by Alan Meyer and Quentin Smith

ILRU Management Support Series

a publication of the
ILRU Research & Training Center on Independent Living at TIRR

1991 by
ILRU Program
2323 S. Shepherd, Suite 1000
Houston, TX 77019
(713) 520-0232, 520-5136 (TDD)

Heinsohn, Nancy Richards, and Laurie Gerken.

Substantial support for development of this publication was provided by
the Rehabilitation Services Administration and the National Institute on
Disability and Rehabilitation Research, U. S. Department of Education.
The content is the responsibility of ILRU, and no official endorsement of
the Department of Education should be inferred.


This publication is intended to assist board members of independent living
centers in gaining a better understanding of the roles and responsibilities
that they have assumed in taking on the task of governing an independent
living center. It is divided into two parts.

The first part deals with board members' roles and responsibilities in terms
of a center's adherence to the independent living philosophy. For many,
assuring center adherence to the independent living philosophy may be the
most challenging aspect of serving as a board member. Experience
indicates that philosophical commitment is very difficult to translate into
policies and procedures and that it is easy to stray from the philosophy as
one becomes engrossed in assuring that the center is staying on track in
terms of sound management practices.

In part one, we offer guidelines and practical suggestions to center board
members to assist them in monitoring whether or not the center is
adhering to the independent living philosophy. We also include practical
suggestions for how to bring the center back into line if it appears that it
may be straying philosophically.

The second part of this publication deals with the more general--but
equally important--roles and responsibilities of board members in setting
policy and overseeing the practical operation of an independent living
center according to sound management principles. We know from
discussions with our colleagues in the field that it is often the practical
management issues that lead to crises in centers--even those centers that
are on target with respect to philosophical commitment.
Simply put, failure to adhere to sound management practices can result in
consequences (e.g., financial settlements, loss of funding, staff cuts) that
seriously impair a center's ability to deliver services and that may result in
the center's closing.

In part two, we provide a basic framework for carrying out the three
essential aspects of operational management--planning, implementing,
and evaluating--and the three essential elements of fiscal
management--budgeting, accounting, and analyzing.

This section of the publication is not intended as an exhaustive discussion
of operational management roles and responsibilities. A number of
excellent publications on nonprofit board roles and responsibilities are
listed in the Suggested Readings section of this publication, and readers
are referred to these publications for more details on operational

It is our hope, however, that this section will provide an adequate
framework for center board members to gain a better understanding of
what they should be doing with respect to overseeing center operations, so
that they can assess their capabilities and determine what aspects of their
management knowledge and skills require strengthening.

Although this publication was developed primarily as a tool for new board
members who have little or no experience in governing independent living
centers and/or serving on nonprofit boards, the authors and editors believe
that more experienced board members could benefit from much of the
information provided.

We welcome comments from the field concerning the value and utility of
the information presented, and we encourage suggestions on how this
publication might be improved and expanded.

In preparing this work, we obtained firsthand perspectives of issues
related to running an independent living center through interviews with
the executive director and board president at five independent living
centers. These included:

Brenda Premo and Barbara Spear at the Dayle McIntosh Center in
Anaheim, California;

Larry Clott and Harold Gibson at North Idaho Center for Independent
Living in Moscow, Idaho;

Bob Williams and Mike Muehe at Boston Center for Independent Living
in Boston, Massachusetts;

Sandy Napombejra and Paul Gowins at Northern Nevada Center for
Independent Living in Reno, Nevada; and

Owen McCusker and Karen Prezentka at Access to Independence in
Madison, Wisconsin.

We also obtained valuable information from three former center directors:
Judy Barricella, Vikki Rennick, and Maggie Shreve.
In addition to these individuals, we also wish to express our thanks to the
many other board members, center directors, and center staff who were of
such inestimable help in developing this publication. It could not have
been produced without their generous sharing of knowledge, experience,
and--oftentimes--frustrations in taking on the challenging tasks of
governing and operating independent living centers.






The Special Mission of Independent Living Centers
Uniqueness of Independent Living Centers
Examining your Mission Statement

Consumer Control in Independent Living Centers
Definition of a "Consumer@
Membership vs. Self-Perpetuating Boards
Consumer Advisory Boards
Assuring Consumer Control

The Role of Advocacy as an Independent Living Center Service
Letting Advocacy Slip to a Back Burner
Keeping Advocacy a Priority
Promoting Self-Advocacy in Consumers

Civil Rights and the Independent Living Movement
Center Obligations in Promoting Civil Rights
Maintaining a Civil Rights Orientation
The Board's Role in Civil Rights
The Staff's Role in Civil Rights

Cross-disability Orientation of Independent Living Centers
Meeting Cross-Disability Service Needs
Responding to Community Needs
Getting Community Feedback

Summary of Responsibilities in Adhering to the Independent Living


Responsibilities as a Trustee of Public Interest

Legal Responsibilities: Criminal and Civil Accountability of Boards
Accountability Under Civil Law
Protecting Against Civil Suits
Responsibilities for Oversight of Center Operations
A Three-Part Management Strategy
Planning's Multiple Purposes
Benefits of Planning
Implementing Your Plan
Documenting Activities
Evaluating Progress
Connecting the Three Parts

Responsibilities for Oversight of Center Finances
Compliance with Internal Financial Requirements
1. Preparing Budgets
2. Accounting for Funds
3. Analyzing Financial Information
Compliance with External Financial Requirements
Binding Budgets
Disallowed Spending
Board Responsibilities in Budget Oversight

Summary of Operational Responsibilities




Boards and Board Functions
Legal Responsibilities and Legal Liability of Boards
Fiscal Management Information for Board Members
Independent Living Philosophy and Civil Rights





The independent living movement was founded on the premise that
persons with disabilities know best about services and service delivery
approaches that make it possible for them to live independently in their
communities (Roberts, 1977). Their frustrations with traditional service
delivery approaches that provided little opportunity for persons obtaining
services to be involved in major decisions that affected their lives led to
development of the independent living center model of delivering services
in the early 1970's (DeJong, 1981).

Significantly, the hallmark of the early independent living center was
commitment to consumer control at all levels of center operations; and,
today, this commitment remains the most easily recognizable feature of
independent living centers. True independent living centers have persons
with disabilities in primary decisionmaking positions at both the
governing board and staff levels (Nosek and Richards, 1987).

Consumer control is recognized as the strength of independent living
centers for it provides safeguards against the tendency to fall into patterns
of service delivery that rob persons with disabilities of opportunities to
direct service decisions that affect their lives (Kailes, 1988). Consumer
control has not, however, come without a price. Because of a history of
discrimination against persons with disabilities in educational as well as
employment settings, the majority of consumers--persons with
disabilities-have had little preparation in organizational development or
day-to-day operations (Nosek and Smith, 1982).

In the early and mid 1970's, when independent living centers were getting
started, there were few persons with disabilities who had been given
opportunities to pursue careers in management and business that would
prepare them for managing complex organizations such as independent
living centers. Likewise, persons with disabilities were not typically asked
to serve on boards of other nonprofit organizations, such as United Way,
that provide needed experience about how boards are supposed to operate.

As such, over the past ten years, most independent living centers have
been faced with growing their own crop of capable board members and
managers who can maintain the commitment to independent living
philosophical tenets while at the same time run a center according to
sound business and management practices (Kailes, 1988).

The field has made great strides un this regard, and today, there are many
persons working in independent living centers and serving on boards of
centers who not only understand their roles in making those centers run
smoothly, but also know how to keep centers on track philosophically.
Unfortunately, however, much of what has been learned by individual
board members and center management staff in a number of successful,
established centers around the country has not yet been made available to
newer centers. Many centers continue to struggle through learning how to
integrate independent living philosophy and good management practices
while working with underprepared personnel or with people having to
learn on the job.

Since 1984, ILRU has had the good fortune to work closely with more
than 75 executive directors of independent living centers in identifying
management problems in independent living centers and in finding ways
to address those problems effectively. One point that has been made
consistently by these directors is that a good deal of effort is committed to
helping inexperienced board members understand what their roles and
responsibilities are in operating a center

This effort demands the attention of executive directors themselves as
well as the attention of more experienced board members and other staff
members of centers. Naturally, these demands take away from time
available to work on other important center matters, such as systems
advocacy, service delivery, and fund raising.

It is clear that a need exists. The field could benefit from resource
materials that capture the experience and knowledge gained by well
managed centers over the past decade.

This document was produced in response to this need. In it, we have
distilled philosophical and practical approaches to an independent living
center board's role and responsibilities in operating an independent living
center. The information that has gone into the preparation of this
document was gathered through a number of methods

Primarily, information was gained from indepth interviews with center
directors and board presidents of five established and successful centers in
different parts of the country. In addition to being selected to represent
differences in geographical location, the five centers were chosen to
represent a mix of large and small centers and centers with
member-elected boards as well as self-perpetuating boards. In choosing
board presidents and center directors to interview, our goal was to obtain a
cross-section of the types of problems usually encountered in operating
independent living centers as well as alternative methods for addressing
these problems.

Interviews with these center directors and board presidents followed a
structured format consisting of 22 questions (some with multiple parts)
focusing on issues ranging from identification of the most common
obstacles encountered in assisting boards to function effectively to
approaches for preventing problems that may arise when board and staff
roles become blurred and improper communication occurs. Interviews
were conducted separately--a total of ten interviews--by telephone with
board presidents and executive directors to encourage candid responses to
the questions. Lest you should think that these interviews were cursory
and participants had little to say, the average length of call was over two

Results of the interviews provided both direction and a good portion of the
content for this publication. The interview results have been augmented
with information gathered from nearly 75 center directors who
participated un management training programs conducted by ILRU from
1984 through 1987 and by information in management literature that has
been reviewed by the authors. Finally, this document reflects experiences
of the two authors, both of whom have been center directors and continue
to be involved in management training for persons working in centers.

We expect that many of you will recognize some of your own ideas
regarding independent living philosophy and board roles and
responsibilities in this document. Since we have drawn from many
directors (those interviewed as well as those who participated in ILRU's
management training) and several board presidents from around the
country, the thoughts and ideas that you expressed may appear somewhat

The information provided to us by persons interviewed and by the many
center managers who attended ILRU training sessions was invaluable in
developing this publication. Ultimately, however, responsibility for the
content of this publication belongs to the authors. We hope that the
information is useful to centers in preparing boards to function effectively.
We also hope to hear from you on ways that we might improve this
publication so that it better meets the needs of the field


The Board Member's Role in Operationalizing the Independent Living

In order for an organization to be effective in carrying out its mission, the
people who govern it must have a clear understanding of its special role
and mission in the community. In this section, the special mission of
independent living centers is discussed. It includes descriptions of these
special qualities that make centers different from other human service
organizations. In Section II, the discussion focuses on responsibilities with
respect to operational and financial oversight that are the same for board
members of many organizations.

The Special Mission of Independent Living Centers

Each of the five board presidents and five executive directors of
independent living centers whom we interviewed for this publication
stressed the special roles and missions of their centers. As noted earlier,
independent living centers were established initially as an alternative to
service agencies that employed traditional, and often paternalistic
approaches to addressing the needs of persons with disabilities (Dart,

However, the board presidents and center directors whom we interviewed
were most concerned about how centers are making sure that the
philosophical basis of the independent living concept is carried over into
center operations. Ultimately, it is the board's responsibility to make sure
that the center does not become just another social service agency.

One of the primary reasons that persons with disabilities started
independent living centers was that they had enough of being treated as
clients or patients to be handled and disposed of in whatever fashion was
determined to be expedient by a professional with a degree in medicine,
counseling, or another field (Kailes, 1988). The risk that centers run,
however, is that, if their board members are not vigilant, centers can
become just like those other organizations.

