Associations Need to Get Better at Governing

Written by Vicki Hawarden on May 14, 2019

Every year, thousands upon millions of hours and dollars are wasted and volunteers and staff get burned out all because of boards that are flying blind without a clue on how to really be a board. So why do we have so many poorly performing boards out there especially since so many of them clearly want to be a force for good?

I think it’s simple: most boards just don’t know how to be a good board, much less a great one. They walk into a board room and just follow along with no system or clear expectations. The solution I believe is for a board to operate using a system, one that makes it possible for a group of volunteers to successfully lead.


Firstly, every board needs a job description outlining what its role is and how it will conduct business, as well as how it will delegate to the CEO. This is the board’s commitment to each other and to everyone that it will do the work it needs to be doing and that it will do it in an honoring way.


Secondly, the board should determine what results they expect an organization to achieve. This is some of their most important work. The board must also decide what values it holds and it must make clear how those values should inform the actions or behaviors of staff.


Finally, the board should monitor the CEO to ensure the board’s expected results are being achieved and its values are respected. If a board operates in this way, its meetings will be transformed.

Instead of listening to presentations, approving staff actions, micromanaging or reacting, the board is talking about organizational results, owner expectations, board performance or other critical and important functions.

It is a thing of beauty to see and experience when done well and it is inspiring to all who are part of it, including the staff. Bottom line, associations need to get really good at governing so they can attract the best people, inspire their members and achieve great results. We have big problems to solve in the world and to do that, we need great associations led by great boards.