“Please be our next board chair. Joe, Sarah, and Ben have all turned us down and Andrew doesn’t want to stay on for another term.”
Has this ever happened to you or in your organization? With thoughtful planning and leadership development you can create a reality where begging for board officers and committee leaders just doesn’t happen.
In a 2015 BoardSource survey, only 49% of nonprofit CEOs agreed that their organizations had an effective process in place for officer succession. CEOs often navigate (survive?) multiple chair transitions, and cited building a board leadership pipeline as being among the most important area for board improvement.
“Most organizations can survive the successful election to the Board of an individual or two whose group participation skills and leadership attributes are less than stellar, as other stronger members of the Board will generally neutralize any adverse consequences to the organization. However, placing Board members into the organization’s highest leadership positions is a much higher-stakes proposition. Persons in elected leadership positions with mediocre leadership skills will, at best, do no harm, but might cause the association to miss strategic advantageous opportunities. Persons with poor leadership skills may create organization dysfunctions that may take years from which to recover, if ever.”Continue reading “Please be our next board chair”
Have you ever thought to yourself, “Why do I bother with volunteers? It would be so much easier if I just do this myself.”
I admit it; over my 30-plus years as a fundraising professional, that thought has crossed my mind more than once. Yet whenever that happens, I think about the many times during my career when volunteers have made the critical difference between success and failure, between reaching that stretch campaign goal and falling short, or between successfully recruiting that key board member and having them turn down the opportunity.
So, how can you make sure that your volunteers really are worth their weight in gold, instead of being too much trouble to bother with? Here are some tips that might help you and some resources for more information. Continue reading “Making the Most of Volunteers”
How to find great, or even good, nonprofit board members is an ongoing challenge. For many nonprofit organizations the board development issue feels especially urgent right now. The competition for good board members is increasing.
The philanthropic environment has nearly recovered from the Great Recession, but many philanthropists are still very cautious about where to invest their dollars, time and energy. Organizations who have been largely supported by government grants and contracts, their long-held intention to diversify their revenue through board members with financial capacity and connections, are now faced with the reality that it’s harder than they thought to find strong board members.
Over the past several years, many not-for-profits have begun to shrink their boards to sizes ranging from 9 to 12 people. Both board and staff leaders have argued that a smaller board is more productive and easier to manage. This model seems to be coming from the for-profit board where smaller boards are the norm (comparably) and chief executives are also the board chair (though this trend is changing as more corporate boards are choosing an independent director to be the chair of the board).
I would contend that the size of the board should be based on the amount of community engagement the organization wishes to have. If a not-for-profit organization does not require significant community engagement then it does not need to structure itself with a large amount of community interaction. However, if philanthropy is to play a role in the organization, then community engagement at the volunteer leadership level is essential.
Last week, I wrote on how staff should be working to support the efforts of their not-for-profit board members. A few days later I received a comment from a reader encouraging me to write about the board members’ responsibilities. Over the years, I have kept a list of board member responsibilities that I have used during training sessions and board retreats, and I’ve allowed board members to offer comments and suggestions to edit, revise, and clarify their roles. Here are several points from that document for your review and comment:
First, I believe boards have two functions: one, to “guard the mission” of the organization; and two, to hire, advise, and if necessary, replace the executive director (or CEO).
Roles for Boards to “Guard the Mission”:
Provide leadership to and approve a strategic plan for the organization
Assure that programming and financial allocations are focused on fulfilling the mission (guarding against “mission creep”)
Assure that proper financial stewardship is maintained
Contribute financially to the organization according to your means
Advocate for the organization to secure community and financial support
Open doors for staff who are seeking support from others
Continue to expand your knowledge of the community needs that the mission of the organization is addressing, and your knowledge of best practices to meet those needs
Participate in board meetings, demanding quality presentations from staff, and providing equal quality on your part during board and committee discussions
Offer your talents and time to serve on committees and/or as a committee chair or officer; when accepting an assignment, fulfill it to the best of your ability
Roles for Boards to “Hire, Advise and/or Replace” the Executive Director:
Annually set expectation goals for the executive staff leader that parallel and/or complement the goals in the strategic plan
Annually evaluate the executive staff leader on his/her performance toward fulfilling their goals and the organization’s strategic plan
Be available to offer expertise and counsel to the executive staff leader when called upon to do so
Hold executive sessions of the board that include the executive staff leader, and some sessions that do not include the executive staff leader, to discuss strategic direction of the organization and operational issues that need to be addressed by the board
Develop a succession plan that has both emergency implementation guidelines as well as strategic implementation for retirements and natural transitions
Hold the executive staff leader accountable for results, and when results are not consistently met, replace the executive staff leader
Recently I was conducting a board retreat and as we were discussing board roles and responsibilities, two comments from board members present were quite memorable. First, as a board member, you are part of a team – so be a good teammate and team player. Second, a board member should be willing to accept any role, including board chair, without aspiring to have that role. The second quality speaks to servant leadership and the importance it has for the success of a quality board and a quality organization.
So what have been your experiences and observations, and what else do you know about board roles and responsibilities? I look forward to your comments and insights.