There is nothing magical about the term Aindependent living center" that
makes a center immune to the potential for becoming just another social
service agency, and, in fact, as Wolfensberger (1973) points out, many
pioneering movements have difficulty assuming new goals and atrophy
into routine service delivery agencies. Some of the people with whom we
spoke in our interviews and in the ILRU management training sessions
stated that a number of centers seem to be well on their way to becoming
just like the agencies for which they were designed to provide an

Although well-grounded staff members may keep your center on track
philosophically, it is primarily the board's responsibility to g ude the
ongoing development of the center and to set priorities and to establish
agendas for meeting the needs of the community that a center serves. The
goal setting and policy administration functions of the board are clear, and
board-established goals and policies should guide the functional activities
of the center (United Way, 1979)

In other words, the board is responsible for what happens in the center,
even though it may not have responsibility for day-to-day operations. The
board cannot delegate these administrative responsibilities to staff.
So now you may ask, AWhat are the unique aspects of centers that board
members should keep in mind when making decisions that guide center
operations?" We put this question to our study group of center directors
and board presidents from around the country and received a variety of

All of the responses focused on commitment to the independent living
philosophy. Although there were a few responses that we did not really
expect, such as "it's their home,@ and "I don't really know," the great
majority of respondents talked about unique characteristics that are very
similar to standards adopted by the National Council on Disability
(formerly National Council on the Handicapped) in 1985. It is remarkable
that all but one of the individuals responding to the interview question on
unique aspects of centers cited consumer involvement. Other frequently
identified characteristics focused on the role of advocacy in centers, the
civil rights orientation of center efforts, and the cross-disability focus of
center activities.

Uniqueness of Independent Living Centers

We have taken the liberty of summarizing the four characteristics most
frequently identified by persons who were interviewed.

Independent living centers are unique in that they:

@ Embody the concept of consumer control in board governance, in
day-to-day management, in service delivery, and in determinations about
services that consumers receive (i.e., consumers decide for themselves
what services they need and want, rather than being told what they need):

@ Are committed to advocacy at both the individual and community levels
(the Asystems@ or community advocacy role is one to which most
traditional service delivery agencies are typically less committed);

@ Base their missions on the rights of persons with disabilities to be fully
participating members of their communities (as opposed to many
community agencies that view the people they serve as "needy" or
deserving of welfare, help, or care);

@ Are dedicated to involving persons with all types of disabilities in
obtaining full civil rights and community access (rather than focusing on
services and/or advocacy for persons with one type of disability such as
orthopedic impairment or visual impairment).

Consumer control. Traditional service providers tend to rely more on
services provided by experts who are typically not individuals who have
personal experience with disabilities. As Corthell and Van Boskirk (1988)
have stated, traditional rehabilitation service provision ". . . has tended to
emphasize an authoritarian relationship where a dominant overactive
service provider acts upon a passive and submissive consumer." The
consumer control orientation that underlies the independent living
movement represents a radical departure from this traditional approach.

Advocacy. Likewise, the strong commitment to advocacy is a
distinguishing characteristic of independent living centers. While many
service providers will provide assistance to individual consumers in
securing benefits and requesting services, few other agencies define their
roles in terms of demanding equal rights and equal opportunities for
people with disabilities and serving as leaders in local, state, and national
efforts to secure and protect those rights and opportunities. In her work on
advocacy, Kailes (1988) cites works by Dart (1987), Hooper (1987), and
Frieden (1987) that support independent living centers strong commitment
to advocacy. Our interviews indicate that board presidents and directors of
centers see this commitment as a unique and important characteristic of

Civil rights. The civil rights orientation of independent living centers is
also different from the orientation of many traditional disability service
organizations. Traditionally, organizations serving persons with
disabilities were established on a charitable basis to assist those less
fortunate. As Roth (1985) points out, many disability related programs
developed from the charitable conception of disability that is exemplified
in such activities as the muscular dystrophy telethon. Roth states; AIf ever
there was a worthy group of poor persons it must be persons with
disabilities.@ McConnell (1985) identified four stages in the evolution of
disability policy: (1) outcast, (2) care and isolation, (3) treatment and
rehabilitation, and (4) rights and mainstreaming. The responses that we
received in our interviews indicate that persons responsible for directing
the activities of centers view their centers as the primary vehicles for
promoting disability rights in their communities; implying, according to
McConnell's definition, that independent living centers represent the
manifestation of the most highly evolved aspects of disability policy

Cross-disability services. The concept of cross-disability services also
represents a departure from established service approaches that tend to
focus on a single disability group, such as is the case with people with
cerebral palsy who are served by United Cerebral Palsy (UCP), people
with muscular dystrophy who are served by the Muscular Dystrophy
Association (MDA), or people with mental retardation who are served by
Associations for Retarded Citizens (ARC). Independent living's focus on
cross-disability services grew out of both recognition of similar support
service needs of persons with various types of disabling conditions and
acknowledgement that large numbers of people working together toward
common goals could accomplish more than individuals or small groups
could accomplish working separately. In citing reasons why disability
groups often fail to achieve their goals, Bowe and Williams (1979)
indicated that organizations often ". . . try to go it alone rather than
working with other groups toward common goals.@

These responses to our question on what makes independent living centers
unique are consistent with standards set out in 1985 by the National
Council on Disability. A copy of these standards are available from ILRU.
The four characteristics--consumer control, commitment to advocacy,
civil rights orientation, and cross disability service provision--are reflected
in the evaluation standards that are currently under consideration by the
Rehabilitation Services Administration and that are expected to be applied
in assessing the performance of Title VII Part B funded independent living
centers. Many of the organizations that use the term "independent living"
in their names or descriptions do not measure up when viewed in light of
these characteristics
Examining Your Mission Statement

On paper, this all looks good, but what does it mean to you as a board
member? As we discussed in the first section of this publication, one of
the important roles of a center board is to make sure that the center is
sticking to its mission. The question that you should now be asking
yourself is, "Does the mission statement for my center reflect the unique
characteristics of the independent living movement?" As a board member,
you should be very sure what the mission of the center is, how it is stated,
and whether it conveys a clear message that your center adheres to a
philosophy that sets it apart from traditional service organizations.

We are not suggesting that you need a five page mission statement that
describes everything that the center was established to do. Rather, the
mission statement can be brief, but it should spell out in a general way the
primary purpose of your center and what it hopes to accomplish (United
Way, 1979).

Also, keep in mind that the wording of your mission statement need not be
exactly like the wording of all other independent living center mission
statements. Your mission statement should be designed to meet the needs
of the community you serve and at the same time it should reflect
important independent living philosophical elements and concepts. By
including these elements, you are more likely to assure that the center's
programs, long-range plans, fund-raising efforts, etc. adhere to the
independent living philosophy.

Having the right written mission statement is only the start of what you
need to do to fulfill your responsibilities as a board member. What do
these four distinguishing characteristics mean in operational terms?

Consumer Control in Independent Living Centers

There has been a good deal of discussion around the question of, "What is
a consumer?" This is an area of some disagreement among people in the

Definition of a "Consumer"

When we asked people in our study group to define a consumer, we got
different responses. A majority of them said that anyone with a disability
is a consumer. A large minority of them defined consumer as a person
who uses or is eligible to use a substantial amount of the center's services
or other public services or benefits (e.g., public transportation assistance,
housing assistance, social security disability insurance).

This issue is thorny enough that some centers are now using "primary
consumer" to describe someone who is a user of center services and
"secondary consumer" to describe people with disabilities who only
indirectly benefit from centers' advocacy activities (Kailes, 1988).
Some of the people interviewed felt that this level of differentiation is
unnecessary and that it might, in fact, be divisive--by implying that some
persons are more qualified than others to call themselves consumers.
How your center defines consumer is extremely important in light of the
consumer control issue. As the goal-setting and policy-making body for
your center, the board needs to define what is meant by the term
"consumer" in your center.

Member-Elected vs. Self-Perpetuating Boards
One part of this decision will involve determining if your board should be
elected by a general membership made up of people with disabilities and
other interested people in your community or be self-elected (i.e., the
people serving on the board elect new members of the board-usually
referred to as a self-perpetuating board).

With a self-perpetuating board, those persons serving on the board are
usually the organization's only members, and board members nominate
and elect their replacements. In the case of membership organizations,
consumers and other persons in the community who are members of the
larger organization nominate and elect people to serve on the board
(Curtis, 1980; Nosek and Smith, 1982).

As indicated by Nosek and Smith, while the self-perpetuating board
approach allows for more selectivity in filling board positions with
persons who have special expertise, such as accountants and attorneys, it
has the potential to be less responsive to consumers or others in the
community who have little input into selecting board members.

The member-elected board, on the other hand, may be very responsive to
the community, but may have problems in maintaining a balance on the
board in terms of having people with varying but important types of
expertise, such as law and finance. The member-elected board is also
vulnerable to manipulation through vote packing that can threaten
organizational stability.

We at ILRU are aware of at least two situations in which entire governing
boards were ousted and replaced by persons elected by constituencies of
new members recruited specifically for the purpose of electing a new
board with its own agenda. This is an issue worth considering in
determining the wording of bylaws sections dealing with member
eligibility to vote for board members.

Some of those we interviewed felt strongly that only those boards that are
elected by membership constituencies and are composed of a majority of
persons with disabilities are consumer controlled. Others felt equally
strongly that self-perpetuating boards could legitimately be consumer
controlled and may allow for better governance of the center through a
more planned approach to board composition and through increased
likelihood of board continuity.

Regardless of the method you choose to define consumer or to select your
board, keep in mind that the underlying philosophy behind independent
living is that those who know best what people with disabilities need in
order to live independently are disabled persons themselves (Roberts,

Operationally, this means that people who use center services must have a
substantive role in determining what those services will be and how they
will be delivered. When decisions are made concerning issues to be
addressed in the community (e.g., transportation, employment, housing),
people who will be affected need to be included in the decision-making
process. Holding public hearings on policy issues and program plans is
one approach for getting consumer input, but such efforts are only
gestures unless they are followed by decisions and actions that reflect the
expressed wishes of consumers regarding policies and plans.
Consumer Advisory Boards

Some so-called "centers" have tried to get around the consumer control
issue by having "consumer advisory boards." Although some of these
"advisory" boards may be very effective, there is a clear difference
between advice and governance. An advisory board does not have the
final say in establishing policy, and its advice can be ignored. The people
we interviewed, as well as the overwhelming majority of people
participating in the ILRU management training programs, were not
supportive of having persons with disabilities serving on advisory boards
in lieu of having persons with disabilities on the governing board. Many
expressed the opinion that advisory boards are appropriate for providing
guidance in certain programmatic areas.

In considering using an advisory board in lieu of having a consumer
controlled board, remember that centers are obligated to act on the
directives of their governing boards; however, they can take or leave
recommendations of advisory boards. The advisory function cannot
substitute for the policy-making function of the governing board.

Assuring Consumer Control

In summary, the thrust of this discussion is that you, as a board member,
need to be sure that your center has in place mechanisms which assure that
persons who are affected by board decisions have the means to influence
those decisions in a concrete way. As Cole (1979) pointed out in one of
the early discussions of independent living, involvement of consumers in
the operation of independent living centers may vary from program to
program, but true independent living centers will be characterized by the
". . . important influence of consumers on the policies and service delivery
style of the program."

