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Fact or Myth: Do Nonprofit Boards Micromanage?

Last week, I discussed dysfunctional boards (Click HERE for link). Now I’m going to take a deeper dive into the dreaded micromanaging board, a particularly challenging form of dysfunctionality.

Nonprofit boards of directors operate as a group not as individuals. Board members’ duties include governance, financial oversight and advocacy. Examples of overstepping their board roles include:

  • Publicly criticizing the organization or leadership

  • Interfering with programs and clients

  • Telling staff members how to do their jobs

  • Conducting their own fundraisers and collecting the funds themselves

Yes, unfortunately, I’ve seen many examples of nonprofit boards abusing their power and seriously micromanaging the leadership and staff of the nonprofit organization they serve.

Have you experienced any of these situations?

During my twenty-plus years in the nonprofit sector, I’ve seen and heard many examples of over-reaching their authority by board members, some intentionally, some innocently. Board members directly interacting with staff can give the perception that there is a supervisory relationship, so when a board member makes a “suggestion,” the staff member might assume this is an order.

As a board member, I’ve even been guilty of this myself. This happened when I was sharing some nonprofit best practice advice which was taken as instruction to implement a task. When I became aware of this, I quickly spoke with the Executive Director who clarified the situation with the staff member, and I apologized for my mistake.

The best way to avoid an innocent mistake is to be aware of the perceived authority you have as a board member and how a suggestion can be heard as a directive. The Executive Director has the responsibility to manage the staff and convey the recommendations of the board to the staff.

Boards can be an amazing source of support and expertise. By working together and understanding each other’s roles, the nonprofit can be poised for success.


Michelle Crim, CFRE

Dynamic Development Strategies can help. We offer coaching and fundraising services for our nonprofit clients. We specialize in startup and smaller nonprofits because we understand your challenges. Please contact us for more information.

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