Making working boards work

I frequently consult with and have occasionally served on the board of a lot of very small nonprofit organizations. By very small, I mean organizations that have no staff or just a tiny handful of staff, often part-time.

These tiny organizations often need to rely on their board members to serve staff functions. That’s clearly obvious for organizations that have no staff at all… but may not be so clear once you’ve hired an executive director or one or two more staff positions.

It takes a lot of human-power to make our organizations run. One or two people, while they can do a lot, can’t do everything that needs to be done to be a thriving nonprofit. It’s pretty near More...impossible for one person to run quality programs, raise all the revenues, reach out to the larger community, and manage the operations and finances.

Board members in small nonprofits usually need to wear two hats… the hat they wear to govern the organization and? the hat they wear to serve a staff function… that is, to take on one of the many jobs that fall under the “staff” side of the organization and get them done.? Other non-board members can also be recruited to get the work accomplished.

How do you do this? You can start by making a comprehensive list of all that you hope to achieve this year. Then break those objectives down into the tasks that are needed to get them accomplished. Think about what skills and knowledge are essential to get this work done.

Knowing what needs to happen, recruit board members (or other volunteers) with the expectation that they will produce one of those desired outcomes.

Here’s an example. My local chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals runs a series of educational workshops, an annual conference on fundraising, and a huge celebration for National Philanthropy Day, among others. With just one part time administrator, the chapter relies on its board members and volunteer to get things done. When board members are recruited, they are asked at the time of recruitment to chair a committee that is charged with the responsibility of achieving one of these very large tasks. ? I myself have served as chair of the Annual Conference, the scholarship committee, and the mentoring committee (not at the same time!)

So, to make a working? board work, every board member should have a job and outcome that he or she is responsible for achieving.

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