1. We don’t have great “word of mouth” working for us on the rewards of board service, mainly because most board members don’t experience any. Instead of engaging board members in the exciting, strategic work of community change making, we stick them in meetings where they fuss over ministrivia or get reported at.
Eleven board practices I try to live by: 1Only choose board service if you are willing to carry the moral obligation on your shoulders.2. Serve organizations whose vision and values you are passionate about (or will quickly grow to be). 3. Limit your board service – two boards at one time is usually enough.
Ultimately, your performance as a board isn’t judged by the health of your balance sheet, or the sparkle of your facility, no matter how important these may be.
The real measure is the difference you make in the lives you save, the natural resources you protect, the beauty you create, or the spiritual comfort you provide.
What enables change in a board of directors? Here are a few points: a critical mass of directors, including parts of the leadership, perceive a need for change. The rest of the board is willing to go along. Directors find an inspiring new vision to rally around.
In just a few minutes, the 40+ board members, executive directors and staff who attended shared these words. Together, they described the perfect board experience.
Purpose. Vision. Wisdom. Humor. Joy. Passion. Shared Values. Dedication. Generosity. Insight. Productive. Patience. Flexibility. Common Ground. Perseverance. Investment. Struggle. Eye-opening. Community-building. Caring. Deep Caring. Collaboration. Diversity. Gratitude. Leadership. Creative. Integrity. Teamwork. Unity. Heaven. Rewarding. Brainstorming. Listening. Support. Respect. Commitment. Interactive. Different. Communication.
I think we learned a lot about the two people who were interviewed this morning… and a lot about everyone’s perceptions of the community and their own organization’s role in it. Just by talking to each other.
Board members are volunteers too. Too often, we take their service for granted.
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 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.
Highly recommended on my list of things that nonprofits can do to improve the work of the board of directors is to create a full-blown Governance Committee. Also known as a Board Development Committee, the Governance Committee is much more than a nominating committee.