Checklist: The chair and the chief executive

By governance expert Judith Rich

Judith Rich
Judith Rich

Widely acknowledged as being a critical part of any charity, the success of the relationship between chair and chief executive does not come about by accident.

As with any issue involving personalities, it requires careful planning and continual review, and it needs honesty on both sides if it is to work for the benefit of the charity.

Chairs often have their own lives and responsibilities outside the organisation, so it is important that the process by which it is hoped to achieve the charity's aims is agreed by both sides. Chief executives, by the same token, must feel that they have the support of the chair.

Notes should be kept of all meetings. Obviously, there will be occasions when it is necessary to meet informally or at short notice, but a regular pattern of discussion and updating should be laid down.

In smaller charities it is tempting to allow strong chief executives to assume responsibilities beyond the management remit, especially if this leads to greater success for the charity.

But remember that it is the trustees who have the ultimate legal and fiscal responsibility for the charity and it is they who set the strategy to enable its development and success.

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