It may be true that I am a church governance geek, but I don’t think it affects my perception that the use of policy governance at UUCA has done just as it was hoped—it has provided vision, clarity and accountability in the work of the congregation. Here are a few key advantages.
I’ve been on the Board and I can say with absolute certainty that the boards that have been in place since we began using policy governance (just about a year and a half) are getting substantially more useful information from staff about what is going on in the life of the congregation than they have ever had before. And since this information comes to them in the form of written reports from the Executive, they have more meeting time to devote to matters other than program and staff management.
For each board meeting, the Executive (Mark) submits a “What’s Happening Now” report that briefly describes what’s going on in the organization that the board members ought to know about. It requires no action but gives board members information they might need when speaking with congregants, everything from changes in staff responsibilities (e.g., Benette’s illness-induced change to part-time status and Nick’s subsequent increase to full-time status) to the status of the Annual Budget Drive.
By way of the Board’s Governance Document, the Executive is required to report on various aspects of the congregation’s management each month. Therefore unlike any previous Board, the board members not only receive monthly financial data as they did prior to policy governance, but they also get a written document from the Executive describing the compliance of every “The Executive shall not” sentence in the Executive Limitations section of the Governance Document. Over the course of a year, the Board receives a report about every part of the Governance Document that affects the Executive.
For example, for the Board’s February 4 meeting, Mark will provide a report on Executive Limitation H which has to do with communications to the board and the congregation along with a few other miscellaneous items that can loosely be in this category. For each item, we provide evidence of our compliance or an explanation of why we are not in compliance. I assure you that no previous boards ever got a yearly report on whether we maintain an accurate membership record or whether there has been a statement of the assets and liabilities presented to the Congregation each year. It may have always been done, but if it were missed, there was no systematic way to “remember” it.
The Executive reports on every single Limitation and Ends Statement at least once a year. I’m quite certain no previous Board has ever been so well informed and then freed to do visioning and planning work rather than management. Upon receiving the report, the Board determines if what we are reporting is the direction they want the congregation to be moving. If not, they are free to change the Governance Document to get what they want.