This is not to say that 51 percent of your board must be composed of
persons with disabilities who are direct recipients of services. Those
whom we interviewed suggested that effective ways of getting consumer
involvement in addition to board representation include having consumers
serving on board committees and by encouraging consumers to work as
volunteers in the center. In addition to encouraging consumers to provide
input to center operations, these approaches may offer the added benefit of
grooming consumers for positions on the governing board.

Just as consumer control needs to be operationalized at the board level, it
must also be reflected in the composition and work of the staff and
volunteers. Several of the people in our study group suggested that having
persons with disabilities serving in key staff positions is even more
important than having persons with disabilities on the board. These
individuals indicated that the involvement of persons with disabilities in
day-to-day service delivery and staff direction is critical in keeping the
center on a sound philosophical footing. While begging the issue of which
is more important--having persons with disabilities in board roles or key
staff roles-it is clear from the responses we received that persons being
served must be substantially involved in determining:

--what services they will receive;

--how the services will be delivered;
--what the goals of those services should be; and

--whether or not those goals were achieved.

Because the board is responsible for overall center operations, it is
unequivocally part of its responsibilities to monitor closely consumer
involvement at all levels and to take corrective action when the center
appears to be departing from the important independent living
commitment to consumer control. The independent living philosophy is
built around the concept of people taking control of their own lives and
becoming as independent as they desire.

As a board member you need to be sure that the board, through
appropriate committees and through regular reports from service staff, is
monitoring the way in which staff are delivering services and that services
are being delivered in a way that is consistent with independent living

The Role of Advocacy as an Independent Living Center Service

As funds were secured to establish and to operate independent living
centers, many organizations that had previously been involved only in
community advocacy found themselves receiving grants which put them
in direct service provider roles. Staff and boards of these new independent
living centers suddenly found that they were expected--often by the very
agencies that had previously been targets of their advocacy efforts--to
deliver high quality services and to be accountable for those services.

In many centers, funding to support these services was channeled through
the state vocational rehabilitation agency, and the state agency had
oversight responsibility for center service delivery activities. In addition to
now being held accountable for delivery of services and management of
funds, many centers were also given the message--in a sometimes not very
subtle way-that those funds were meant for service delivery only.

Letting Advocacy Slip to a Back Burner

We have heard from many board members, center directors, and staff that
with all of the requirements and time demands of service delivery, it is
very hard to find time for advocacy.

One term that consistently appeared in our interviews and training
program discussions was "co-opt.@ Center board members and
administrators said that they were concerned about becoming "co-opted"
by becoming just like traditional service delivery agencies that had been
the very targets of consumer-group advocacy efforts before these groups
got into the service delivery business.

The manner in which centers can be co-opted can take several forms. For
example, in an effort to satisfy external funding and/or oversight agencies,
centers can begin adopting exclusionary eligibility requirements and/or
using extensive and intrusive "intake" procedures before providing
services. Centers can implement complicated Acase management" systems
that stress documentation at the expense of time that could be used for
achieving results. And, centers can become less aggressive in advocating
for changes in an inadequate or poorly functioning service system or
agency because board and staff members fear retaliation that might
include loss of funding from a public or private agency.

The attractiveness of obtaining funds for service delivery, the
extraordinary demands for services from people with disabilities living in
communities served by centers, and the real or implied prohibitions
against what might be considered lobbying activities (e.g., community
organizing, demonstrating, organizing letter writing campaigns to elected
representatives) provided incentives for some centers to back away from
community advocacy activities.

The people with whom we have discussed this issue state that often there
is no conscious decision to be less aggressive in systems advocacy efforts,
but center boards and staff found themselves with a whole new set of
responsibilities, and systems advocacy just got moved to the back burner.

Keeping Advocacy a Priority

A consistent theme in our interviews and training sessions is that systems
advocacy services must be a high priority in centers and that these services
must be planned, delivered, and monitored in the same way as services
provided to individuals. You can do this by requesting on a regular basis
information about what board and staff members are doing on community,
state, and national fronts to secure and to maintain equal rights for persons
with disabilities.

You can also monitor issues and activities in your community (e.g.,
housing, transportation, employment) that affect persons with disabilities.
This can be done by following local media reports, networking with
community leaders, and attending community government meetings where
these issues are raised. You should ask your board how the center is
responding to these issues and activities and what role the center is
playing in them. Many centers have a standing committee focusing on
advocacy, which has as its primary responsibilities guiding advocacy
activities of the center and monitoring progress toward specified advocacy

Perhaps the most important thing that you can do as a board member is to
ask at every board meeting how ongoing and proposed activities relate to
the stated mission of the center. If your mission statement is on target
philosophically, and if it states clearly that the center will actively engage
in efforts to promote independence for all persons with disabilities, then
you will not have problems in justifying your insistence on active
advocacy efforts or in resisting activities or positions that jeopardize
advocacy efforts.

Services are important, but as Gliedman and Roth (1980) point out in their
discussion of the minority status of children with disabilities, reliance on
services only will never fully solve the problem. According to them, the
service approach is based on the notion that A. . . the best way to improve
social position of an underprivileged minority relative to other groups is to
provide the minority individual with a set of services that seeks to
minimize his deviation from the mainstream--especially first-rate
education and vocational training. This approach is useful, but it seriously
oversimplifies the problem of achieving social change in the face of
prejudice and discrimination.@
People with disabilities have experienced centuries of prejudice and
discrimination, and simply providing an array of services--no matter how
good the quality of those services--will not correct the situation.
Aggressive advocacy should focus on eliminating discrimination against
people with disabilities.

Promoting Self-Advocacy in Consumers

A second aspect of your center's role in advocacy relates to individual
advocacy services. In our training sessions, an issue that is frequently
raised by executive directors and middle managers is the need to work
with staff regularly to encourage them to assist consumers in problem
solving rather than to problem solve for consumers.

Through our telephone interviews and training sessions this notion was
reinforced: as a board member you need to make sure that your center is
working with people not only to resolve particular situations, but also to
teach them how to advocate effectively for themselves and for others. This
will ensure that people with disabilities who come to your center for
assistance will not become dependent on the center, but will develop the
skills to obtain what they need for themselves. As we were constantly
reminded, this is what independent living is all about.

This approach often requires more time, effort, and patience on the part of
your center's staff and volunteers--things that overworked staff and
volunteers may be hard pressed to commit. Both anecdotal reports and
service data received by ILRU indicate that staff and volunteers are
overloaded with delivering services, doing paperwork, attending meetings,
and responding to advocacy demands.

The extra time that it takes to teach someone how lo apply for social
security benefits, rather than simply filling out the forms and having the
person sign them, is substantial. There is, at times, an understandable
tendency to expedite and to do things for people.

Center administrators need to be aware of demands made on staff time and
may need to take action to reduce workloads so that adequate time can be
spent delivering services and doing advocacy in a manner consistent with
the independent living philosophy.

The board needs to determine if excessive paperwork demands are being
made on staff and whether steps can be taken to reduce these demands so
that staff have the time needed to spend with consumers.

Safeguards that should be in place include a good evaluation system with
input from persons who have received services on how the services were
delivered. Another safeguard might involve regular reports to the board
from service delivery staff on how services are being provided and skills
are being taught. You need to listen carefully to these reports and be
attuned to phrases like, "I arranged for John's transportation" or "I found
Jane an apartment." You should be hearing things like, "We worked with
John so that he could arrange for his transportation@ and "We worked with
Jane to find an apartment.@

The people with whom we spoke emphasized that centers should serve as
models in their communities of how self-directed services allow
consumers to develop skills that enable them to deal with other problems
that confront them in their lives.

Civil Rights and the Independent Living Movement

This is perhaps one of the most important-and, for some, one of the most
subtle--areas of difference between independent living centers and
traditional service delivery agencies. This is a subtle issue because many
people do not readily perceive the advocacy and service delivery missions
of independent living centers as addressing civil rights.

Where traditional service delivery agencies are generally viewed as
having the mission of administering some publicly or privately funded
benefit program, independent living centers have historically perceived
their primary mission as leading the right for the civil rights of persons
with disabilities. This point was emphasized by a number of persons in
our study group and has been raised as an issue repeatedly in training
sessions for independent living center managers.

Civil rights for persons with disabilities are no different from civil rights
for other groups-ethnic minorities, women, the elderly--who have been
discriminated against historically (DeJong, 1981). In a report prepared for
the Mott Foundation by The Institute for Educational Leadership in 1983,
the role of the independent living movement in affirming basic human
rights for disabled persons was emphasized. These rights include:

--To participate in the prerogatives and responsibilities of citizenship;

--To have equal employment opportunities;

--To access to public facilities, transportation, and affordable housing for
all disabled people;

--To obtain supportive services necessary for employment opportunities
and full participation in society;

--To have free, appropriate, and non-segregated education;

--To bear, raise, and adopt children;

--To participate fully in the cultural, social, recreational, and economic life
of the community,

--To live in dignified independence outside of institutional settings.

Unfortunately, however, when these rights are denied to persons with
disabilities because of architectural barriers, communication barriers, or
attitudinal barriers, the same people who would be incensed if such
opportunities were denied to a black person or a woman simply shrug off
the problem and say, "Well, they didn't mean to discriminate," or "We just
can't afford to make this accessible--it costs too much," or ''There is no
qualified disabled person available to fill this job opening."

Ten Broek (1966) summarized a number of factors that contribute to
discrimination against people with disabilities. Included among these
factors are ". . . public imaginings about what the inherent physical
limitations must be; public solicitude about the safety to be achieved by
keeping the disabled out of harm's way; public feelings of protective care
and custodial security; public doubts about why the disabled should want
to be abroad anyway; and public aversion to the sight of them and the
conspicuous reminder of their plight."

Center Obligations in Promoting Civil Rights

Many center directors and some of the board presidents in our study group
stated that your number one obligation as a board member of an
independent living center is to advocate for and to protect the civil rights
of the people whom you serve. This orientation to civil rights has been
affirmed by the National Council on Disability in both Toward
Independence (1986) and On The Threshold of Independence (1988).

This civil rights orientation clearly separates independent living centers
from benefit programs, such as the HUD-funded Section 8 housing
program in the public sector and from many service providers in the
private sector. As was clearly pointed out in Toward Independence, most
federal programs targeted to people with disabilities A. . . are premised
upon the dependency of the people who receive benefits."

It can be stated that many private-sector initiatives, such as the Jerry
Lewis telethon, focusing on disability-related issues likewise are targeted
to the plight of the disabled person and the individual's inability to help
himself or herself, rather than on the potential for independence that the
individual may have.

In describing federal programs, Toward Independence cited ". . . an
underemphasis on initiatives for equal opportunity, independence,
prevention, and self-sufficiency." A similar emphasis is often seen in
private-sector disability focused campaigns in which people with
disabilities are depicted as needing help or as objects of pity, but are not
shown as people who have been denied opportunities and have been
unable to obtain support services that would allow them to participate in
their communities.
In contrast, independent living centers take the position that they are not
serving the "needy," but are helping to insure that persons with disabilities
have full access to the same opportunities as do persons without

According to Toward Independence, the independent living philosophy ". .
. should permeate the services and benefits supported by the federal
government." Likewise, this attitude should permeate everything done by
your center. Your newsletter, public service announcements, and other
media should reflect the center's role in fighting for civil rights.

Maintaining a Civil Rights Orientation

Funding and other support for your programs and services should not be
accepted if it means weakening on this position. In our management
training programs, we have heard that the lure of money to support the
center is sometimes hard to resist. However, we also hear that if those
monies come with strings attached that would take your center away from
its mission and goals, then your center does not need them.

As a board member, you need to be alert to the requirements of funding
agencies. Make it clear to funding agencies at the outset that your center is
committed to civil rights for persons with disabilities and that you will not
operate programs or offer services that are based upon the premise that
you are "helping the needy" or that do not promote independence and
encourage the full participation of people with disabilities in all aspects of
community life.

