In nonprofit organizations, the executive director or executive staff are generally hired by the board of directors. At least, they may be chosen and hired by a sub-committee (hiring committee) that has been given the task and authority by the board of directors. This can cause executive directors to believe that the board has a responsibility for them (and this is true to an extent), but the executive staff is also responsible for and to the board of directors.
The executive staff of a nonprofit agency or organization has a responsibility to empower the board of directors to be as functional and effective as possible. This means that staff provides education, information, training and coaching for the board of directors. This does not mean that staff can shape and form the board into exactly who they want, of course, but it does mean that there is a level of responsibility for board functioning that the executive staff does have.
Many nonprofit executives play a pivotal role in board development'”vetting potential members and recruiting individual volunteers to serve on the board. Ultimately, of course, the board has to vote on new members but the executive staff is often involved in helping to build and coach the board.
Additionally, the executive staff is responsible for providing the information and specifics necessary for the board to do their job as governing body of the organization. This means letting them know everything they need to know. As the ultimate fiscal authority in the organization, it is wrong and unfair for the executive staff to withhold necessary information or try to “hide” what is actually going on. The board has the legal responsibility and the executive staff is responsible for making sure they know what is going on.
A good executive director wants a strong, successful and functioning board of directors and he or she understands the role that must contribute to that strong, governing board of directors.