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Mel Gravely

Is that a Responsibility of the Board or the Executive Director? Understanding Roles & Responsibilities within your Non-Profit Organization

boardsBoards serve an important function in non-profit organizations. However, there is often a lot of confusion about what the responsibilities of the Board should be versus what the responsibilities of the Executive Director should be. For example, if there is a problem with a staff member, whose responsibility is it to take care of it? (Answer: The Executive Director). If there is a PR issue, who should the spokesperson of the organization be? (Answer: Both the Board President and Executive Director can represent the organization publicly).

As part of The Gravely Group’s Board Training, we cover the separate roles and responsibilities of the Board and the CEO in detail. We use the following chart in our trainings, to help make it easier to understand the distinct roles:

Roles & Responsibilities

Responsibilities Board Executive Director
Policy Establish Policy Execute Policy
Mission Establish Mission Achieve the Mission
Performance Targets
Set Performance Targets Achieve the Targets
Financial Health
Approves Funding Strategy
Approves Budget
Develops Funding Strategy
Develops and Manages Budget
Strategic Planning
Establish Strategic Direction Implement Strategic Plan
Personnel Supervises Executive Director Supervises all other staff
Programs Approve Programs Implement, Evaluate and
Improve Programs
Risk Management
Approve Risk Management Plan Develop and Implement Risk
Management Plan
Approve Personnel Policies Implement Personnel Policies

Think about a nonprofit organization as having a structure similar to the government. The Board acts as Congress, which makes the laws. The Executive Director acts like the President/Executive Branch, executing and enforcing the laws as set by the Board. As you can probably guess, it is typically not advised to have the Executive Director sit on the board due to potential conflicts of interest.

For more information about Boards, read our “What Makes Effective Head Start Boards.”


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