As a board member, you should, on a regular basis, look closely at the
services that your center offers and the manner in which these services are
offered. If your center is beginning to look like one of those paternalistic
or "charity" agencies (e.g., everyone is filling out forms while people who
need services are sitting in the reception area awaiting their turn) that we
have all seen so much of, then it is time for changes.

The causes of paternalism or a "charity" orientation in center operations
are not always externally generated (i.e., imposed by funding agencies or
other outside agencies). Members of our study group expressed concern
that many centers may not have the right orientation from the outset or
may begin to change their orientation over time. It takes careful screening
of persons serving in board, committee, staff, and volunteer roles to
determine if their philosophies and practices are consistent with the center
philosophy and mission.

The Board's Role in Civil Rights

With elected board members, you may have to do a great deal of
educating and reorienting in order to change paternalistic perceptions. It
may be that attitudes are so ingrained that change just does not happen. In
this case, the collective pressure from other members of the board who are
philosophically well-grounded should offset the faulty perspective of one
or two board members, and in time and with luck, these individuals will
realize that they are out of tune with the organization and will leave the

If more than one or two board members have a paternalistic or charitable
orientation, then you as a board member may have to start working with
your center's constituents in the community, including other board
members, to get changes made in board composition. This may be
difficult to do, but it is essential if the center is to avoid falling into the
trap of becoming just another social service agency. As a board member
you have an obligation to talk to the constituency that you serve and to
find out if members of that constituency are happy with the center and its

The people whom we interviewed were adamant in saying that as a board
member of an independent living center, you have an ongoing obligation
to promote change that enhances the likelihood that people with
disabilities will have equal opportunity in their communities and will be
guaranteed their civil rights. If this requires changes in the board of the
center that will strengthen its commitment to civil rights, then you should
be advocating for such changes. All board members should be willing to
"rock the boat" to make things better, whether the boat being rocked is the
local city council, the local transit authority, or the independent living
center board! Be prepared to clean up your own act as well as to take on
other "villains" in your community.

The Staffs Role in Civil Rights

Just as with members of the board, center staff can have an orientation
toward disability issues that is not on target. If your center director and
management staff are well-grounded philosophically, they will use the job
interview or the probationary employment period to weed out people who
have a paternalistic or charitable orientation. Sometimes, though, these
attitudes are not immediately apparent or are suppressed by employees
who may be aware of the philosophical orientation of the center.

As a board member, you should expect management and direct service
staff to report to the board periodically, and you should be willing to put
some hard questions to these staff members about the services that they
provide, the manner in which services are provided, and the ways in which
they find out if the person receiving the service was satisfied. This can be
done through scheduled reports to the board by staff of various center
programs. If you start hearing phrases like, "We found John an attendant,"
or, "We applied for Jane's benefits," rather than "We provided John with
an attendant list and worked with him on how to hire and supervise an
attendant," or, "We went through the benefit application process with Jane
and reviewed her application with her," then you better suggest to the
director that it is time to take a close look at staff performance and
probably do some staff training on independent living philosophy and
consumer empowerment.

In summary, the commitment to the civil rights of persons with disabilities
should be reflected in everything that the center does. You will not know
if the commitment is there if you do not pay close attention and ask hard
questions of other board members and center staff. If you are committed
to Ahelping those less fortunate than yourself,@ then you do not belong on
the board of an independent living center. If, however, you are committed
to Aequal rights for all,@ then you bring the right orientation to the board of
your center.

Cross-disability Orientation of Independent Living Centers
Independent living centers have been almost alone in their commitment to
equal access for persons with any type of disability. Rather than focusing
on a single disability, such as visual, orthopedic, hearing, or cognitive
impairment, the independent living philosophy stresses that removal of
barriers preventing full participation and promotion of equal access in all
areas of life benefits persons with all types of disabilities (National
Council on Disability, 1986, 1988).

Independent living movement leaders have recognized that all people with
disabilities, working together, can be much more effective in addressing
issues of concern--whether those issues affect people with only one type
of disability or people with all types of disabilities.

As Nosek and her colleagues (1982) stated in the ILRU publication on the
philosophical foundation for independent living: 'Thirty-five million
disabled people plus their families, supporters, and service providers form
one of America's largest and potentially most powerful shared interest

The focus of the independent living movement is not on the type of
disability that a person may have, but rather on assuring each person's
rights of access and opportunity to live independently--regardless of type
of disability.

Meeting Cross-Disability Service Needs
Not every independent living center needs to offer a full array of services
to every person, regardless of disability, in order to be consistent with the
cross-disability orientation of the movement. As several of the members
of our study group emphasized, a strength of independent living centers
has been that they are responsive to the needs of their communities, and
that they typically seek to fill gaps not being filled by other groups or
agencies in their communities.

Efforts to be responsive to community needs result in variations in
programs and services from center to center across the country. ln some
centers, substantial services to persons with hearing impairment are being
provided, while in other centers, persons with mental health problems are
receiving comprehensive services. In other communities, centers are
serving persons with other types of disabilities, depending upon identified
needs and service demands of the community.

Responding to Community Needs

Your center should be communicating with persons with disabilities in
your community through neighborhood meetings, through needs surveys,
through discussions with leaders and constituents of other
disability-related groups and service provision agencies, as well as
through periodic review of service requests and accessibility complaints
by consumers. The goal of these communications and reviews should be
identification of the services and community action most needed in your

Ultimately, it will be the board's responsibility to set policy and do annual
and long-range service and community advocacy planning for the center,
but having documentation of needs and preferences expressed by persons
with disabilities in the community certainly puts the board on firm ground
with respect to justifying board decisions regarding service programming
and advocacy plans. Without such documentation, the board is always
going to be vulnerable to accusations that it is unresponsive to community

The issues addressed and services provided by your center should be
appropriate to the needs of your community and should take into account
the expertise of your staff and other resources available in the community
to address problems. No center can be all things to all people. However,
you should be constantly on guard against tendencies to favor one
disability group while excluding others.

In many communities, independent living centers have been accused of
serving only persons with orthopedic impairment. Oftentimes, however,
these centers have been responding to community demands or unmet
needs expressed by a particular group in the community.

Conversely, other disability groups may have expressed satisfaction with
the level of services available from more traditional service providers in
the community and may have been less receptive to or not encouraged the
center to initiate service or advocacy programs targeted to persons with
certain types of disabilities.

Given the small amount of funds typically available to operate centers,
most centers have chosen, appropriately in our opinion and in the opinions
of persons whom we interviewed, to provide services that are not available
elsewhere in the community. The people in our study group expressed
strongly, however, that every center should encourage and foster
involvement of persons with all types of disabilities in center activities.

Getting Community Feedback

As a board member you should be constantly asking the question, "How
will this issue or activity affect persons with other types of disabilities in
the community?"

For example, if you are advocating for wheelchair-accessible buses, you
probably will want to consider contacting representatives of the
community with hearing impairment to determine if there is a TTY/TDD
in the transit authority information office so that persons with hearing
impairment can obtain scheduling information. Or, if you are offering a
class in how to prepare forms for requesting housing assistance, you will
probably want to offer to provide readers for persons with visual
impairments as well as sign language interpreters for persons with hearing
impairments so people with these kinds of disabilities can participate
actively in the class.

Discrimination is discrimination, whether it is practiced by the transit
company that will not let you on the bus, the employer who will not give
you an opportunity to demonstrate that you can do the job, or the
independent living center that neglects to address the problems of a part of
the community that it serves.

The people in our study group and those who have gone through our
training programs clearly recognized the difficulties of trying to be all
things to all people. They also stressed the importance of involving people
with different types of disabilities in the decision-making process and
activities of your center, and of maintaining lines of communication with
other disability groups in your community.

Independent living has become a strong movement in large part because
of the numbers of people who have become involved in it. If it is to grow
stronger at national, state, and local levels, it will need to continue to
demonstrate a broad base of support from persons with all types of

It should be reemphasized here that it is the board's responsibility to make
hard decisions concerning how to commit resources that are invariably far
from adequate to meet the many service needs and to address the many
accessibility problems experienced by people with disabilities in most

However, such decisions must be made and should be made with input
from and consideration given to persons with all types of disabilities
living in the community, not just persons representing one or two special
interest groups.

Perhaps the best way of getting substantive input from persons
representing various disability groups in the community is to encourage
representatives from various groups to serve on the center board and
various board committees.
Summary of Responsibilities in Adhering to the Independent Living

In summarizing this section, the commitment to the independent living
philosophy distinguishes independent living centers from traditional social
service agencies. We have all heard the griping and moaning about
traditional service agency staff who think that they know best what the
person getting services needs and proceed to tell that person what to do
and how to do it. We are also well aware of the loss of dignity that people
experience when required to submit to eligibility tests, diagnoses, and
screenings to determine if they can get basic services and establish support
systems that are necessary to allow them to be contributing members of
the community.

The reasons that negative experiences with social service agencies,
whether public or private, are so common relates to the fact that most of
these agencies were established as "welfare" or "charity" organizations
that tend to view the people they serve as needy and incapable of making
decisions about how to deal with the problems that they face. These
agencies are also typically run by people who do not have disabilities;
people who oftentimes have no sensitivity to the dignity-stripping
experiences of diagnostic procedures and revelatory process of "needs
testing" and meeting eligibility requirements, and who, in many cases, are
more concerned with balancing the agency budget--often accomplished
through denial of services to "ineligible" applicants--rather than through
meeting service needs.

Although independent living centers were created as alternatives to
traditional, paternalistic service delivery agencies, they are not immune to
a tendency to behave like those agencies. In our conversations with center
directors and board presidents, we heard plenty of horror stories about
incidents in which people coming into centers were treated just as they
would be if they went to the local department of human services or social
security office. We know of cases where people have been required by
independent living centers to provide detailed information about their
medical histories, financial conditions, and personal lives before they were
provided services. We have been told by persons involved in ILRU's
management training programs that they know of situations where this
information has, at times, been used by staff in centers to make
determinations about what is independence for consumers and to develop
plans for achieving independence with little or no involvement on the part
of consumers.

This kind of behavior can happen in your center if you, as a responsible
board member, do not make sure that it does not. You need to ask the
question, "Is everything that our center does and lhe manner in which it
does these things, geared toward empowering persons with disabilities and
placing them in control of the decisions that affect their lives?"

You should not expect staff to take responsibility for making sure that the
independent living philosophy is operationalized in the center. Nor should
you think that just because you have written politics and procedures that
are intended to prevent paternalism in your center that it cannot occur.

Members of our study group clearly affirmed that it is the board's
responsibility to keep the center on track philosophically, and you can
only do that if you know what is going on in the center. This requires that
the board has frequent and appropriate contact with the executive director
and key staff, and that people who are getting services from the center
have opportunities-through need surveys, open board meetings, and other
public forums--to provide information that members of the board can use
in making service programming and advocacy plans for the center.

The four characteristics that make centers unique from other community
organizations also provide a basis for monitoring center activities. It is up
to you to be sure that the evaluation systems that you have in place for
your center examine these four areas: consumer control, individual and
systems advocacy, acquisition and protection of civil rights, and
cross-disability orientation. Everything that is done in the center--at all
levels, from board to staff to volunteers, and in all areas, from service
provision to fund raising to advocacy--should be considered with these
four characteristics in mind.


Operational Responsibilities of Board Members

The first question that was asked of executive directors and board
presidents was, "In what areas do you most often perceive that board
members are unclear about their roles and responsibilities?" Virtually all
those interviewed said that many board members were unfamiliar with
fundamental board responsibilities in operating nonprofit organizations
and approaches for meeting those responsibilities.

