The High-Impact Governing Model® is based on my 25 years of successful experience in working with the boards, CEOs, and executive teams of some 500 nonprofit and public organizations of all shapes and sizes.  Experience has taught me that if you seriously apply the High-Impact Governing Model® your nonprofit or public organization will realize a powerful return on its investment of time and energy in this powerful, thoroughly tested tool:

  • Organizational Security and Growth:  Your organization is secure and thrives in a challenging environment because your “Strategic Governing Team” – the board,CEO, and senior executives – makes high-impact judgments and decisions, successfully addressing the high-stakes strategic and operational issues you’re facing, building on your organization’s strengths and capitalizing on opportunities for growth and diversification – of programs, revenues, clients, customers, and members.
  • Board Member Ownership and Satisfaction:  Your board members feel strong ownership of – and take great satisfaction in – their governing work, primarily because they have a crystal-clear understanding of their governing role and functions and are involved proactively and creatively in making critical governing decisions and judgments, rather than merely serving as an audience for finished staff work.
  • A Really Solid Board-CEO Working Relationship:  The partnership between your board and CEO is close, productive, and enduring – able to withstand the inevitable stresses and strains of a rapidly changing, challenging world – as a result both of a truly “board-savvy” CEO who takes the lead in helping the board to become a more effective governing body and of the board’s meaningful involvement in making critical governing judgments and decisions.


Before we begin to explore the key elements of the High-Impact Governing Model®, I’d like share some thoughts about what a nonprofit or public board and CEO actually do when they collaborate in governing.  I’ve spent over a quarter-century thinking about the “business” of governing, drawing on my experience in working with hundreds of boards and CEOs.  In my professional opinion, at the highest possible level, governing means answering over and over again 4 preeminent questions:

1.The Strategic Question:  Where do we want our organization to head and what do we want it to become over the long run?  Who do we envision ourselves serving?   What programs and services do we envision ourselves providing? How large do we envision ourselves becoming? What outcomes do we envision ourselves producing in our environment?

2.The What/Now Question:  What do a want our organization to be now and over the coming year, in terms of programs, services, expenditures, revenues, clients, customers, members?

3.The Accountability Question:  How is our organization performing – programmatically, financially, and administratively?

4.The External Relations Question:  How do we want to be seen by key stakeholders in our environment, and how can we influence their perceptions?  How can we influence stakeholder actions and build closer, more productive ties with potential external partners?

The first question is strategic, and we normally involve the board in some kind of strategic planning process in answering it.  The second question is more operational in nature, and we typically involve the board in the operational planning and budget development process in answering it.  The third question relates to the board’s ultimate accountability for organizational effectiveness and efficiency, and the fourth question relates to maintaining external relationships.


Over the past 25 years, I’ve interviewed thousands of nonprofit and public board members, and I always ask my interviewees to describe their governing work.  You might be surprised to learn that the response is often shocked silence, after which governing is often vaguely described as “policy making.”  In reality, making policies – which are essentially broad rules to govern an organization’s operations – is only a miniscule part of governing.  Of course, your organization needs clear, detailed policies, and a few are so important that they merit your board’s attention – for example, determining how large a contract your CEO can sign without board review and approval.  But you wouldn’t want to be revising policies constantly; that would be the recipe for a collective nervous breakdown.

Keep in mind as you read about the key elements of the High-Impact Governing Model® that governing basically involves making decisions and judgments about very concrete governing “products” and governing documents.  A governing product isn’t a final product for your clients, customers, students, or members; it’s a product that helps your organization carry out its mission that is important enough to involve your board in producing.  For example, when your board adopts an updated values and vision statement or the annual budget, it is making decisions about some of the most important governing products.  And when your board reviews a financial report (a document), it is making a judgment about how well your organization is performing financially.  That’s what governing boils down to:  a never-ending stream of decisions and judgments about very concrete products and documents.


The five key elements that make up the High-Impact Governing Model® can be systematically developed in the interest of higher-impact governing in your nonprofit or public organization; they are:

1. A board-savvy CEO who is a real expert in the field of governance, who is strongly committed to high-impact board leadership, and who takes the lead in building the board’s capacity to do high-impact governing work.
2. A clear, detailed board governing mission describing the board’s key governing functions and responsibilities and meticulously designed processes for involving your board creatively and proactively in such key governing functions as strategic planning, budget development, performance oversight and monitoring, and external relations.
3. A well-designed structure of board standing committees that serve as “governing engines” in accomplishing the board’s detailed governing work.
4. A board self-management program aimed at building board member governing knowledge and skills and strengthening board accountability for its own governing performance.
5. Strong CEO and executive team support for the board and its standing committees in carrying out their governing functions


This excerpt is taken from Doug Eadie’s Meeting the Governing Challenge:  Applying the High-Impact Governing Model in Your Organization (Governance Edge, 2007)

© Doug Eadie; all rights reserved




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