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?