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Community Action Agency Board Members Toolkit in a Nutshell

CHAPTER THIRTEEN:  CAA Board and Staff Relations

This section covers several topics:

    a.       Shared roles and responsibilities
    b.      Separate roles that complement each other.
    c.       Summary of the successful board and Executive Director relationship
    d.      “Rights” or expectations of volunteer board members
    e.       Evaluating an Executive Director
    f.        Board and funding agency relationships

A. SHARED ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES. All members of the Board and staff are in general agreement about the desirability of:

     1.  Eliminating the causes and conditions of poverty.

     2.  Helping individuals, families and communities become strong and independent.

     They share a commitment to their mission and to carry out the intent of the Community Services Block Grant Act within their State. The Board and staff have different roles to play in pursuit of their common objectives.


The CAA Board and its Policy-Making Role. The CAA Board makes policy about the ENDS the CAA should seek, about the desired results. The MEANS for accomplishing those ends are largely determined by the CAA Executive Director and staff. For a CAA to operate effectively, functions of the Board and staff must fit together -- without leaving a gap or overlapping.  So there are three major elements. The Board as a whole, the individual board member, and the executive director (staff) function.

 1. The Board as a Whole.

    The authority of the Board lies in its group action. No single member (or few members) have authority over the CAA. Each Board Member has one vote in deciding what the Board as a whole will do. It is through the collective action of all members that a binding decision is made. The Board as a policy-making body is responsible for:  

1. Identifying the needs of the community.
2. Establishing goals for the CAA.  These are the ENDS that the CAA will seek.
3. Formulating strategic plans for community action.
4. Approving proposals for financial assistance.
5. Making sure the Executive Director has established and is managing other systems needed by the CAA (personnel, fiscal, etc).  Most funding agencies hold the Board responsible for abiding by terms of the grant, so make sure the Executive Director has those systems are in place!
6. Assessing the risk and benefits of profit making activity and social enterprises.
7. Other duties as adopted by it.


2. The Individual Board Member

Each board member shares equally in the Board's deliberations and actions. Each Board member represents a constituency, or group, on the Board. He or she presents views of that group to the Board, and reports the Board's actions back to that group. He or she must:

     *  know which group(s) they represent.  
     *  know that group's interests and concerns.
     *  communicate with that group regularly.
     *  reflect the group's interests at Board meetings.
     *  be authorized to represent that group.

    In carrying out their roles as the representative of the group they represent, each individual Board member also has the right to:

1. Bring any concern of theirs or of the groups they represent about CAA activities to the attention of the whole Board.
2. Initiate any relevant new business for the Board's con­sideration at Board or committee meetings.
3. Express opinions about issues or proposed items of business before a vote is taken.
4. Request additional information on any subject under consideration -- and question anyone testifying before the Board -- before a vote is called.
5. Organize support for or against any issue brought before the Board for a vote, either before or during a meeting.
6. Obtain a complete and current list of Board members, and have their voting records compiled.
7. Question or recommend any other matter necessary to effective organization of the Board or conduct of its business.
8. Ask the Chairperson to clarify the way in which a meeting is being conducted at any time.
9. Request that a vote be taken in a particular way.
10. Request a summary of internal policies and procedures.
11. Request changes in minutes before they are approved to make them more accurately reflect events.
12. Request that their opposition to an item passed by majority be recorded.
13. Discuss what has happened or is expected to happen with other Board members, the Executive Director or other CAA staff, neighborhood residents or any other interested party.
14. Marshall forces, within or outside of the Board, to oppose or support a measure scheduled for consideration.  However, once the Board votes, then every individual member has an obligation to carry out that policy.  They should not criticize the policy except in board meetings.
15. Seek reconsideration for any measure previously passed.
16. Ask for appointment to a committee.
17. Board members are expected to bring relevant proposals and ideas to the Board.  These should be developed in advance and presented in a straightforward manner to the Board.  They should also be followed up once the Board has approved them.
18. The Board also has roles to play in accomplishing their own ENDS.  The Board does not simply adopt ENDS and completely turn them over to staff.  In most cases the successful accomplishment of ENDS requires that many other elements of the community be involved.  In most cases, board members will be more effective at lining up that support than will staff.  Further, the organizational maintenance functions of "staying in touch" with elected officials, the press and other key constituencies is best performed by board members.

3. The Executive Director

    A CAA Executive Director is the chief executive officer and top manager of the CAA. The Executive Director guides staff activity to accomplish the ENDS that have been adopted by the Board. The Director uses their management skills, staff and programs as the MEANS to accomplish the ENDS adopted by the Board.