Based upon their responses, we went back to the management literature
and reviewed board responsibilities for operating nonprofit organizations
so that we could present a basic approach to board roles and
responsibilities that can be used in any center. Some of the literature that
we reviewed is listed in the Suggested Reading section of this publication;
however, in the following section, the approach to fulfilling your board
responsibilities represents our synthesis of different management
techniques presented in the management literature which can be used to
address issues identified by board presidents and center managers with
whom we spoke.

Responsibilities as a Trustee of Public Interest

In order for board members to understand fully your role as a board
member, it is necessary to start with a look at the nature of corporations,
especially corporations that are granted tax exempt (i.e., nonprofit) status.
Independent living centers are nonprofit corporations. All nonprofit
corporations are created to carry on a wide range of activities. They are
granted tax exempt status because they serve and benefit the public. In
effect, all nonprofit corporations are owned by the public.

Nonprofit corporations are governed by boards of directors. These exist to
look after the interests of the owners of the corporations by overseeing
corporation activities (Duca, 1986; Batavia, 1989). Since the owners are
the public, the boards of directors of these organizations are trustees of the
public interest.

In the case of independent living centers, the public interest with which
board members are entrusted is defined and specified in each center's
mission statement or statement of purpose. This clearly states the benefit
to the community for which the center, as a nonprofit corporation, was
created. The mission or purpose statement gives reasons for the center's
existence. A board member's fundamental responsibility, therefore, is to
make sure that the mission of the center is fulfilled.

It is extremely important to be clear on this point. Your responsibilities as
a board member are ultimately based not on your obligation to your
center, but on your obligation to the community which your center serves
(Batavia 1989). You must act at all times in a manner that u ill maintain
and improve your center's ability to carry out its mission in the
community. In other words, you must act in the organization's best
interest--which is to serve the community. This is no vague or
insignificant responsibility. As a board member, you can be held legally
accountable based on these principles.

Legal Responsibilities: Criminal and Civil Accountability of Boards

Board members of independent living centers can be held accountable
under two areas of the law--criminal and civil. (For a detailed discussion
of your responsibilities in this area, see the ILRU publication, The Legal
Liability of Independent Living Centers written by Drew Batavia For
information on insuring against liability risks, see the ILRU publication,
Liability Insurance

Coverage for Independent Living Centers written by Quentin Smith.)

Your accountability under criminal law arises from actions that are in
violation of laws or statutes. Examples of these types of actions range
from blatantly criminal acts, such as embezzlement and assault, to less
obvious but equally criminal acts, such as discrimination in personnel
practices or failure to file appropriate tax documents. Violations of
criminal law are punishable by fines and imprisonment.

Accountability Under Civil Law

Your accountability under civil law arises from actions that result in
damage to persons or property. Examples of these types of actions range
from failure to clean up a spill that results in a fall by a person visiting
your center to bad advice from a counselor to a consumer that results in a
malpractice suit. If your center is found under civil law to be responsible
for damages to a person or property, the penalty is payment of money to
the person who has suffered injury, damage, or loss.

Your responsibility as a board member is to protect to the best of your
abilities the center from liability under either criminal or civil law. In the
case of criminal law, it can be simply stated that you must know pertinent
laws and abide by them. In the case of civil law, the ways in which you
protect the center are not so straightforward as with criminal law. It is not
as simple as just refraining from breaking the law.

People can file a civil lawsuit against your center for almost any reason.
Someone may claim that the center's peer counselor gave financial advice
that resulted in the loss of thousands of dollars, or a visitor to the center
may claim that he fell because the center had a ramp that was not well
lighted. You should be aware, also, that civil lawsuits can be brought
against the center as a corporation and against individuals who serve as
center staff and board members.

In some states, laws have been passed to protect individuals serving on
nonprofit boards by limiting payments to persons who win civil suits to
the total assets of the corporation. In other words, members of the board
cannot be forced to pay damages from their personal resources. It should
be emphasized, however, that, even in states where such protective
legislation has been passed, it does not protect board

members from acts that they commit as individuals, but it protects them
only in their roles as board members (Batavia, 1989). This means that if
you, as a board member, slander someone in a public meeting, you can
still be sued as an individual for committing a slanderous act that resulted
in damage to someone. You will not be protected from liability simply
because you are serving on the board of a nonprofit corporation.

As we stated previously, almost anyone can be sued for almost anything.
You may then ask the question, "How do we protect our center and
ourselves from civil liability?" The answer lies in understanding how a
determination of liability is made. When a judge or jury hears a case
involving civil liability, it is the responsibility of the person bringing the
suit to demonstrate that the center or its agents (i.e., board members, staff,
volunteers, contractors) acted unreasonably or carelessly in some manner
that resulted in injury. (Injury may be physical injury, injury to one's
standing or reputation, or injury to one's property.) It is the responsibility
of the center to demonstrate that it acted in a reasonable manner and
exercised care in its operations. It is the side (i.e., plaintiff or defendant)
which is most effective in demonstrating its case which will ultimately
win the suit.

Protecting Against Civil Suits

The best protection against the risk of civil suits being filed against the
center is simply to be an informed and diligent board member. What does
this mean? It means that board members take an active role in insuring
that written policies and procedures are in place to cover the full range of
center activities, including board activities, staff activities, and volunteer
activities. It means, further, that you periodically check to see that policies
and procedures are being followed and that there is adequate
documentation to show that policies and procedures have been followed

The case for maintaining adequate documentation cannot be overstated. In
a court of law, facts are sought. Facts are much more easily established
through written official records than by hazy recollections. In fact, the
absence of proper records indicates poor management and will weaken
your defense in a lawsuit.

For a more complete discussion of legal liability associated with operating
centers and insurance available to protect from liability losses, see two
publications in ILRU's STAYING ON TRACK series--The Legal Liability
of Independent Living Centers by Drew Batavia and Liability Insurance
Coverage for Independent Living Centers by Quentin Smith.

In summary, your basic role as a board member of a center is to see that
the center fulfills its mission to the community. In doing so, you must
insure that all aspects of the center's operations are consistently carried out
in accordance with written, well-established policies and procedures that
safeguard and improve the well being of those served. In this regard, it is
important to make sure that (1) the center is clearly telling the people it
serves what they can and cannot expect and (2) the center is delivering on
promises that it makes. This is not a passive responsibility. It requires
your active involvement in policy development and oversight activities. If
you are unable or unwilling to commit to this level of involvement, then
you may want to reconsider whether you should be serving on the center

Responsibilities for Oversight of Center Operations

Now that you are aware of your responsibilities as a trustee of the public
interest and know that you must exercise due care and diligence in
overseeing the operations of the center, you may ask, "But what do I
actually have to do?"

Simply stated, there are two main areas that you must oversee--operations
and finance. Not overseeing operations may result in a poor program that
eventually finds itself in trouble. Not overseeing finance can, in a short
span of time, destroy the center. These are not exaggerations meant for
effect; they are facts.

Many persons who serve on boards of organizations that receive funding
from other agencies and foundations may mistakenly assume that these
funding sources will evaluate program quality. Although this may be true
in some cases, it happens all too ofLen that funding sources pay little
attention to quality assessment and are much more concerned with
monitoring how funds are spent.

It is the board's responsibility to assure that the center develops as a truly
effective, efficient organization that is meeting community needs. The
board cannot delegate this responsibility to anyone else, be it funding
agencies or the executive director and staff of the center (Duca, 1986).

In order for the board to oversee operations adequately, it must see that the
mission of the center is translated into concrete goals that are relevant,
achievable, and measurable. What is implicit in this statement is that
center operations should not be determined as a reaction to demands
generated by external agencies, such as public granting agencies, private
foundations, or corporate sponsors. Center operations should, instead, be
guided by a carefully developed plan that proactively considers
community needs, other available resources, and center capabilities to
deliver effective services.

A Three-Part Management Strategy

An operational plan is the first component of a three-part management
strategy that includes implementation and evaluation as the second and
third parts. Each component of this strategy--planning, implementation,
and evaluation--relies on information generated through the other two for
it to be effective. There is no point in planning if you cannot implement.
There is no point in implementing if you do not have an evaluation
strategy to determine if you were successful. And, there is no point in
evaluating if the information that you obtain does not help you to refine or
to rethink your plan and the ways in which you implement your plan.
This three-part approach can be applied at many levels in the organization.
It can be used with long-range strategic activities; annual operational
activities; project and committee activities; and individual board, staff,
and volunteer work activities. While board members may not be heavily
involved at all of these levels, they can insure that this strategy is used at
every operational level in the center.

To persons who are not experienced in program planning and operations,
this three-part approach may seem intimidating, but it is, in fact, quite
logical. The planning phase corresponds to the essential act of deciding
what you want to do, why you want to do it, and how you will do it. The
implementation phase is the actual doing of what you have planned. The
evaluation phase is simply looking back at what you have done and
determining if you accomplished what you set
out to do. Viewed in this way, it is a commonsense approach to guiding
center activities.

Using this approach will increase the likelihood that you will achieve
center goals, and that activities of the center are consistent with its stated
mission. It also promotes use of limited resources in an efficient manner
and demonstrates to the community that your center is managed
professionally and effectively.

Planning's Multiple Purposes

Planning is a word that often either intimidates or fails to impress board
members. Some of the reasons for this are that:

--it is seen as something highly complicated and time consuming;

--many community needs and their solutions may appear to be obvious
and, therefore, do not require planning; and

--history has shown that many centers have managed to get by with little
or no planning.

Each of the above points has some validity. However, planning need not
be an overly complicated process. In fact, Steiner (1979) says that one of
the characteristics of good planning is simplicity. However, planning
should go well beyond simple identification of community needs; it
should include formulation of strategies for meeting those needs. Many
organizations will continue to "get by" without planning, but they will
only Aget by" and nothing more.

Good planning is at the heart of   successful operations. It is the process of
setting goals and objectives and   developing strategies for achieving them.
Your planning process allows you   to assess community needs, to assign
work responsibilities to address   those needs, and to set timetables for
completing work assignments.

Planning answers five basic questions:

What are we going to do?
Why are we going to do it?
How are we going to do it?
Who is going to do it?
When are we going to do it?
The time and effort that is put into planning will vary considerably from
center to center depending on: size of the community in which your center
operates, size of your center, amount of funding that you have, range of
services that you are offering, length of time that your center has been
established, and the amount of planning that you have done previously.

In general, it can be stated that larger centers that have been around for
some time will most likely have more elaborate plans than smaller and
newer centers; however, centers that have not previously put any effort
into planning may need to spend more time in the initial planning process
than do centers that have been at it for some time. Once you become
familiar with the planning process and get comfortable with going through
the steps, it is not that difficult to review and to update plans on a regular

There is literature available to guide persons through the planning process,
and it is not our intent to provide detailed planning guidelines in this
publication (see the Suggested Readings section for information of this

We do, however, urge you to think about the five questions posed earlier
and to consider whether you can answer them for your center. If you
cannot, you are probably doing an inadequate job of planning.

