Governance: Foundation vs. Association

Image Credit: Bernadette Gatsby
Image Credit: Bernadette Gatsby

By Whitney Bertram, operations manager 

These ideas are inspired by the session “Get Your Governance House in Order” at the ASAE Annual Meeting on August 10, 2014, presented by John Bartoletti, M.Ed.; Michael Butera; Eileen Johnson Esq.; and E. Paul Roetert, Ph.D.


If you create a foundation, foundation board members need to be separate from association board members.

The board should be selected for expertise, such as expertise in fundraising, management, finance, public relation and a passion for the foundation mission.

Consider asking foundation board members to pay/raise a certain amount of money to sit on the board.

Association Boards

Association boards should refrain from being involved in operations, but instead be involved in a higher level of policy setting. Ideally, the day to day management of the association should be handled by staff with expertise and specialized training in providing administrative services to trade associations, professional societies and educational foundations.

For every “member benefit” proposed, ask if it is what the members want and if there is a return on investment. A “good idea” isn’t a good idea if it doesn’t connect with members and carry its own weight.

Reduce the size of the board. When an association has a large board, executive committees sometimes become “a board within a board.” Smaller boards are more nimble with decision making.

The board should not have to review and act on any and all governance. Committees should be established that have specific expertise. Watch for duplication of committee efforts and silos. Consider forming task forces instead of committees. Don’t forget, task forces have a beginning and end.

Conduct board orientation and training. Make sure training is held regularly to keep everyone sharp and each member of the board contributing. Ask board members to complete self-evaluation forms periodically. See BoardSource from ASAE for more information on board self-assessment for associations.

Do you have more questions about foundations or association boards? Ask us in the comments below!

Want to know more about association management? Contact us to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.

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