Despite varying sizes, maturities, and purposes, many nonprofit organizations suffer from boards that are too passive or disengaged. If your Nonprofit Board of Directors isn’t enthusiastic about their role and the work of the organization, the organization cannot possibly reach its full potential.
Often board members witness the symptoms of their malaise but can’t articulate the root causes and are unable to offer solutions. Step back from your board of directors for a moment and read through the list of problems, below. Are you familiar with these complaints? Can you imagine stepping through the solutions provided? Are there other steps you could take to invigorate your passive board?
Send this article to members of your board today and start talking about possible solutions.
PROBLEM ONE Mission Scope Creep Over time, we’ve started to do too much for too many people. We aren’t sure any more what our priorities are and where we should focus our time. Things fall through the cracks and the staff is overloaded.
RECOMMENDATION Chances are that you are spread too thin. Maybe some of your programs are not being well-managed. Conversations need to take place with key board and staff personnel. Make a complete list of all of your programs. Decide on the focus of your organization. Make sure you have the resources to manage these programs well. Drop some projects or programs if necessary.
PROBLEM TWO Staff and Board are Out of Synch The board is working on some things, the staff is working on other things, but one hand doesn’t really know what the other is doing. Sometimes we just seem out of control.
RECOMMENDATION Stop and assess what the staff is doing and what each of the board committees is doing. Assign staff members to appropriate board committees. Design an Executive Director Board Report that highlights the measurable results from the organization’s key programs and projects. Focus the staff and board committee efforts on the top priorities of the organization.
PROBLEM THREE Executive Committee Does It All It’s just easier with fewer people. The Executive Committee can have a meeting before the board meeting and discuss, digest and make recommendations to the rest of the board about most issues. Some board members are doing all of the work, others don’t seem to be interested or involved.
RECOMMENDATION Slowly phase out the Executive Committee over time and ask the board committees to come to the board meetings with crisp, direct recommendations to the entire board. Expect more from every board member and empower board committees so that everyone has the opportunity to contribute.
PROBLEM FOUR No Clear Sense of Where the Organization is Going It seems like the organization is just treading water. We have no annual objectives for the staff and no actions for the board. We just come to board meetings and hear the same thing each month. And we always seem to be worried about money.
RECOMMENDATION As a board, sit down with your executive staff and decide the three most critical changes that need to take place in the next year. Decide how the board can support those activities (including fundraising) and how the board of directors can oversee and support the progress and the results you want to achieve.
PROBLEM FIVE The Board of Directors Provides no Oversight for the Organization It seems that the staff is doing fine without us. We’re not really sure what we should be doing. It’s hard to know what the staff is doing, and we don’t want to interrupt their work when they’re so busy.
RECOMMENDATION Think about the organization’s 4 or 5 key programs or projects. Decide what facts, figures, and trends the board needs to review at each board meeting to provide oversight and support for the top priorities of your organization. Ask the Executive Director to come to board meetings armed with this information. At the same time, work more closely with the staff to start discussing the future. Describe where you want to be in 5 or 10 years and determine how you can work together to make that future a reality.