Board Liaisons: Cat Wranglers and Champions of Strong Boards

cat wrangler representing board liaison
Julia Patrick Photo
American Nonprofit Academy

2 minutes

These valuable professionals lead the process of good board service from myriad directions.

Stop me if you have heard the one about the person tasked with herding cats. It’s the notion that gathering strong personalities, tenacious professionals and overloaded leaders can be a losing battle of wills. For anyone assigned the charge of pulling these people together for something such as a board meeting date that everyone agrees to … well, you get the picture.

Mercifully, the notion of being head cat wrangler is changing. Approaches to board management and governance are being redefined as well. Board liaison positions are part of this transformation. These valued professionals lead the process of Board service from a myriad of directions. With an eye toward executive administration and effective planning, board liaisons hold the authority and responsibility to get the board functioning from a foundational point of view. This comes from a platform of structure, working knowledge of what a board needs to be accomplishing, monitoring compliance issues, individual board member performance requirements and how all the quickly moving pieces come together.

Board liaison roles are now being recognized in terms of professional development, advanced training and earned skill sets that are highly desired. It is a skilled team member position with a described level of competencies and compensation reflective of the role. In effect, the board liaison professional is now being sought after as an instrumental part of any successful and highly functioning board. In this position, the professional board liaison adjunct, is not just another task heaped onto the plate of an already over-burdened staffer. It is a leadership role that is cultivated and continually developed in response to an ever-changing world of board service. It is not a “day of” administrative role or side job requirement. 

As the person who may wear the mantle of board champion, the liaison is ultimately that leader who is organizing and monitoring the process of board work. In many cases, the position of board liaison will become a voice of continuity, history and, of course, documentation. As elected board members fulfill their terms and senior credit union management changes, the board liaison may be the singular voice of organizational continuum. Along with the perfunctory tasks of meeting management, the board liaison offers stability, constancy and the authoritative leader who manages process. This professional role has become a critical piece of board performance.

And, for those cats that need to be herded into the board room on the same day, at the same time and armed to work? The professional board liaison knows how to do this without even a lick of cream.

Julia C. Patrick is CEO/founder of the American Nonprofit Academy, Phoenix. She has served on both cultural and social service boards and throughout her career worked with more than 500 nonprofit organizations. While engaging with nonprofits, mainly through media and publishing, she recognized that these unique organizations were desperate for cost-effective training and topic-specific education. With more than 90 online courses, the American Nonprofit Academy offers training specifically for the sector.

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