Ideas for governance in all-volunteer organizations

I co-faciliate a board governance webinar for Vantage Point, and one of the questions that comes up is what governance looks like in an all-volunteer organization.

Most board governance resources stress the importance of separating governance from operations: board members are responsible for governance; staff are responsible for management and operations.

But what about when there are no staff? I propose that boards delegate operations largely to volunteers.

I’ve written a thought piece on possible structural models to do this. The three examples include:

  • Option 1: Full committee structure
  • Option 2: One operational committee
  • Option 3: Volunteer executive director

I go on to compare the three models with respect to features, benefits, drawback, meeting design, etc. You can download the resource here.

27 Shift Governance in all volunteer orgs


I chair an all-volunteer organization and I would say we vaguely follow Option 1, but I see the potential to shift towards Options 2 or 3, especially if we consider geographic expansion.

What do you think of the options presented? What is the reality in your all-volunteer organization?


  1. I’m involved in one organization within each of those models, more or less. They can all be effective provided the board spends most of the board time on generative, strategic or oversight items – not on reviewing and picking apart operational stuff they delegated to committees or senior volunteers. There’s a free download of my book chapter about that in the Governance Resources at

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