Boredom on non-profit boards is symptomatic of a deeper, systemic problem, but one that is not all that unusual. Perhaps you have heard it said – “whatever you see in your own back yard – you are more than likely responsible for it.” Non-profits can unwittingly breed board members and it is not a mystery as to why.
Members are recruited to a seat on the board versus a role in the mission. The criteria for serving can be dangerously vague. “We expect board members to attend one meeting a quarter, participate in the meetings and support the organization financially.” “It really won’t take that much time and you would be a great board member.” Sound familiar?
Board members for newer non-profits are often friends of the founder. That may be the sole qualifier though there may be an unspoken agreement between the founder and friend that a financial commitment is assumed. That alone may be the first breakdown. The founder can be thinking “major donor” material and the friend may be thinking “mid-level or entry level” donor. Imagine this. The Founder challenges board members to raise “friends” to the ministry. If the board member is only giving a minimal amount, she is not likely to solicit above her own participation level.
Just what does a board member do? Absent a robust board-orientation schedule, every board member will decide for her or himself what it means to be a board member. One person may commit to supporting the CEO – tacitly rubber stamping as an expression of loyalty. Another member makes the role mean manager of the CEO or worse, micromanager of the spending plan, personnel, and plans. Almost always, someone plays the role of detective. In that capacity, they ask questions with a hint of suspicion, confident there is something nefarious at work and it is their job to snuff it out.
‘Effective governance by a board of trustees is a relatively rare and unnatural act…’unknown
And it is devastatingly possible for persons to agree to serve without understanding the in-place culture, vision, or mission of the organization. Any combination of the above will produced board members who fulfill on the commitment to attend meetings while failing to make meaningful contributions and advance the mission of the organization.
Painfully, and with great difficulty, some board members need to be de-recruited. Almost all need to renegotiate their commitments to the organization to ensure they are aligned with the organizations purpose and focus and agree to adopt an external focus – raising friends and raising money. The right CEO and attendant staff can run the day to day. The right CEO and attendant staff cannot change the world without a band of committed board members who are anything but bored.
Randall E. Davey, CAP® is a financial advisor with Guide Advisors, Inc. In certain circumstances, he may offer insurance as a sole proprietor or through Guide Advisors, Inc. He resides with his wife, Bonnie in Mesa, Arizona. Randall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 425.478.5668.
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