Friday, April 8, 2011

Overheard: April 8

Sometimes, as I pull together this weekly round-up of board resources, there is a definite theme. This week, that's not the case. There is a distinct "potpourri" kind of feel to the candidates. That's okay - it suggests that there may be something for everyone,  no matter what I choose to highlight.

10 reasons to retreat (Ron Milam)

When most retreats fail, it is because the chosen focus is too ambitious, tedious, or simply wrong for the time frame or the current organizational environment (for example, the popular "let's take this half/full day and write a strategic plan" is simultaneously ambitious, tedious and wrong!). There are many great reasons to take that time away from the routine. Ron Milam offers up 10 such appropriate purposes in this post. You may have others, that I hope you'll share via comment.

Blue ribbon nominating committee for your board (Jan Masaoka)

Jan offers a fascinating model for thinking differently about new member recruitment and, in the process, a way to engage supporters and potential supporters in service to your organization. One of the perennial recruitment challenges for boards is the tendency to confine their list of prospects to current members' relatively narrow pool of acquaintances. Not only does that automatically shut out a lot of quality candidates, it also sets us up for more of the same narrow thinking and governance (since we naturally tend to associate with like-minded individuals or people who come from similar backgrounds). The blue ribbon nominating committee described here has tremendous potential to remedy that.

Board orientation dos and don'ts (Hildy Gottlieb)

One thing we can always count on Hildy to provide: accessible ways to think and act differently about governance. The essence of this post is far deeper than a "Five easy steps..." countdown, but the way in which she articulates that approach is absolutely attainable for most governing bodies.

Guilty as charged: Prove your board supports your organization (Karen Eber Davis)

The 10 "evidence" points laid out in this post could be treated as a simplistic, grade-the-board check-off list. Indeed, it might be used that way - and there might be some value as a quick snapshot of board success. But I also see some potential for using it as a jumping off point for deeper discussions about any (or all) of the markers. Regular readers will not be surprised to hear that I am more drawn to "evidence" points six through nine, as they relate to more substantive governance functions. And,  yes, I am particularly fond of number nine!

Putting on your own oxygen mask first (Estrella Rosenberg)

The board connection in this one may not be immediately obvious; but as I re-read it this morning, I'm struck by its potential to describe the fundamental value of governance. The board holds ultimate accountability for the health and life of the organization, even as it delegates the day-to-day responsibilities to others. Part of that stewardship involves addressing the capacity needs of the organization and its people. Nonprofit staff and volunteers burn out when they don't take time to breathe, recharge, tend to their learning needs - everything that expands their ability to continue serving others. Just as it must monitor the financial and capital capacity needs of the organization beyond what is required today, the board should be encouraging the executive director to "put on your own oxygen mask first" and to ensure that similar support is provided to everyone involved in doing mission-critical work. If there is resistance - as some will see such personally sustaining activities as "selfish" - then the board must push to make sure it happens.

No comments: