Can humans serve as successful board members?

Time to revive this oldy. It seems the preaching about the failures of human board members is reaching a crescendo.

I’ve been thinking a lot about our expectations of volunteer board members. When you look at the law of most states, the description of what boards do ususally runs to something like this: Manage the affairs of the corporation.

That’s not a lot of guidance. So our sector experts have stepped in to fill the gap.

But, have we taken it too far? When I read the lists of what boards and their members should be doing, I wonder if any mere mortal is up to the task of serving on a nonprofit board.

Superman flying through the air.Here are some of the things board members are supposed to do:

  • Give us time, lots of it. (Most nonprofits want attendance at a monthly board meeting, a monthly committee meeting, and whatever out-of-meeting time it takes to achieve the tasks a board member has been assigned.)
  • Give us money. As much as they can.
  • Get money. As much as they can.
  • Develop an in depth understanding of the technical issues facing this particular organization
  • Understand the nonprofit’s financial structure AND to read complex (and sometimes incomprehensible) financial statements
  • Understand the laws and regulations governing public charities
  • Be strategic thinkers and prescient forecasters
  • Connect us with community resources
  • Advocate for our organization
  • Attend our special events
  • Represent our nonprofit at the events of others
  • Know and support staff
  • Evaluate the Executive Director
  • Schmooze donors
  • Master group process
  • Show leadership and speak up
  • Lead others
  • Understand complex parliamentary procedures such as Robert’s Rules of Order
  • Expose themselves to some legal risk
  • Be responsible for the futures of real people, whether clients or staff
  • Hold each other accountable

What do you think? Can humans be board members?

What would it look like to right size board expectations for busy volunteers?

More to come.


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The value of good process

If fundraising is a profession, why are we so angry with our amateur board members?

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