Executive Director and Voting Board Member?

Dear Kim,

We are a very new nonprofit organization learning as we go along with very little money. One of our founders was appointed Executive Director but he wants to have power to vote on the board. Is that acceptable in a nonprofit? Where can we find group that will help train our Executive Director and the Board for little or no fee?
—Steep Learning Curve

Dear Learning Curve,

Your Executive Director can sit on the board. Like all board members, he has to recuse himself from decisions that he has a conflict of interest in–like his salary or benefits. I do not recommend that the ED be on a board, particularly if that person is also a founder. You are consolidating way too much power and responsibility in the hands of one person. You say he wants a vote on the board. Why? Does he not trust the board? Does he think his one vote will always carry the day? You need to explore these issues a little more with the whole group. When an organization goes from being led by founders to being a more formal nonprofit, the founders give up some power in return for a larger group of people helping with the work and contributing ideas. Sometimes founders don’t want to give up their power, and then they need to consider how badly they want to be a nonprofit.

You should be able to find a board facilitator or consultant by contacting your local United Way or other federated fund, your local Volunteer Center, your local community foundation. You should also visit the website of BoardSource (http://www.boardsource.org ), which has a wonderful array of materials about being effective board members and the role of staff and board.
—Kim