How to Successfully Allocate Tasks to Board Members

How to Successfully Allocate Tasks to Board Members

 The Board of an association exists to guide the vision and strategic direction of the organisation. All Board members, along with the management team, are working towards this shared goal, which can sometimes make it challenging to decide who is responsibility for individual tasks.

However, allocating specific roles and tasks to Board members helps to delineate between the responsibilities of the Board and those of the executive. It can also assist to ensure that each Board member feels that they are a valued and important asset to the association, able to bring their own skill sets and experiences to their role.

What Kind of Tasks are Managed by Board Members?

Before allocating tasks to individual Board members, it is important to understand the roles and responsibilities of the Board as a collective. The Board are responsible for the overall governance of an association’s values, mission and strategic objectives. Their focus is not on daily operations – this is managed by the association CEO and other employees.

Many key tasks completed by the Board will be done collaboratively. For example, the Board should be working together to make major decisions about policy, to create a strategic vision for the future, and to oversee financial performance.

However, within these larger responsibilities are several small tasks that may be assigned to specific individuals.

For example, the Treasurer of the Board may be given the task of preparing a budget for the next financial year. The Secretary of the Board may be tasked with preparing the agenda for the AGM and inviting all parties.

Outside of these regular tasks, there may be additional undertakings that are specific to the skill sets and experience of Board members. For example, a Board member with extensive knowledge of the legislative environment could be tasked with preparing a brief on how best to advocate for a policy change in your association’s industry.

A Board member with a marketing background could be charged with mentoring the CEO and other staff on the best ways to manage a recruitment campaign for new members. A Board member who has worked in human resources could be given the task of preparing a shortlist of candidates for CEO.

What if the Association Does Not Have Staff or a CEO?

It is important to keep in mind that if the association does not have staff or a CEO, then Board members may be expected to take on a more operational role—they will need to act as volunteers.

A typical example is when the Director of a not-for-profit association is also responsible for heading up the organising committee for the annual conference. In this situation, the Director will have both a governance responsibility and a operational role. As such, they will need to act as directed by the Board and report to the Board as if they were paid staff or volunteers.  

The Director may empowered to make certain decisions, such as engaging suppliers, or other operational decisions. However, the authorisation must be confirmed by a Board decision and recorded in the meeting minutes. The authorisation (and minutes) should detail what the Director is responsible for, their level of authority, and the reporting regime.

One of the biggest issues is that people are time poor; well-meaning Directors volunteer and burn out quickly. It is better to find professional help through organisations like Association Executive Services who are very experienced and efficient.

How to Allocate Tasks

Allocating tasks to high performing professionals requires more finesse than simply giving jobs to employees. Because the tasks assigned to Board members are usually more complex and with greater importance in outcome, it is vital that tasks are allotted successfully.

  • Communicate clearly. Board members are busy professionals; they will not appreciate having to ask multiple follow up questions because a task has not been well explained. Give them all the required information clearly and concisely from the outset and plan a check in call or meeting ahead of time so the lines of communication remain open.
  • Set clear parameters. Tasks should always be allocated with a clear goal or objective in mind. Vague outcomes or ‘nice to have’ results are difficult to quantify and unhelpful. It is more efficient to clearly consider the task at hand before deciding to assign it to another person; otherwise, you risk the task being done several times over as you both feel your way to the ideal outcome.
  • Prioritise. Some tasks will be more important than others. Decide which tasks are the priority and leave non urgent demands for another time.
  • Offer assistance. Some tasks benefit from having extra support – for example, the Secretary planning the AGM may need some administrative assistance. Offering additional resources can help to make tasks run more smoothly.
  • Make all necessary resources available. If Board members don’t have access to the required documents, reports and other files, they won’t be able to complete the task as needed. Make all of these documents readily available to them when needed.
  • Consider their skills. Board members offer in depth knowledge and complex skills that they bring to their role on the association Board. Consider the background of a Board member to see who would be best suited for a specific task, based on their work experience, career background, networks and personal attributes.
  • Value their time. Most Board members are unpaid volunteers. They are not employees and are not required to commit to long hours of work for the association. Value the time and expertise of Board members by only asking them to do tasks that suit their skill set and checking that they have capacity.
  • Ask Board members what they want. Finally, avoid simply allocating tasks to Board members without discussion. Think about if the Board member you are considering for this task has an interest in completing it, has the capacity to do so, and has the skills required to get the job done to the highest level of competence. It’s ideal to allocate tasks to Board members that they will be motivated about, rather than giving them things they will consider boring chores. 


About the Author: Nick Koerbin (Executive Director, AES)

With over 30 years of management expertise, Executive Director and Founder of AES, Nick Koerbin is one of the most experienced NFP leaders in Australia. He has held positions as the CEO of Materials Australia, the National Parts Code, as well as senior positions in the Institute of Insurance, Australian Quality Council, the Financial Planning Association, the Australian Human Resources Institute, and the Furniture Industry Association of Australia. Nick created AES with a vision of creating a set of management practices that could be consistently followed to ensure success. Over his 30 years in the industry, he noticed that inconsistent management practices often impeded delivery of services to members, which in turn created issues with membership renewal. By establishing AES and creating the NFP Association Best Practice Self-Assessment, Nick has been able to assist leaders in becoming more confident and informed decision makers so that they can create more effective strategies and implementation plans.

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