What does the position of board chair demand? - Exponent Philanthropy

What does the position of board chair demand?

As the chief volunteer officer, your board chair is responsible for leading the board. This position demands exceptional commitment to the foundation, first-rate leadership qualities, and personal integrity. To meet the challenges of this position, the chair must earn and maintain the respect of fellow trustees.

An effective board chair is:

  • Knowledgeable about the foundation
  • Knowledgeable about board practices
  • Approachable and available
  • Objective
  • An active listener
  • A strategist, coach, and conciliator
  • Respected by the board and community

To lead the board effectively, a chair undertakes the following duties:

  • Serves as the contact point for each trustee on board issues
  • Leads the process to set goals and objectives, and ensure they are met
  • Ensures that all trustees are engaged
  • Assigns committee chairs
  • Motivates trustees to attend meetings
  • Facilitates effective and productive board meetings—a very challenging task; if the board chair is unable to lead fruitful meetings, it is better to delegate the task to someone else than to risk unproductive or uninteresting meetings
  • Cultivates demonstrated leadership qualities in trustees to avoid running out of qualified, well-informed, and active candidates
  • Involves the full board in the leadership succession process
  • Leads the board in defining the qualifications necessary for board membership
  • Engages a governance committee so that, through a group decision making process, the committee can suggest leadership changes
  • Communicates openly and regularly with the executive director
  • Supports, consults, and complements the executive director
  • Focuses on leading the board and delegating operational and administrative activities to staff, if any, or among board members of unstaffed foundations
  • Serves as a gatekeeper for the board; the executive director, if any, serves as a gatekeeper for the staff and community

Learn more about the makings of effective board members >>

The Trustee Handbook
Essentials for Effective Foundation Board Members
This handbook has been recently updated and is designed specifically for trustees of small foundations with few or no staff. It is a comprehensive resource that features detailed guidance on important topics for every board member and trustee, including: small foundation governance; grantmaking; tax and legal issues; financial oversight and investments. Download >>

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