Different Governance Structures
Governance structures can be put into two basic categories---policy boards and administrative boards. Policy governing boards develop policy and hire an Executive Director to implement the policy whereas administrative governing boards play a more hands-on role in managing the organization with the support of committees and staff.
Within these two broad categories of governance, there are four common types of board models:
- Policy Board: Sometimes referred to as Management-Team Board, this model is commonly used in non-profit organizations. Several committees help carry out the activities of the organization, and the relationship between the board and staff is one of a partnership.
- Policy Governance Board: Sometimes referred to as a ‘Carver Board’ after founder John Carver, this model has a more formal structure. The board operates as a whole, using one voice and rarely works with committees. The Executive Director is given a very clear scope and role as well as limits about what she/he can undertake, and the main emphasis of the board is on policy development. For a more complete definition of the Policy Governance Board Model, visit www.carvergovernance.com/model.htm.
- Working Board: Directors on this type of board play a more hands-on role with some of the administrative functions of the organization such as public relations, financial management, program planning and personnel. It's not uncommon for these boards to not have any staff.
- Collective Board: Sometimes known as a cooperative or coalition, a Collective Board also carries out many administrative functions of the organization. These boards are comprised of like-minded people that support a specific goal. Staff and directors operate together as a single entity. There is not usually an Executive Director, and often there is no voting as everyone works within a consensus model.
As stated before, no particular structure fits every organization but, Building on Strength: Improving Governance and Accountability in Canada's Voluntary Sector states that organizations governed by a board should have at least three basic elements:
- A board capable of providing objective oversight
- An independent nominating committee to ensure the appropriate succession of the board
- An audit committee, whose primary responsibility is to report whether the organization is in compliance with the laws, rules, regulations and contracts that govern it
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