Benefits of Planning

A nice summary of the benefits of planning has been developed by Duca
(1986). According to her, the benefits of planning are that it:

--not only provides direction, but also keeps everyone going on the same

-gives a framework for decision making and limits randomly made

--clarifies the organization's mission, goals and objectives, programs and

--forces communication;

--enhances the consistency of present strategies and decisions with the
changing (future) environment:

--offers a more coordinated effort:

-helps an organization become "proactive" rather than reactive;

--maximizes the cost-effective allocation of limited resources;

--emphasizes alternatives and tradeoffs;

--is results oriented;

--provides for evaluation measures through action-stated objectives;
--is useful in fund raising because its various components can be included
in proposals; and
--helps attract community support--people respect an organization with a

We feel that the most important benefits of planning are:

(1) persons who are involved in the process develop a sense of ownership
for the plan and are much more likely to be enthusiastic about carrying out
their parts of the work plan;

(2) the plan provides you with a "yardstick" against which to measure
center achievements; and

(3) it is a powerful tool for obtaining the funds necessary to carry out work
outlined in the plan. It shows potential funding sources how their money
will be used and helps to assure them that the money spent will result in
concrete benefits to the people and community that your center serves.

Implementing Your Plan

The major advantage of completing a plan is that it provides you with a
guide to what you will be doing over a specified period of time. The role
to be assumed by board members in this implementation phase will be
specified in the plan. For some aspects of the plan, such as fundraising
activities and advocacy activities, the board's role in implementation may
be substantial, with specific tasks assigned to various board members or
committees. For other parts of the plan, such as delivering peer counseling
services or teaching independent living skills, the board's role in
implementation will be largely one of oversight.

One thing to remember with respect to implementation is that the work of
the board should be evaluated as rigorously as the work of the staff (Duca,
1986). The implications of this are that the work carried out by both board
and staff will be periodically reviewed and that persons will be held
accountable for activities assigned to them.

The key to implementation is to assign tasks to people who have the skills,
resources, and time to get them done. If the board assigns fundraising
tasks to a board member who has no experience in doing it, is provided no
help from other board members or staff to get it done, and can only devote
one or two days per month to it, you can pretty well expect failure.

Be realistic in assigning tasks and make sure that support is available to
get the job done. Do not set yourself or others up for failure, but also do
not be afraid to take on tasks or assign tasks that may not have been
attempted previously. As you gain board experience, you will be better
able to gauge those tasks which board members are best equipped to
handle, and task assignments will become easier.

Documenting Activities

A key aspect of implementation is documentation of activities and
outcomes realized during this phase. Documentation must be an integral
and ongoing part of your implementation strategy. Without
documentation, you will be unable to evaluate what you have
accomplished. Do not rely on recall or vague anecdotal information from
board and staff on work done. Make sure that numbers and facts about
activities carried out--whether relating to consumers served, advocacy
activities conducted, funds raised, or whatever--are recorded and are
available for use in evaluation.

Also, wherever possible, make sure that data on quality is collected.
Providing 100 units of service that did not satisfy the people served is not
something to state with pride. If you are not asking the people you serve
whether or not the service is valuable to them, then you are not doing your
job. This kind of evaluative process must be built into the implementation
phase, and you, as a board member, should ask to see the results of
evaluations of work carried out by board members and by staff.

One final word with respect to implementation: training. One benefit of
serving on the board of a center should be the acquisition of new skills.
All too often, centers only consider the training needs of staff and assume
that board members are fully prepared to carry out their tasks. Persons
serving on boards very often require some additional training in task areas

As mentioned previously, it is important in making task assignments to
match persons' areas of interest with tasks assigned and to be sure that all
areas that need to be covered (e.g., fundraising, advocacy, public
relations) are assigned to persons who are interested, willing, and either
have or can acquire the skills to get the job done.

Evaluating Progress

The importance of evaluation has been alluded to in both of the previous
sections; however, it is worth reemphasizing that evaluation is critical to
the whole process of running a center. This is because without evaluation,
there is no point in doing planning, and implementation becomes a series
of random reactions to whatever is happening in the community from day
to day. It is unlikely, in this situation, that your center will ever have a
significant and enduring impact on the lives of people with disabilities in
your community.

If you have done a good job of planning and have clearly identified your
goals and objectives outlined your strategies for achieving them, assigned
responsibilities, and set timelines, it is fairly easy to go back and assess
what you have accomplished.

Evaluation activities must occur on a regular and frequent basis and
cannot be left until the end of the year. If you do not evaluate progress
regularly, it is possible that you will find yourself at the end of the year
with tasks not nearly completed and no time to remedy the situation. You
may actually find yourself in the very unpleasant position of having to
return money to funding agencies because work that was supposed to be
completed is unfinished.

Through regular evaluations, you can determine if your plans continue to
be relevant and on target. Plans, like most everything else, often require
adjustments, but you will not know this if you are not evaluating progress
continually. Do not hesitate to go back and refine your plan if your
evaluation indicates that the original plan was not quite on target.

Connecting the Three Parts
After reading the previous paragraph, you are probably convinced that you
are going to be spending most of your time evaluating what you have
done. As we mentioned earlier, if you have done a good job in the
planning phase and have been documenting what you are doing in the
implementation phase, evaluation is very easily accomplished.
Throughout the implementation phase, each person with assigned tasks
should have been documenting activities as they are done, results realized
from those activities, and problems that may have occurred.

Evaluation is the compilation of information collected during the
implementation phase, comparison of this information with goals and
objectives contained in the plan, and development of recommendations for
adjustments in the plan or in implementation that will yield better results.

We have, by design, avoided making specific recommendations on how to
evaluate your program. The reason for this is that your evaluation methods
will be dictated by your plan. In this regard, your plan must contain
measurable objectives. For example, if one objective is to implement a
new program to provide peer counseling services to persons with hearing
impairments, you can evaluate success in this area by determining if the
program has been set up and is operating, documenting the numbers of
persons who have obtained these services, and documenting consumer
satisfaction with the services received. It is unlikely, however, that data in
these areas will be collected if you have not indicated in your plan a date
for starting the service, targeted specific numbers of people to be served,
and specified that consumer satisfaction will be measured through some
structured process.

A final point must be made--evaluation is the key part of the process that
ensures that your plan is actually used in the operations of the center. We
have often talked with executive directors who say that their centers
engage in planning and that they have completed plans in place, only to
acknowledge that the plans are not actually used. Evaluation ensures that
your plans will be more than just conversation pieces to pull out when a
program auditor or funding agency representative comes to the center.

In wrapping up this section on planning, implementing, and evaluating,
we wish to reemphasize that the three activities arc interrelated--you need
to do all three diligently in order for the process to work. Lcst you should
think that we are just creating "busywork" for board members, however,
we wish to point out that using this three-phase approach offers you, the
board member, opportunity to demonstrate to yourself, to those whom the
center serves, and to the larger community that what the center does is
yielding real and positive results.

Responsibilities for Oversight of Center Finances

Improper or inattentive management of finances is devastating to a center.
While improper management of operations can result in eventual disaster
for your center, improper management of finances can be disastrous in a
very short period of time. You, as a board member, cannot ignore or
delegate responsibility for financial oversight.

Financial oversight fulfills two functions. First, it is an internal
management function. Second, it is an external compliance function. The
function of internal management is simply determining how you will
spend your money to achieve your goals, monitoring how that money is
actually spent, and assessing the effectiveness of expenditures in
achieving your goals. The function of external compliance refers to
fulfilling requirements that are placed on the center by external funding
sources as part of the conditions of grants, contracts, or other funding

Compliance with Internal Financial Requirements

Financial management and oversight can be divided into three phases that
correspond to the three phases involved in overseeing center
operations--planning, implementing, and evaluating. These three phases
are budgeting, accounting, and analyzing. Both parts of your management
and oversight responsibilities--operational and financial--must be
considered together. You cannot adequately address one side of this
process without taking into account the other side. Operations require
funding, and funding must be developed around a specific set of

1. Preparing Budgets

Budgeting corresponds to the planning phase in that it is the aspect of
financial management in which you plan what to do with your money. A
budget is simply a plan for receiving and spending money. It must relate
directly to your operational plan. You cannot plan properly without
knowing where the funds to cover costs of operations are coming from
and without knowing how they will be spent over the course of the budget

Not all members of the board will be equally involved in the budgeting
process. Typically, budgeting is handled by the executive director working
with the finance committee of the board. The composition of the finance
committee varies from center to center, but it usually includes the board
treasurer, board president, and perhaps one or two other board members
who have expertise in financial management. The accountant/bookkeeper
for the center may also provide staff support to the finance committee. If
you are not a member of the finance committee, you probably will not
have direct involvement in budget development, but you will be required
to review and approve budgets for all aspects of center operations.

Once budgets have been approved by the board, the board assumes
responsibility for proper management of them. This is no small
responsibility. As a board member with responsibility for reviewing
budgets, there are at least three questions that you should be asking of the
finance committee and executive director of the center. These are:

--Does the budget for the center correspond to the operational plan for the

--Are the figures projected in the budget for income and expenses
reasonable and realistic?

--How were projections for income and expenses determined?
Depending upon the type of budget that is presented (i.e., is it the total
center budget or is it the budget for some project?) you may also want to
ask a fourth question:

--How will this budget affect other budgets that are in place for the center?
This last question is one that board members often forget to ask. You
should be aware that many times when new budgets are developed,
staffing changes may occur, supply demands may change, and other
aspects of center operations may be altered. These changes may require
that you modify existing budgets. Do not be afraid to ask how new project
budgets will influence existing budgets of the center. It is important that
these questions be asked each time a budget comes before the board for
review. Remember that the board has legal responsibility for financial
management activities of the center and that you cannot make informed
decisions without adequate information.

2. Accounting for Funds

Accounting is simply the process of recording the flow of money into and
out of the center as budgets are implemented. Unfortunately, the recording
process is anything but simple. The recording process is the responsibility
of a staff accountant/bookkeeper or outside accounting firm that handles
your books. However, it is your responsibility as a board member to be
sure that the information recorded is meaningful and accurate. One thing
to remember is that the saying used in the computer world applies to the
accounting process as well: "garbage in--garbage out!"

If the information put into your accounting system is inaccurate--or worse,
fraudulent--the information that you receive (i.e., financial statements)
will look fine but will not reflect where money was actually received or
spent. The problems resulting from this should be obvious. The board will
be forced to make budget decisions without having accurate information.
In order to be sure that accurate, complete, and meaningful information is
being supplied, you must use the expertise of a qualified accountant-there
is no substitute

For centers that do not have adequate funds to pay for a staff accountant or
to secure the services of an outside accountant on a regular basis, there are
some other options. We strongly suggest that you recruit someone with an
accounting background to serve on the board as treasurer or as a member
of the finance committee. If you do not have a qualified accountant
serving on the board, other options for obtaining accountant services at
little or no cost include the local United Way, a local support center, or
retired senior volunteer program. Be creative in thinking about community
resources that are available to help you obtain these kinds of services.

It is in the best interests of your center to have a treasurer and/or finance
committee with the in-depth technical expertise to work with individuals
within the center who are responsible for receiving, spending, and
accounting for funds. These board members with financial management
experience must also work with outside experts who are paid to verify the
accuracy and adequacy of records and financial statements.

This does not, however, let you off the hook. You, as a board member, are
still responsible for the handling of funds received by your organization. lf
legal action is taken against the center because funds were mishandled,
pleading ignorance will not be an adequate defense.

3. Analyzing Financial Information

The process of analysis can be divided into: three parts--financial analysis,
budget analysis, and cost analysis.

Financial analysis. This refers to the basic responsibility of being able to
read the financial statements of your center. These statements are designed
to provide you with a clear and accurate picture of the financial status of
your center at a given time. Financial statements usually consist of two
parts, balance sheets and income-and expense statements.

The balance sheet provides information about the basic financial stability
of your organization. lt does this by showing your assets (the center's cash,
money owed the center, and property) and by showing your liabilities
(debts). By comparing assets to liabilities, you can tell if the center is
solvent (that is, it has more assets than liabilities), and you can determine
whether or not some type of corrective action should be taken.

