This week on the Festival of Community Directors calendar we celebrate chairs, and offer tips and advice on how to become a better chair.
The chair serves as the board's figurehead and acts as a link between the board and the CEO (who in turn acts as a link to staff and volunteers).
While in practice the chair is required to play a leading role in the board, it is worth noting that there is little legal distinction. The law may, where it is relevant, acknowledge that other board members expect the chair to take a leadership role, but there is no legal distinction between the duties of a chair, and those of any other board member.
Boards are expected to make collective decisions, however many community group constitutions will allow the chair an additional casting vote to break a tie, giving him or her important directional power.
The roles carried out by the chair vary according to what stage the community group has reached in its lifecycle. In the early stages of a group's growth, the chair might do everything from working out broad policy to writing the annual report. As the group grows, the chair's role is likely to become more narrowly defined.
At a minimum the chair will be responsible for managing ("chairing") board meetings - directing debates, ensuring that discussions do not stray too far from the prepared agenda and keeping board members within the meeting rules. The chair is also responsible for taking a leading role in keeping the vision alive, setting the organisation's course and monitoring its direction, and for ensuring that proper procedures are in place.
Being a good chair requires not taking over the meeting but facilitating discussion. This means creating an atmosphere where board members can debate, struggle with issues, reach compromise and at times to agree to disagree. Good chairing can be learned. Poor chairing can be a disaster for a not-for-profit organisation.
To celebrate the Festival of Community Directors' Chairs Week we've made all chairs-related resources on the ICDA website that were previously behind a paywall available for free! We've also re-released our chairs edition of Board Builder (now Community Directors Intelligence) for free!
We hope you find the resources, and our spotlight report from the Not-for-Profit Governance Survey useful in helping you understand your responsibilities and becoming a better chair!
The release of a Chairs-based spotlight report on ICDA's
Not-for-Profit Governance survey.
Find it here!
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