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Thoughts on Nonprofit Leadership Part II

This is installment #2 in our ongoing series on leadership.  Our first installment was more of an introduction.  In this post, we are going to explore the concept of governance vs. management.

Governance and management:  For many, these are interchangeable terms.  They shouldn’t be.  And in far too many nonprofits, the leadership fails to understand the difference.  Properly separating the concepts of governance and management can be critical to the success of your endeavor.

Governance is leadership of the big picture.  Primarily the responsibility of the board of directors, governance describes the notion of governing.Several ideas are simultaneously embodied in the concept of governance, including: mission establishment, strategic development, planning, goal setting, responsibility, accountability, oversight…the list goes on.  Most successful organizations rely on a group of individuals with a diversity of talents who collectively chart the course for the organization and actively pursue the accomplishment of its mission.

Management, on the other hand, is task oriented.  It is much more hands-on.Typically the role of management is bestowed on the person(s) responsible for the day to day operation of the organization’s activities.Once the mission and agenda is set by the governing team, management carries out the task of accomplishing that mission through the conduct of the organization’s programs.Management is accountable to governance.

Let’s be realistic. In the early days of your organization, chances are you will have members of your governing team also responsible for management. That’s OK. What is important, however, is that everyone understands their role…especially anyone who will be wearing more than one hat. Changing hats when necessary is a deliberate and learned skill. Differentiating multiple roles is essential to avoid confusion and “mission creep”.

We will continue our exploration of nonprofit leadership in future installments.  Until then, keep leading!

Greg McRay, EA

Greg McRay is the founder and CEO of The Foundation Group. He is registered with the IRS as an Enrolled Agent and specializes in 501(c)(3) and other tax exemption issues.

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