The other part of the financial statement, the income-and-expense
statement, tells you how much money has been received and from what
sources; it also tells you how much money has been spent and how it was

This is a simplified explanation of these two parts of the financial
statement. If at this time you do not understand what these documents are
and how the information in them should be used, it is absolutely
imperative that you find out. Demand that training be provided in this
area. It is your responsibility to monitor finances of the center, and you
cannot do so if you do not have an adequate understanding of information
that is provided to you. Training on reading and understanding financial
statements can usually be obtained through your local United Way or
another similar service agency. There are no acceptable excuses for not
being informed in this area.

Budget Analysis. Once you are able to read financial statements, budget
analysis is actually not all that difficult. It is the process of comparing
actual income and expenses to the figures that were projected in the
budget prepared for the center or project. It is important to do this analysis
for these reasons.

First, it tells you whether or not you are on track with respect to income
and expenses. Is the money that you thought you would be generating
coming in? Are you incurring the costs that you thought you would have
when planning the program? With this information you will be able to
determine if your budget needs to be adjusted.

Second, budget analysis will alert you to potential problem areas before
they become crisis situations that are threatening to the center. As an
example, if you have a budget of $20,000 to do a one-year project, and
you find that you are spending money on the project at the rate of $4,000
per month, then you know that you will not have enough funds to carry
the project through the year. If you determine this during the first or
second month of the project, you may be able to adjust your expenditures
so that money will be available for the remainder of the project year. If
you do not find out about this until month six or seven, however, you may
find that you have used up all of the project funds, and may, in fact, have
overspent. This can produce major problems--particularly if you have staff
who are being paid out of these funds.

It is important that you realize that budget analysis is as important to
financial management and oversight as evaluation is to operational
management and oversight. Both tell you how actual performance
compares to what you thought your performance would be.

Cost Analysis. The third analysis that you should know of is cost analysis.
After funds are spent, it is important to take a look at what you got for
your money. The only reason money is spent is to get things done. You
need to know how much got done for the money you spent. If you have an
attendant placement program, and you find that each placement is costing
$2,500, then you might ask your executive director to see if there are any
problems with this program or if it should be changed to be more efficient.

Remember, as a public trustee, you must see that the funds of the center
are used efficiently and are not wasted. Cost analysis can be a complex
process or as simple as taking the amount of money you spent on a
program in a year and dividing it by the number of people who were
served in that year to find out what it costs to serve each person in that
program. This kind of information can be extremely powerful in justifying
and seeking funds for services. It can also point out areas that need
improvement or modification.

As with budget development, most of the work should be done by those
with expertise; but you, as a board member, should make sure that it is
being done, and you should take time to review and to understand the

Compliance with External Financial Requirements

As stated earlier, external compliance refers to making sure that you
follow and fulfill requirements placed on your center by agencies and
other organizations as part of the conditions of receiving money from
them. These requirements can vary dramatically from one source of funds
to another. Therefore, you must make sure that your center staff and
appropriate board members know and fulfill these requirements.

Funding sources will usually specify how you document and report the
receiving and spending of the money. They will also specify any
restrictions or limitations on how the money is spent. Mishandling of
funds, whether through inadequate documentation and reporting or
through violation of restrictions and limitations, can cause serious

Keeping adequate records and preparing financial reports seem, at first
glance, to be relatively uncomplicated tasks; unfortunately, this is not so
in reality. It seems that sometimes adequate or accurate records are not
kept that will satisfy funding sources, or records are not kept in a form that
allows you to give a funding source the information that it requires. Both
of these are very important, and, as we stressed earlier, someone with
appropriate technical expertise must be in charge of the accounting phase
and must make sure that your financial records are satisfactory and
useable not only to the board but to your funding sources.

You need to be able to document clearly that personnel were paid and
fringe benefits provided, that supplies were purchased and that other
expenses such as telephone costs, postage, and office rent were incurred.
You must also be able to report this information to your funding sources
in a form that is acceptable to them.
Binding Budgets

The second area in which funding sources may impose restrictions
pertains to what are called binding budgets. A budget is binding when
your center has agreed to spend the funds provided by a funding source
strictly according to an agreed-upon budget. Chances are very good that
your center operates under more than one budget. Some of these budgets
may be binding while others are not. It is very important to know which
are binding and which are not

If a budget is binding, it sets not only the total limit of money that can be
spent, but also the limit of money that can be spent in each budget
category. This means that you must watch how much is being spent in
each category of the budget (i.e., salaries, fringe benefits, travel, supplies,
equipment, interpreters). For example, suppose that your center is awarded
a grant of $200,000 to conduct a project in which $90,000 is budgeted for
salaries, and you spend $100,000 for salaries. The funding source may ask
for $10,000 back, even though the money is already spent, was spent on
the project, and the $200,000 project budget was not exceeded. The key to
avoiding such problems is to be sure that the funding source is contacted
to ask that the budget be changed before you exceed any binding budget

Disallowed Spending

A second aspect of binding budgets is that they usually prohibit certain
kinds of expenditures commonly called "disallowed spending." This
means that your funding source will not allow its funds to be spent on
certain things even if those things seem to be part of a budget category.

One common example of disallowed spending is the purchase of food and
drink using funds from a federal grant or contract. In this example, you
may have a federal grant of $50,000 to do outreach into the community,
and $25,000 is budgeted for the cost of outreach activities (the remainder
budgeted for personnel salaries and fringe benefits). Your center decides
that parties are the most effective way to attract people, so you spend the
budgeted $25,000 on "social gatherings." Of the $25,000 spent, $15,000 is
spent on food and drink for the social gatherings--which, by the way, are a
huge success. When the grant is audited, the funding source will quite
likely want the $15,000 that was spent on food and drink back, even
though the budget category and total was not exceeded, because food and
drink spending is disallowed.

The problems that arise from binding budgets are usually quite
troublesome. For instance, your customary annual audit will not uncover
problems in this area, nor will the monitoring activities of the funding
agency during the period of the grant. Problems in overspending
categories and disallowed spending will usually surface months or years
after they happen, when an audit is conducted by the funding agency. By
then, the money is long spent, and funds that must be paid back must
come from, unrestricted funds or reserve funds, both of which are usually
meager, if available at all.

Another problem is that there are no simple rules governing overspending
categories and disallowed spending. The guidelines can be quite
complicated and are often buried in numerous publications. They can also
change dramatically from one funding source to another. The guidelines
used by a city can be totally different than those used by federal or state

Board Responsibilities in Budget Oversight

We can hear you saying right about now, AIf this is so, then how the
#*!!*# am I supposed to know these rules?" Well, it is not necessary that
you know all the rules, but you better make sure that someone with the
center does! Too often, not even the treasurer knows how many binding
budgets there are for different center programs and projects. It is assumed
that the executive director or staff accountant/bookkeeper knows these
rules. Hopefully they do, but have you ever asked?

The total budget of your center will almost certainly be made up of both
binding and nonbinding budgets, so taking a look at how you are doing
throughout the year by comparing total income and expenses to the total
budget is not really going to alert you to problems within specific program
br project budgets. It is, therefore, essential that the center has a treasurer
or finance committee who understands all the budgets and can watch them
carefully. You, as a board member, should be aware of these budgets, and
review periodic reports on their status.

As a final note on the topic of financial management, we would like to
offer one observation by O'Connell (1985): "Deficits are hell!"

Summary of Operational Responsibilities

In summarizing this section, the following points should be made: As a
board member of your center, you are a trustee of the public interest on
behalf of the community, which is the ultimate owner of public (nonprofit)
corporations operating within the community. As a public trustee, you
must see that the center fulfills its mission to the community--which is its
reason for existing. By becoming a board member you have agreed to be
legally and morally accountable for what the center does.

In order to insure that the center fulfills its obligation to the community,
you must oversee center activities. This means that you must exercise due
care and diligence in your oversight. Oversight responsibilities are in two
areas: operations arid finance. Both are overseen using the planning,
implementation, and evaluation cycle; however, for finance, the cycle is
called budgeting, accounting, and analysis. These two cycles must happen
If the board and executive director do their jobs well, everyone knows
what is going to get done, who will do it, and when it will be
accomplished. Everyone will also know that adequate funds will be
available to carry out plans and that the center will be able to continue its
good work.


In the two sections of this monograph--the board member's role in
operationalizing the independent living philosophy and the board
member's role in center management--we have identified an intimidating
amount of work for board members. Although we do not want to
downplay the amount of work involved in being a good board member, it
is a job that can be done and can bring a lot of rewards.

One critical aspect of keeping the work of being a board member
manageable involves keeping board roles and responsibilities separate
from staff roles and responsibilities. We have heard from our study group,
as well as from directors and program managers who participated in our
management training program, that one of the single greatest sources of
problems in centers is confusion about the responsibilities of the board
versus the responsibilities of the staff and subsequent inappropriate
board/staff actions and interactions.

Although we have indicated that your principal responsibility as a board
member is one of oversight, there are many areas in which you as a board
member will have specific tasks to accomplish, such as in the areas of
fund raising, advocacy, and community relations. Oftentimes, you may
find yourself working closely with staff of the center. These close working
relationships open the door for problems to occur if roles and
responsibilities have not been clearly defined and lines of communication
are not well understood and maintained.

These kinds of problems occur when, for example, a board member and
staff member serve on the same committee. During the course of their
meetings, the conversation may turn to discussions of how well the
executive director handles personnel problems. If the board member does
not nip this in the bud, this kind of inappropriate interaction can cause
major problems. As a board member, you need to be ready to say, "This is
not the time and place to discuss that matter.@

The best way to avoid blurring of roles and inappropriate communication
between board and staff is to have clear policies and procedures that
indicate who is responsible for what, to adhere to those policies and
procedures. and to examine on a regular basis what you are doing and how
it relates to your annual and long-range plans and, most importantly, to the
overall mission of your center. If this looks familiar, it should--we are
back to planning, implementing, and evaluating again.

We feel very strongly that the concepts and approaches outlined in this
monograph will give you a sound foundation on which to build your
individual skills and fulfill your board responsibilities in a manner that
results in a center that is truly responsive to individual and community
needs. By no means should your orientation and training as a board
member end with the information in this monograph. There is a great deal
to learn about running effective meetings, being a productive committee
member, understanding financial management, and evaluating programs
that is not covered in this monograph.

We have found that people who become effective board members
approach developing these skills in the same ways that you would
approach your operational responsibilities as a board member--they set
goals for skills they want to acquire, they plan how they will acquire them,
they follow through with their plans, and they look back at what they did
to see if they accomplished their goals. There are some excellent resources
available that will help you to develop skills in these areas. Some of these
resources are identified in the appendix to this monograph.

We have talked a great deal about all of the work that you will have to do
and have only briely mentioned the rewards that you will receive for your
work as a board member. For people who make the effort, there are
numerous rewards associated with being a center board member. These
include acquiring or improving skills in areas such as planning,
communication, finance, and problem solving; making contacts with
people in the business community, in government, and in other fields;
establishing or expanding your network of friends and acquaintances who
share your commitment and interests; gaining recognition for your work
with the center; and, most importantly, seeing your efforts result in actual
improvements in your community that make it a better place to live for

The information presented in this monograph represents the thoughts and
observations of many people in the field of independent living who have
to deal with these issues on a day-today basis. Much of what is presented,
particularly in the section on operationalizing the independent living
philosophy, is not based upon statistical data or scientific study, but is
based upon adherence and commitment to the philosophy of independent

We want to restate that this monograph is intended to be but one step in a
process that will result in your being a more motivated and effective board
member. The independent living movement needs people who are both
committed to the philosophy and have the knowledge and skills to guide
centers and to carry the movement forward.

