Most chairs give their time generously, but problems can occur when they give too much or too little. Chairs who give too little time risk leaving their chief executives insufficiently supported and shifting the workload to management.
Chairs who invest an inadequate amount of time also miss opportunities to inspire staff by not being visible across the organisation. Ultimately, a chair's lack of time can cause deterioration in the crucial relationship with the chief executive.
By contrast, chairs who give up too much time risk interfering with management and compromising their ability to view the organisation from a wider perspective. They can also make the role look so demanding that it becomes difficult to find a successor.
Research by the Compass Partnership and Cass Business School shows that chairs in large charities spend an average of 30 days a year in that role. The larger the charity, the more time the chair gives.
The balance also depends on individuals. Chairs who add high value are drawn in more often and those that are meddlesome are kept at arm's length. All chairs need to be particularly astute in finding the right balance.