I am eager to see the end of the belief that there is one set of “best practices” when it comes to boards and governance. Let’s finally agree that governance is extremely complex as researchers are recognizing “the importance of context to our understanding of governance and the work of boards.”
Have you heard of the 3 Ps of nonprofit boards?
Neither had I until last week.
I was discussing ideas for an upcoming board retreat with the chair of the board development committee. In describing the ideal board member, this trustee mentioned the 3Ps, something he learned from a colleague in years past.
When I asked him to explain, he described the Ps as follows:
• Prisoners are the reluctant board members. They do not come voluntarily to their positions. Most likely they were assigned to serve on the board by the boss at their company. This term might also describe officers coerced into serving.
• Passengers are good enough board members, but they are waiting to be told what to do in order to do more than just attend board meetings. They are usually in the majority on most boards.
• Partners are those board members who voluntarily and enthusiastically take leadership. They act as partners with the CEO and other board members in building the future of the organization they serve.
I told this clearly partner board member this was a really intriguing concept I hadn’t discovered before. With his permission, I wanted to share this with you.
Prisoners, Passengers, Partners, Protestors.
After I got off the phone, I went looking online for the reference.
I found these terms used in the training world where, instead of 3, there are 4Ps – protestors, prisoners, passengers and participants.
Participants are the partners that my client described. Read more
In a room filled with governance gurus and nonprofit capacity builders, the overwhelming consensus was that our current board model is stuck in the industrial past. We need to constantly evolve – or totally transform — governance structures to be smart, nimble, responsive and adaptive to the new world order of uncertainty and rapid change.
Too often, I meet boards that are extremely reluctant to quantify the community impact they’d like to make, fearing they’ll fall short of the goal. When asked to set a goal for how they’ll enhance their community, too many boards hedge. It’s tempting to think about your organization only in terms of what you are
Decisions answer a particular question confronting us here and now. They often lack application to any future questions that might arise.
Policies, on the other hand, provide a framework for making decisions that can be applied to future questions. Not only are they key to sound board decisions, but policies allow boards to more effectively delegate authority to others.
BUY IT FOR YOUR BOARD TODAY! Thank you!.
Gayle’s newest book was just released by Emerson and Church, publishers of Contributions Magazine.
It’s an updated version of How are we Doing? her one-hour read to help your board start a conversation about its own effectiveness.
We’ll be sharing excerpts from chapters in future blogs. Meanwhile, here’s what the publisher said:
A high-performing, diligent board that takes its responsibilities seriously is the Holy Grail of nearly every nonprofit in the U.S. Such a board means more money raised, swifter policy decisions, steady governance, and less ibuprofen for the CEO.
But can you realistically get there from here? Can you put your average or good board on the road to greatness? Indeed you can, says Gayle Gifford in How to Make Your Board Dramatically More Effective, Starting Today. And you’re closer than you think.
Gifford’s approach is ingenious. She doesn’t lecture, doesn’t scold, doesn’t harangue. Instead she challenges your board to transform itself by answering a series of trenchant questions. Here’s a sampling:
- How well do we know our community’s needs?
- Do we know if our programs are having an impact?
- Have we given our CEO the necessary support?
- Have we decided the board’s role in fundraising?
- Do our committees improve the functioning of our board?
- Does our board govern and resist the temptation to manage?
- Is our relationship with staff what it should be?
I believe that we would have much stronger boards if the board chair spent more of her or his time mentoring and engaging the other board members rather than focusing all of his or her attention on the relationship with the CEO. And vice versa… if rather than focusing all of his or her attention on the board chair, a CEO’s time is better spent getting to know, strategizing with and enabling other board members.