Our current bylaws state, "The President shall be an ex-officio voting member of all committees." Is this typical or unusual? Is it best practice for a Board Chair and/or President to be an ex officio member of all of a foundation's committees? If so, is this person typically a voting or non-voting member?

Let’s start by defining ex officio.  It means by virtue of one’s position (or office.)  Thus, an individual is entitled to belong – on a board or a committee – by virtue of the position that person holds, irrespective of his or her skills and attributes.

To respond to your question, YES it is common for the board chair to be an ex officio member of every committee.  This allows the chair to keep abreast of all the issues facing the foundation. As ex officio members they don’t always attend every committee meeting (particularly if there are numerous committees that meet frequently,) but rather they are entitled to should they wish to do so.

With regard to ex officio for the president, I assume this is the lead staff person who functions like a CEO.  Ex officio status is much less common for foundation staff.  Here’s why.  Staff generally have their say in the recommendations they make to the board and committees without having ex officio membership or an official vote.  The board retains the decisionmaking authority.  On a committee roster, members are listed and at the bottom it may specify “Jane Doe, Program Assistant – Committee Staff Liaison.”

Read the full article on board committees by Karen Green at the National Center for Family Philanthropy.