Nonprofit Titles – Trustee vs. Director

Posted on February 6, 2010 by  
Filed under Board Governance, Board/Staff Relationship · Tagged: , ,

A recent question to Ask Alyson: 

Hi Alyson, I am a member of a non-profit independent school board. From the start of incorporation 3 years ago, our members have been called directors and the officers are president, vice-president etc… What is your opinion about this wording compared with calling the members trustees and officer titles of chair and vice-chair? Thank you in advance for your thoughts!   Steve

Dear Steve:

Great question.   I think it all comes down to preferences because
the titles really do mean the same thing.
 
We generally see “trustees” associated with colleges and universities
(board of trustees) and “directors” associated with other organizations.
But I’ve seen trustees with other, non-academic organizations, as well.
 
I think that “Board of Trustees” is a bit more formal and “lofty”
so there may be come benefit to using it.
 
As you’ve noted, the titles of your officers can either be President and Vice President OR
Chairperson and Vice Chairperson.  So you can chose either.   I will tell you that when
I teach, I use President and Vice President titles because it’s easier than trying to
decide if I should use “Chairman” “Chairperson” “Chairwoman” or “Chair”….
 
Ido use the title of “Committee Chair” for all committees – for consistency.
 
So – it really comes down to personal preference. 
The responsibilities are the same.
 
Hope this helps.
Alyson