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Occasionally, we see nonprofit executive committees that have become so autonomous that they begin to exclude board members who are not on the nonprofit executive committee from decision making. In these cases, the executive committee members may begin to view the executive committee as the ultimate seat of authority and the remaining board members as merely advisory.

Internet the good, the bad and the ugly

A sign of an out of control executive committee is one that holds meetings immediately before or after the full board meeting. Clearly, if the board meeting is scheduled for the same day, there is likely no emergency that requires action by the executive committee. Executive committees that operate in this manner often resist informing the rest of the board of their actions and decisions, putting the board members who are not on the committee at risk of incurring liability for decisions they are excluded from.

ISBN 13: 9780964093812

In such cases, thoughtful board members should consider making a motion reform or dissolve the executive committee and should consider resigning if the motion is unsuccessful. Carefully drafted bylaws and committee charters can help to ensure that the nonprofit executive committee serves its intended purpose and does not exceed its authority. The bylaws should also take into consideration state laws which often limit the decisions that can be delegated to committees. Requiring the nonprofit executive committee to make a report at each board meeting of any action it has taken since the last board meeting so that the actions can be ratified by the full board is an effective method to ensure that the executive committee does not exceed its authority.


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A nonprofit executive committee can be an effective governance tool, but not every board needs one. Executive committees should never ever replace the full board. Thanks for this thoughtful discussion. I serve on a Board that has done pretty well as a committee of the whole, but as we grow, some members have called for meetings of the executive committee.

This posting will be helpful to us. As Debra Beck has already pointed out, your post is rapidly being retweeted across Twitter this morning. Committee and how they made the transition. Thanks for your comprehensive and thoughtful look at Executive Committees. Board members should be encouraged by board and staff leaders to cry foul when they see governance migrating into the hands of a few.

If possible, give raises each year to the staff you want to keep. Koodos to them!

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Board members, in theory, are the leaders of our organizations. Although there are certainly exceptions, I find that most boards are a major work in progress.


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  • Boards are essential for successful fundraising. So help your board leadership by providing them with the training, resources and the direction and guidance they need to be effective leaders as well as passionate about your organization. You are in the daily grind, and they should not be micromanaging.

    Despite all of my complaints above, I do love the nonprofit sector because individually and collectively, we are truly making the world a better place. I was at lunch with a colleague the other day who personally pays for all of her professional development. I was horrified. If you want your staff to stick around and be with you for the long haul, you need to invest in them as well as yourself.

    Dear Amy, This is terrific! And clearly your definition of a rant and mine are quite different ;. This is why the ethics of our profession prohibit commissions based on what we raise.

    The Good, the Bad and the Ugly - Wikipedia

    They recruit their friends to the board, who do not give, and then ask why another non-profit is so successful — looking at the development person for the explanation. The development person leaves after 18 months of frustration and the cycle begins again.

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    It is the job of the development director and the ED to work individually with each board member to find what they are passionate about and to turn them into champions for your organization. But that takes one-on-one work. I whole-heartedly agree! Especially 1! We just have to keep educating. So put Executive Directors without passion into the Bad, and maybe even Ugly category.

    If I were to have a rant, it would probably focus around 3 — board members not being equipped to lead the organization. I think your paragraph on boards being key to successful fundraising is all of the above — good, bad and ugly.