Expert Coaching. Practical Resources.

September 20, 2016


Ted Hull

Is Policy Governance® Too Big for Us?

I’ve heard boards say:

The Carver Policy Governance model might be great for large organizations, but it’s too complicated for ours.

If you are one of those smaller charities or churches where the challenge of monitoring reports, developing reasonable interpretations and getting the data feels overwhelming, let’s chat.

First, let’s park Policy Governance®. Instead let me ask you some very fundamental questions. These questions, which are not intended to be rhetorical, need to be answered without consideration for spiritual or political correctness.

  • Do you deeply care if your charity contributes to making a difference in the lives of the people it is seeking to reach?
  • Are you clear what that difference would be?
  • Is there anything unethical, immoral or illegal that could take place in the context of the charity that you would consider unacceptable?
  • Do you know what those things are?
  • Do you want to be assured these things are not happening?

If you have answered no to any of the questions, then set those aside.

If you have answered yes to any of the questions, then you must have some method for finding out if what you value is being accomplished or adhered to. It is impossible to value something without knowing whether that value is being realized or compromised.

Here’s an example: I have a house rule telling my kids that they need to be home by midnight which reflects my care for my children and my responsibility as a parent. However, I never check my watch or stay awake long enough to see if they make it home on time. I’ve stated that I have a value, but my inattention to my kids and my watch strongly suggests otherwise.

In the same way, the board of a smaller charity has values about what difference the organization should make in the lives of certain people and what it is worth to produce those results. If the board really cares, then it will have a plan for making sure that the things it cares about are really taking place and those things which shouldn’t happen, aren’t happening.

So now you need a method of making sure that your values are reflected in the results produced by the organization and that there are no unacceptable activities or situations.

A far better process would be for the board to state in advance the things that are not allowed for the CEO – things that would put the organization at too much risk; then carefully monitor to ensure that boundary hasn’t been crossed. This frees the board to do its most important work – defining the future the organization should be creating. It also frees the CEO to actually do the work of making that future a reality.

Some helpful links to learn more about Policy Governance®:



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