    The authority of the Executive Director begins where the authority of the Board leaves off. He or she is the chief administrator. It is his or her function to implement, or execute, policies established by the Board.

    The Executive Director is an employee of the Board of Directors. He or she is hired, paid and fired by the Board. The performance of the Executive Director is evaluated by the Board.

    While it is his or her job to carry out policy of the Board, he or she is not expected to be in total agreement with his or her employer at all times. They should, however, be open and honest about their disagreements.

    He or she also must run the programs and operations of the CAA and keep the staff motivated.

     The Executive Director receives his or her authority from the Board. He or she:

1. Is responsible to the Board for proper administration of the CAA.
2. Prepares, at least annually, and submits to the Board a complete report on finances and administrative activities for the past year.
3. Provides the Board with information which is necessary or helpful to the Board in making policy.
4. Recommends that the Board adopt policies and programs which the Executive Director feels are necessary to effectively conduct the antipoverty program and improve administrative practices.
5. Attends all board meetings, unless excused, and takes part in discussion of all matters coming before the Board.
6. Develops and supervises systems for personnel, fiscal, purchasing and other functions to insure integrity of handling of funds and the best use of funds.
7. Administers programs is in accordance with Federal, State and local laws.
8. Monitors ongoing Board projects and delegate agency programs, and reports findings to the Board.
9. Actively manages the CAA, including:
  a) Hiring, firing, and supervising of the staff.
  b) Planning how projects will operate.
  c) Scheduling of activities.
  d) Delineating staff responsibilities.
  e) Evaluating staff performance.
  f) Monitoring all projects.
  g) Evaluating program effectiveness and outcomes.

    The staff, under the direction of the Executive Director, is responsible for day-to-day implementation of policies established by the Board. The staff members answer to the Executive Direc­tor. This does not mean, however, that there is no communication between the staff and the Board. There should be ground rules for staff and board communication. The staff members should not:

  * Respond to direct communication from the Board unless it was approved by, or came through, the Executive Director
  * Follow instructions from the Board concerning operations unless approved by the Executive Director.
  * Report directly to a board member concerning project operations unless approval is given by the Executive Director.

    An effective CAA is a partnership between the Board, the Executive Director and the staff. In the same spirit, the staff offers opinions and recommendations to guide the Board. Also, the staff helps keep the Board informed of problems, progress and status of activities in the CAA, and in the community. By working together, the board and executive director can turn their CAA into a powerful engine for social change.

D. Summary:  The Successful Board/Executive Director Relationship  

Characteristic --  Ways to achieve it:

Role Clarity
·  Written job descriptions: general Board member, committees, chair, other officers.
·   Board development training that addresses roles.  
·   Written policies and procedures.
·   Written annual goals and objectives for Executive Director (agency)

Good Communication
·   Regular meetings with Director and President
·   No Surprises
·   Timely written reports from Director.
·   Well-run Board and committee meetings.
·   Bring up possible problems before they grow.

·         Follow-through on commitments.
·         Regular communication
·         Follow established lines of communication.
·         Direct communication.
·         Meeting procedures which promote respectful discussion and problem solving.

Mutual Support
·            Back up each other's decisions.
·            Pitch in on tasks
·            Recognize achievements
·            Share the glory and the problems  

·            Recognize that people have different experiences and perspectives, and accept them
·            Recognize unique contributions and validate them.
·            Share honest opinions, confront conflicts in a constructive fashion.
·            Allow for human error!  Accept apologies!  

End of Chapter 13 Quiz

1. What is one of the commitments or topics on which all board members and the Executive Director should (hopefully) share?
2. Discuss the difference between the board acting as a whole -- and role of the individual members.
3. Identify two expectations that are reasonable for individual board members to have.
4. Who is generally responsible for defining the ENDS the CAA will seek?
5. Who is generally responsible for selecting the MEANS that the CAA will use to achieve its ENDS?
6. What are some characteristics of a good relationship between a Board and an Executive Director?


Answers to Chapter 13 Quiz

1. The Board and Executive Director should share a commitment to ending the causes and conditions of poverty.
2. The Board is a single unit; board members express individual opinions until after a vote is taken, then that collective action becomes the policy that binds all members of the board.
3. See the list.
4. The board is generally responsible for selecting the ENDS.
5. The Executive Director is generally responsible for selecting the MEANS the staff will use to accomplish the organizational ENDS.
6. Role clarity, good communication, trust, mutual support and respect are some of the elements that make for a successful board and Executive Director relationship.

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