Policy-Based Governance Glossary (from Unity Consulting)

Board Executive Relationship Policies:

One of the four types of policies the board writes, these policies clarify how the board delegates authority to the executive, and how it will evaluate executive performance in

relation to the ends and the executive limitations.


One of the four types of policies that the board writes, ends define what long-term, mission-related results are to be achieved, for whom, and at what cost or priority. Determining ends, and avoiding involvement in means, is a pivotal board duty in policy-based governance that frees both the board and the executive leader to concentrate on what matters most.

Executive Limitations:

One of the four types of policies that the board writes, executive limitations define what the executive leader may NOT do as they work to accomplish the ends. While this approach may seem negative, executive limitations are, in practice, very liberating, as they allow the staff the fullest possible range of their creativity. They can do anything they want to make the ends become reality, provided they do NOT do the few things spelled out in the executive limitations.

Governance Process Policies:

One of the four types of policies that the board writes, board governance policies identify the board’s philosophy, its accountability and the specifics of its own job.


If the board’s primary responsibility is to write high-level policies on behalf of its moral ownership, the board needs a way to connect with its owners, to hear what they have to

say and to represent them effectively. This process of connecting and listening to the

organization’s moral owners is called linkage.


Actions needed to accomplish the ends or to protect the operations that produce the ends. Notice how policy-based governance intentionally gives the executive leader full responsibility for determining what means they’ll use to accomplish the ends and how they’ll stay within the executive limitations. This is why policy-based governance works so well to release staff creativity and frees board time to focus on the long-range planning issues that matter most.


The processes and tools boards use to evaluate organizational performance. Specifically, the board uses regular monitoring to track whether the executive is accomplishing the ends and staying within the executive limitations and to evaluate whether the board is faithful to its governance process policies. “If you haven’t said how it ought to be, don’t ask how it is,” is the monitoring principle that forces boards to think carefully about what they want, what means they won’t accept in getting it, and then to spell it out in written policies so they and the executive know what will be expected and monitored. Monitoring can be obtained three ways: internal reports from the executive leader, direct inspection by board teams, or external reports from professional experts.

Moral Ownership:

The people not at the board table on whose behalf the board governs and to whom the board is accountable. Determining who your organization’s ownership is, who gives the board authority and accountability, isn’t always easy. Often, you’ll have owners that aren’t legal owners. For this reason, policy-based governance uses the term “moral ownership” to include all owners, in both a moral and a legal sense. Another term for this is “sources of accountability and authority.”


Written statements that completely embody the board’s beliefs, commitments, values, and vision. There are four policy categories boards must address: ends, executive limitations, board governance style, and board/executive relationship.


Any person, whether paid or volunteer, who is working on behalf of the congregation to

achieve its ends