Skip Navigation
Skip to Footer

Vivian Bass: Creating a Successful Relationship Between Nonprofit Staff and Board Members

headshot of Vivian Bass smiling at the camera with long hair color photo

Vivian Bass

Rockville, Md., Jan. 30 – Vivian Bass has led a life of service and continues to work on behalf of various philanthropic causes including ensuring more opportunities for people with disabilities. She currently serves on the board of directors and on the executive committee at RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities. She also serves on the board of The Jewish Council for Public Affairs, is Chair of the Board of Trustees of Jewish Women International and became CEO Emeritus of The Jewish Foundation for Group Homes in June 2016 after serving there for 30 years.

Bass spoke to the Spring 2018 RespectAbility Fellows about how to develop a successful relationship between staff and board members. She summarized five fundamental points on maintaining this relationship: mutual respect, no surprises, transparency, accountability and partnership.

Mutual Respect

Bass emphasized being respectful of one another’s time, knowing when and how to connect with each other and what response time to expect. Bass also stressed the importance of understanding each other’s capabilities and disabilities and not asking too much from one another.

No Surprises

Bass also discussed making sure that everyone is prepared for events they may attend together. For example, no board member would like to attend an event and find out they must give a talk without preparation. She talked about the balance between the importance in maintaining confidentiality but also not leaving anyone in the dark.


Bass stressed that being transparent with one another is essential. Staff and board members should have enough trust in one another so they feel comfortable in engaging in honest conversations without having to sensor any information.


It is essential to be prepared in advance for anything a board member might need, Bass said. One also should be confident that the data and research being provided by staff is accurate and not skewed.


The final piece is developing an effective partnership, which is to ensure that everyone is working collectively for the mission of the company. There should be clear guidelines put into place for staff and board roles. Staff members should identify a board member with whom they are able to work well but also receive tough love.

Leading By Example

The RespectAbility staff is proud of its 32 board members, all of whom bring their own piece of diversity to the organization regarding race, age, sexual orientation, gender, disability and faith. As a member of RespectAbility’s executive committee, Bass works extensively with RespectAbility staff and models the working relationship between staff and board on a regular basis.


RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities. This spring, 14 Fellows had the opportunity to learn from a variety of guest speakers. Learn more about the National Leadership Program and apply for the next cohort! Contact [email protected] for more information.



Meet the Author

Richelle Ross

Richelle Ross hopes to combine her studies in Sports Medicine with her social advocacy work to create more recreational opportunities for children and adolescents with disabilities. She would like to continue working with and advocating for athletes with disabilities.

0 comments… add one

Leave a Reply

Respect Ability - Fighting Stigmas. Advancing Opportunities.

Contact Us

Mailing Address:
43 Town & Country Drive
Suite 119-181
Fredericksburg, VA 22405

Office Number: 202-517-6272

Email: [email protected]

GuideStar Platinum

RespectAbility and The RespectAbility Report is a GuideStar Platinum Participant. GuideStar Platinum Participant Logo
© 2023 RespectAbility. All Rights Reserved. Site Design by Cool Gray Seven   |   Site Development by Web Symphonies   |      Sitemap

Back to Top

Translate »