

by Maria Lahiffe

So, you’ve joined a Board of Directors. Congratulations! Thank you for stepping up. How can you make your best contribution? A good starting point is to clarify the type of board you are sitting on.

Governance structures can be organized based on where they stand on a continuum between pure policy and pure administrative boards. The former develop policy and hire an executive director for implementation, while the latter are hands-on, doing the work of running the organization.

On this continuum are four main types of boards, which can be organized based on level of day-to-day involvement.

1.      Policy Governance Board

Also known as a “Carver Board”, this model creates the greatest distance between the board and operations. The board rarely works with committees and focuses its efforts on policy development An Executive Director who reports to a Carver Board generally has a very clear scope and role, which includes limits on what can be undertaken. You can find out more about Policy Governance Boards here.

2.      Policy Board

This is a very common model in non-profit organizations. The board sets direction and creates policy, and also contributes to high-level operations through the work of committees. The relationship between a Policy board and the staff is a partnership.

3.      Working Board

This is another common non-profit governance model, seen most often in organizations which have no staff. Directors on a working board play a hands-on role in managing and executing operations, such as public relations, financial management and programming.

4.      Collective Board

This is also known as a cooperative or a coalition. A Collective Board is a very hands-on entity, with little or no distinction between staff and directors. This model rarely has an Executive Director, and voting is rare. Rather, decisions are arrived at by consensus.

Taking a bit of time to learn the best practices in organizational governance will help you to use your time and effort to best effect, to create meaningful change in your community.

Want to learn more? Come to an upcoming workshop.

Click here for more information, and to register

Volunteer Ottawa offers a comprehensive suite of courses related to governance in the social sector. Click here for more information, and to register. Subscribe to our Event RSS Feed to be among the first to know when a new workshop is added to the schedule.

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Davidson, C. (2014, June). Board Governance Resource Guide. Retrieved from Community Literacy of Ontario:
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