Becky’s Blog, Developed for Clients and Friends of Rebecca Schueller Training & Consulting, LLC

Thanks to all the highly committed Board Chairs who play such a vitally important role in the nonprofit sector. When organizations achieve great accomplishments over a prolonged period of time, it’s usually because there’s a strong board in place that has attracted a high quality executive director (ED) and staff.

The board chair role is unique. It can be time-consuming, is high profile, and involves a unique mix of skills that are usually honed through experience. And, the board chair role requires a lot of COURAGE. The Board Chair is responsible for leading the board to govern the organization so that it meets its mission and creates impact for constituents, follows applicable laws and regulations, and provides a healthy workplace for employees and meaningful roles for volunteers.

The board chair oversees the organization’s strategic plan to maximize organizational impact, ensuring that the board monitors ongoing progress and leads the “Call to Action” when it is time to consider a new strategic planning process.

The board chair leads an annual performance appraisal of the ED, focused on highlights of performance in the past year and goals for the coming year, as well as addressing any areas of concern regarding performance. The board chair ensures that compensation is discussed, recommended, and implemented during the process. The board chair also leads an annual Board self-assessment in which each board member evaluates their own role on the board and the collective accomplishments of the board.

The board chair oversees the organization’s financial health and legal compliance issues by ensuring that the board a. approves an annual organizational budget; b. reviews financial statements (revenue & expense and a balance sheet) monthly; c. conducts an annual audit (or financial review if the board is too small to meet audit threshold requirements); d. reviews, approves, and sends in the annual 990 Form within 4.5 months following the end of the fiscal year or to ensure an extension was requested (i.e. usually by May 15 if your year starts Jan. 1).

The board chair creates a sense of “community” among the board at meetings, sets healthy boundaries and standards for how board members interact with each other, with the ED, and with agency staff and other volunteers. When behavior is not in accordance with agreed upon standards or violates agency by-laws or other legal requirements, the board chair leads the “exit process” for board members.

The board chair sets the expectation for board giving. One option is to tell a story at the beginning of a board meeting about her/his thought process in deciding upon his/her personal contribution to the agency and hopes for the programs/services/impact the gift makes possible.

Here are the “nuggets” that make up the leadership role of the board chair. Your job is:

To be a “Thought Partner” for the ED and meet regularly with the ED. When asked for advice, ask “strategic and exploratory” questions and help the ED clarify concerns, issues, and opportunities rather than giving advice. (This is from Consultant Joan Gary)To plan board meeting agendas with the ED

“To remember to let the ED manage the staff…all the staff…all the time.” (This is from Consultant Joan Garry)

To lead the board member recruitment and orientation process (but invite the ED to be part of it)

To lead the ED hiring, annual evaluation, and exit process (if needed)

To make the “call to action” for strategic planning

To encourage other board members to give to the organization

To know how to tell the Organization’s story to donors, volunteers, partners, and other audiences

To role model “good board behavior” for other members

To interrupt inappropriate behavior by other board members

To lead the process to “fire” board members when necessary

If you found reflecting on these roles helpful, you might enjoy blogs by Joan Garry and Simone Joyaux. Check out and

Becky Schueller consults, coaches, and trains boards, managers and staff in nonprofits, counties and cities, tribes, schools, and sometimes businesses. Do your supervisors need training to supervise effectively and conduct annual performance appraisals? Contact Becky to schedule training on Supervision & Performance Appraisal for your managers, supervisors, and HR team. Follow Becky’s business Facebook page (Rebecca Schueller Training & Consulting), visit her webpage at, or contact her at to discuss your needs. Initial consultations are always free.

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