“I dread going to another board meeting.” -Board Member
“My board is so frustrating; I am thinking about moving on.” -Executive Director
“I feel like our board is nothing but a rubber stamp for the CEO.” -Board Member
“Some of our board members are just not willing to change.” -Board Chair
“I am getting off this board at the first opportunity.” -Board Member
Serving on a nonprofit board can be very rewarding especially if the mission is compelling, the members have great synergy, and the CEO is leading well. However, the quotes above are reflective of ones I have heard far too often. Below are 5 changes many nonprofit boards should consider as they move into the future.
1. Get smaller
It is increasingly difficult to find board members with the talent and time to serve well, and a large board can be unwieldy in both scheduling and group dynamics. In many cases, 5-9 is more than enough for quality governance and the agility needed in this time of accelerated change.
2. Get better
For many boards, they will find greater benefit from a smaller group of highly talented members versus a larger group that is a mix of exceptional members and average ones. Getting better often includes regular board assessment and regular training in board effectiveness - and the time may even come when non-profits will have to pay for the talent they need.
3. Get purposeful
Talented people are busy people and they do not want to waste their valuable time doing what sometimes borders on meaningless work. Every meeting should be compelling and focused on higher level policy and strategic tasks rather than lower level operational tasks.
4. Get agreement
An effective board is one where every member understands what is expected of him or her including their scope of authority, the scope of authority of the CEO/Director, the rules of board engagement (board behavior), and expectations regarding character, commitment, and fundraising.
5. Get flexible
The days when the same group of members does the same work the same way year after year are long gone. Effective boards are nimble, adjusting board membership, frequency of meeting and agenda topics based upon the quickly changing needs of the organization and the external environment.
For additional assistance with creating a healthy and effective board, contact us! Our experienced consultants can offer valuable guidance and training for your board.
For more learning on building healthy boards and navigating the challenges to organizational growth, order our new book GUIDE: Building the Team. Setting the Direction. Fulfilling the Mission.
Jay Desko is the Executive Director of The Center and serves on the Senior Leadership Team at Calvary Church in Souderton, PA. Jay brings experience in the areas of ministry assessment, leadership coaching, decision-making, and strategic questioning. Jay’s degrees include a B.S. in Bible, a M.Ed in Instructional Systems Design and a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior and Leadership.