Although this is a national movement, what happens in your community is
as important in advancing the rights and opportunities of people with
disabilities as what happens in Washington, D.C. You have an opportunity
to make a difference in the quality of people's lives. To borrow a phrase
from Nike--Just do it!


Batavia, Andrew. The Legal Liability of Independent Living Centers. In
Richards, Laurel and Smith, Quentin (Eds.), Staying on Track: ILRU
Management Support Series. Houston: ILRU, 1989.

Bowe, Frank and Williarns, John. Planning Effective Advocacy Programs.
Washington, D.C.: The American Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities,
Inc., 1979.

Cole, Jean A. What's New About Independent Living? Archives of
Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 60(10), 1979.

Corthell, David W. and Van Boskirk, Charles. Client Involvement:
Partnerships in the Vocational Rehabilitation Process. Tampa: Fifteenth
Institute on Rehabilitation Issues. 1988

Curtis, Bruce. How to Set Up an Independent Living Program:
Twenty-seven Questions and Answers. Houston: ILRU, 1980.

Dart, Justin. Address at the National Conference on Independent Living
Washington, D.C, 1987.
DeJong, Gerben. Environmental Accessibility and Independent Living
Outcomes: Directions for Disability Policy and Research. East Lansing,
Mich.: University Center for International Rehabilitation, Michigan State
University, 1981.

Duca, Diane J. Nonprofit Boards: A Practical Guide to Roles
Responsibilities and Performance. Phoenix: Oryx Press, 1986.

Frieden, Lex. Keynote presentation at the 40th Annual Meeting of the
President's Committee on Employment of the Handicapped. Denver. April
15, 1987.

Gliedman, John and Roth, William. The Unexpected Minority:
Handicapped Children In America New York: Harcourt Brace
Jovanovich, 1980.

Hooper, Ed. A Bed Society Has Made for Us AL. Disability Rag.
July/August 1987.

Kailes, June Isaacson. Putting Advocacy Rhetoric into Practice: The Role
of the Independent Living Center. Houston: ILRU, 1988.

McConnel, L. Robert. Excerpts of reviews and comments on Berkowitz,
Edward D., Social Influences on Rehabilitation Planning. In Perlman,
Leonard G. and Austin, Gary F. (Eds.), Social Influences in Rehabilitation
Planning Blueprint for the 21st Century. Alexandria, Va.: National
Rehabilitation Association, 1985.

National Council on the Handicapped (now National Council on
Disability). On the Threshold of Independence: A Report to the President
and to the Congress of the United States. Washington, D.C.: National
Council on the Handicapped, 1988.

National Council on the Handicapped (now National Council on
Disability). Toward Independence: An Assessment of Federal Laws and
Programs Affecting Persons with Disabilities-With Legislative
Recommendations. Washington, D.C: National Council on the
Handicapped, 1986.

Nosek, Margaret A. and Richards, Laurel. Independent Living Networks:
Development of a New Dimension in Advocacy, Occasional Paper No.3.
Houston: ILRU, 1987.

Nosek, Peg and Smith, Quentin. On the Right Track. Foundations for
Operating an Independent Living Program. Richards, Laurel (Ed.).
Houston: ILRU. 1982

O'Connell, Brian. The Board Member's Book: Making a Difference in
Voluntary Organizations. New York: The Foundation Center, 1985.

Roberts, Edward V. Foreword to Pflueger, Susan. Independent Living
Emerging Issues in Rehabilitation. Washington, D.C.: Institute for
Research Utilization, 1977.

Roth, William. The Politics of Disability Future Trends as Shaped by
Current Realities. In Perlrnan, Leonard G. and Austin, Gary F. (Eds.).
Social Influences in Rehabilitation Planning Blueprint for the 21st
Century. Alexandria, Va.: National Rehabilitation Association, 1985.

Smith, Quentin. Legal Liability Coverage for Independent Living Centers.
In Richards, Laurel and Smith, Quentin (Eds.), Staying on Track: ILRU
Management Support Series. Houston: ILRU, 1989.

Steiner, George. Strategic Planning. New York: Free Press, 1979.

ten Broek, Jacobus. The Right to Live in the World: The Disabled in the
Law of Torts, 54, California Law Review, 841, 842, 1966.

United Way of America. The Citizen Board in Voluntary Agencies.
Cranford, N. J.: Didactics Systems, Inc., 1979.

Wolfensberger, W. The Third Stage in the Evolution of Voluntary
Organizations. Toronto: National Institute on Mental Retardation, 1973.


Boards and Board Functions

Conrad, William R. and Glenn, William R. The Effective Voluntary Board
of Directors: What It Is and How It Works. Chicago: The Swallow Press,
Duca, Diane J. Nonprofit Boards: A Practical Guide to Roles
Responsibilities and Performance. Phoenx: Oryx Press, 1986.

Hardy, James M. Developing Dynamic Boards: A Proactive Approach to
Building Nonprofit Boards of Directors. Erwin, Tenn.: Essex Press, 1990.

Houle, Cyril O. Governing Boards: Their Nature and Nurture.
Washington, D.C.: National Center for Nonprofit Boards and San
Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc., 1989.

Nosek, Peg and Smith, Quentin. On the Right Track. Foundations for
Operating all Independent Living Program. Richards, Laurel (Ed.)
Houston: ILRU, 1982.

O'Connell, Brian. The Board Member's Book Washington, D.C.: The
Foundation Center, 1985.

O'Connell, Brian. Nonprofit Management Support Series. Washington,
D.C.: Independent Sector, 1988.

This nine-book series includes:

No. 1: The Role of The Board and Board Members

No. 2: Funding, Developing, and Rewarding Good Board Members

No.3: Operating Effective Committees

No.4: Conducting Good Meetings

No.5: The Roles and Relationships of the Chief Volunteer and Chief Staff
Officers, Board and Staff: Who Does What?

No.6: Recruiting, Encouraging, and Evaluating the Chief Staff Officer

No. 7: Fund Raising

No. 9: Evaluating Results

Smith, Quentin and Richards, Laurel. Board Effectiveness in Independent
Living Centers. In Richards, Laurel and Smith, Quentin (Eds.) Staying on
Track: ILRU Management Support Series. Houston: ILRU, 1987.

Trost, Arty and Rauner, Judy. Gaining Momentum for Board Action. San
Diego: Marlborough Publications, 1983.

Waldo, Charles N. Not-for-Profit Compared to For-Profit Boards. In
Boards of Directors: Their Challenging Roles, Structure, and Information
Needs. Westport, Conn.: Quoram Books, 1985.
Wolf, Thomas. The Nonprofit Organization: An Operating Manual.
Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1984.

Legal Responsibilities and Legal Liability of Boards

Batavia, Andrew I. The Legal Liability of Independent Living Centers. In
Richards, Laurel and Smith, Quentin (Eds.) Staying On Track: ILRU
Management Support Series. Houston: ILRU, 1989.

Lane, Marc J. Legal Handbook for Nonprofit Organizations. New York:
ANACOM, 1980.

Oleck, Howard L. Non-Profit Corporations Organizations and
Associations. Clifton, N. J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1980.

Olenick, Arnold J. and Olenick. Philip R. Making the Non-Profit
Organization Work: A Financial Legal and Tax Guide for Administrators.
Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Institute for Business Planning, 1983.

Smith, Quentin. Liability Insurance for Independent Living Centers. In
Richards, Laurel and Smith, Quentin (Eds.) Staying on Track: ILRU
Management Support Series. Houston: ILRU, 1989.

Fiscal Management Information for Board Members

Bank of America. Small Business Reporter Understanding Financial
Statements. San Francisco: Bank of America, 1980.

Bank of America. Small Business Reporter: Cash Flow/Cash
Management. San Francisco: Bank of America, 1984.

O'Connell, Brian. Nonprofit Management Support Series. No.8: Budgeting
and Financial Accountability. Washington, D.C.: Independent Sector,

Independent Living Philosophy and Civil Rights

DeJong, Gerben. Environmental Accessibility and Independent Living
Outcomes: Directions for Disability Policy and Research. East Lansing,
Mich.: University Center for International Rehabilitation, Michigan State
University, 1981.

Gliedman, John and Roth, Williarn. The Unexpected Minority:
Handicapped Children in
America. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980.

Kailes, June Isaacson. Putting Advocacy Rhetoric into Practice: The Role
of the Independent Living Center. Houston: ILRU, 1988.
National Council on the Handicapped (now National Council on
Disability). Toward Independence: An Assessment of Federal Laws and
Programs Affecting Persons with Disabilities--With Legislative
Recommendations. Washington, D.C.: National Council on the
Handicapped, 1986.

National Council on the Handicapped (now National Council on
Disability). On The Threshold of Independence: A Report to the President
and to the Congress of the United States. Washington, D.C.: National
Council on the Handicapped, 1988.

Nosek, Peg; Narita, Yayoi; Dart, Yoshiko; and Dart, Justin. A
Philosophical Foundation for the Independent Living and Disability
Rights Movements. Houston: ILRU, 1982.

Nosek, Margaret A. and Richards, Laurel. Independent Living Networks:
Development of a New Dimension in Advocacy. Houston: ILRU, 198 7.

Pflueger, Susan with foreword by Roberts, Edward V. Independent
Living: Emerging Issues in Rehabilitation. Washington, D.C.: Institute for
Research Utilization, 1977.

Richards, Laurel and Smith, Quentin. An Orientation to Independent
Living Centers (informational brochure). Houston: ILRU, 1987.


ALAN MEYER has over ten years experience in the field of independent
living. He has served as the executive director of the Houston Center for
Independent Living, the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities, and a
consumer controlled organization providing personal assistance services.
He most recently served as the first director of the Office on Services to
Persons with Disabilities within the Texas Department of Human
Services. During his tenure, the board of directors of the agency which
administers the state's personal care and nursing home programs, adopted
a position statement which specifically commits the agency to the
development of expanded community-based rather than institutional
services for people with disabilities. Meyer has been extensively involved
in the ILRU management training program as a member of the training
team and has worked with Cornell University in its management training
program. He is currently a freelance consultant and trainer in independent

QUENTIN SMITH is a staff associate with ILRU. He was one of the
developers of ILRU's long-term management training programs for
management staff of independent living centers, and he continues to serve
as co-director of management training programs at ILRU. In addition to
having served as executive director of the Houston Center for Independent
Living, Smith has worked in a variety of management positions in health
care and academic settings over a twenty-year period. He holds a graduate
degree in health care administration from the State University of New
York at Stony Brook and did additional graduate work in management at
Texas A&M University. Smith has authored or co-authored numerous
articles, monographs, and book chapters dealing with management issues,
including the publication On the Right Track co-authored with Peg Nosek,
which was the starting point of ILRU's Staying on Track series on
management issues in independent living.


ILRU (Independent Living Research Utilization) was established in 1977
to serve as a national center for information, training, research, and
technical assistance for independent living. In the mid-1980's, it began
conducting management training programs for executive directors and
middle managers of independent living centers in the U.S. Since 1985, it
has operated the ILRU Research and Training Center on Independent
Living at TIRR, through which is conducted a comprehensive and
coordinated set of research, training, and technical assistance projects
focusing on leading issues facing the independent living field.

ILRU has developed an extensive set of resource materials on various
aspects of independent living, including a comprehensive directory of
programs providing independent living services in the U. S. and Canada.
For more information, contact ILRU; 2323 S. Shepherd, Suite 1000;
Houston, Texas 77019; (713) 520-0232, 520-5136 (TDD).

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