a view from the board side “Expect excellence”

Dick Hagerty, Advisory board member

Excellence in management and effective board governance are standards of today’s non-profit world. Even though we are clearly “advisory” in our makeup, it is essential that our community advisory organizations create and adhere to standards that will make efficient and effective local Salvation Army programs succeed.

In working with many ministry boards that are “policy” rather than “advisory,” I have struggled to come up with clear guidelines and standards that make our advisory role effective, while maintaining the policy and executive integrity of the Army hierarchy.

In the process of mentoring young officers and advisory boards/councils, I have developed a comprehensive set of attributes that I believe serve as a standard of excellence for all of our advisory organizations.

 The attributes of a great advisory board/council

The advisory board…

1. Clearly understands its “advisory” role. The board also understands that The Salvation Army is first of all an evangelical church, and then a great social agency. This social ministry of the Army is the sole area of board focus.

2. Comes alongside the local corps officer, respecting the officer’s role as the CEO while strengthening the areas where the officer needs support.

3. Takes the lead and responsibility for financial integrity at the local level in approval of budgeting, adoption of new social programs and monitoring of existing programs.

4. Elects a chair and board officers who are willing and able to manage the board, maintain integrity of the Army in the community, closely monitor and review finance and programs while leaving management expressly in the hands of the local officer in charge.

5. Clearly defines the role of new members including recruiting, orientation, committee assignments and making the member an active part of the local work of the Army. The board holds clear expectations of each member to give financial support and other input as needed.

6. Works as a team with the officer and staff to fully accomplish the social ministries of the community. The board develops written policy and strategy for it to follow and maintain.

7. Organizes the board into effective working committees that meet regularly and report directly to the board for full board action.

8. Has great meetings. Meetings must start and end on time. The chairman and the officer must not dominate the meeting time. Reporting should be brief, and input and dialogue from all members must be encouraged.

9. Is accountable for the legal, financial and program efficiencies, and avoids conflicts of interest. The board continually evaluates itself for effectiveness, and encourages inactive members to become active, step aside, or accept an honorary or emeritus role so others may join.

10. Pursues excellence by keeping board members forward looking, focused on outcome and results. The board must discipline itself as to attendance, participation and activity, and demand that board members fully utilize his/her community relationships to further the image and promote the work of the Army.

Expect excellence! Remember that the board represents the continued face of The Salvation Army to the community. Officers will come and they will go, but the advisory board will remain the constant within the community.

When I meet with boards and/or officers to talk about effective board work, I always begin with this document. I believe that it is the essential standard for the effective advisory role in the community. I hope that we adopt some standards such as these to measure the effectiveness of all of our advisory organizations.

Dick Hagerty has served on the Modesto (Calif.) Advisory Board since 1971—twice chairing it for a total of five years—and the National Advisory Board, currently as the only acting emeritus member. Contact him at rghagerty@aol.com to discuss community or advisory board topics, including topics to address in this column.


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