Some Unique Nonprofit Board Models (Part 2 of 2)

Sections of this topic

    (See Part 1 of 2)

    Relationship Model

    Steven Block proposes a model that, instead of having a rigid, top-down structure of roles and hierarchy of the traditional policy model, provides for Board and staff members to work together with great priority on generating relationships and value from those relationships.

    The Executive Director and staff play an important role in bringing matters to the group (a group of Board members and staff) and their opinions are greatly valued. Board and staff share experiences together, for example, rituals and meals, to develop relationships. Board members are not expected to take part in activities outside Board meetings. They can be there to assist staff. Committees are not used .

    Nested Boards

    While it is not necessarily a new perspective on Boards, nonprofit leaders should understand this Board model because they might encounter it when collaborating with other nonprofits. Nested Boards exist in associations or “umbrella” organizations that have members, or subgroups, that also are organizations.

    An example is a national organization that has chapters in various regions or states. Advantages to this arrangement are that the members benefit from the guidance and resources of the umbrella organization. The umbrella organization benefits from the structured involvement and representation of the various subgroups. Members of the organization’s Board of often are members of the Boards of the various subgroups.

    There can be a continual tension in the arrangement. Subgroups want the autonomy to serve their local constituents, yet want the benefits of their affiliation with the umbrella organization. Likewise, the umbrella organization wants the dedicated participation and contributions of the subgroups, yet wants the subgroups to effectively manage their own operations in their own locales. See The Dynamics of Nested Governance in Nonprofit Organizations: Preliminary Thoughts .

    Policy Governanceâ Model

    Although it is not new, Carver’s Policy Governanceâ Board is another prominent Board model. (“Policy Governance” is a commercial product and registered trademark of Carver Governance Design, Inc.) The model is designed to ensure that Board members always operate in a fashion that maintains strong, strategic focus for the organization.

    Board members enforce clear policies that determine the “ends” for the organization to achieve and they set very strict limits within which the Chief Executive operates. This structure is characterized by few, if any, distinct officer roles or Board committees.

    Nonprofits are encouraged to use trained consultants to implement this model. Similar to other models, there are very strong critics and proponents. This model is not referenced throughout the guide because of its commercial and highly technical nature. See Carver Policy Governance Model.


    Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD – Authenticity Consulting, LLC – 800-971-2250
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