Defining Board Oversight
It isn't easy, but the board must remain focused on the big-picture issues that affect the organization. This oversight function involves ongoing communications with major donors and others in the community who only feel comfortable when dealing directly with a board member.
Be sure to have at least one board member work with your lead operations person on basic items such as developing agendas for board meetings. This involvement ensures that no one feels left out and directly encourages full participation. This simple act may eliminate communication problems well before they arise.
It is also good for individual board members to know that one of the most important contributions they can make to the organization is to maintain their strong connections within the broader community.
There is a fine line between being a board member with an eye on the big picture and a board member who thinks she is in charge and adopts an attitude or presence that simply annoys the volunteers. Board members who find themselves on the wrong side of that fine line can inadvertently cause serious problems, even in well-established organizations. Avoiding or fixing this predicament takes time and effort. Staff and board members must develop a mutually respectful relationship. They must recognize one another's strengths and build an atmosphere of trust.
Far too many organizations have fallen victim to internal conflicts that can only be described as turf battles. These conflicts can be avoided when everyone understands how they fit into the overall organization, are comfortable with it, and have the necessary level of trust with everyone else involved.Not Another Great Idea
As your organization grows, you may have to deal with one or more board members who continually offer terrific ideas without any means of carrying them out. This situation is distracting to the board and frustrating for the staff, and there is rarely a mechanism to deal with it. These people mean well; in fact, they firmly believe that their input is fulfilling the oversight role they took on when they joined the board. The board liaison or the board president in collaboration with staff will need to redirect these great ideas into real work plans that have a solid chance of success.