TOOL 16 Review – Prime Responsibility Chart

By John Pearson

Eliminate Fuzziness Between Board and Staff Roles

What’s the role of the board? Does everyone agree?

  • Ministering? Listening, encouraging, and praying with ministry directors?

  • Monitoring? Ensuring that every ministry has goals, reports, and results?

  • Meddling? Jumping in with new ideas, fixing problems, and addressing personnel issues?

  • Micro-managing? In the weeds, obsessing over details, and mandating lengthy reports?

Here’s a one-page tool for fixing fuzziness!


Use this tool to eliminate fuzziness between board and staff roles.

Tool #16 in the new resource, ECFA Tools and Templates for Effective Board Governance, is one of three tools in Part 5, “Policies and Board Responsibilities,” in this jam-packed 272-page resource. The tool features a simple one-page template for clarifying who has authority and approval for board and staff roles and responsibilities.

This one-page “Prime Responsibility Chart” includes five columns: the tasks (example: Hire and fire the top leader), then four columns—noting roles—for the Board, the CEO, the EVP or VP, and Dept. Heads.

Responsibility for each task across the chart is delineated with just three designations:

P = Prime Responsibility

A = Assistant Responsibility

AP = Approval Required

In the absence of a Board Policies Manual (see Tool #17), this one-pager is a helpful way to quickly discern the board’s role versus the staff’s role. And—this is key—it is designed to be updated (Example: “Version 5.0, Feb. 4, 2020”) in any board meeting and then emailed to the board and senior staff immediately after board meetings—so everyone is always working from the same page.

Ask your Governance Committee (or Executive Committee) to create Version 1.0 and present at your next board meeting.

Order the tools book from Amazon by clicking on this title: ECFA Tools and Templates for Effective Board Governance: Time-Saving Solutions for Your Board, by Dan Busby and John Pearson. The book gives you full access to all 22 tools and templates—formatted as Word documents so you can customize the tools for your board’s unique uses.

BOARD DISCUSSION: The PRC won’t solve all of your challenges, but you can begin by ensuring that your staff organizational chart is crystal clear. Verify that each staff member has just one direct supervisor. Reminder: the CEO is the only person that reports directly to the board. Are all board members clear on this principle?

MORE RESOURCES: In her guest blog, “Sidetrack Harebrained Ideas,” from Lesson 17 in the book, Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom, by Dan Busby and John Pearson, Tami Heim notes that, “If you’ve ever served on a board, then more than likely you have experienced how painful it is to be sidetracked by a harebrained idea that shows up out of nowhere.” The Prime Responsibility Chart is a helpful antidote to blocking harebrained ideas before they grow legs! Click here to read more.

READ MORE: Read Lesson 7, “Eliminate Fuzziness Between Board and Staff Roles,” in More Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom.


This article was originally posted on the “Governance of Christ-Centered Organizations” blog, hosted by ECFA.
John Pearson, a board governance consultant and author, was ECFA’s governance blogger from 2011 to 2020.
© 2021, ECFA and John Pearson. All rights reserved.


This text is provided with the understanding that ECFA is not rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from an accountant, lawyer, or other professional.