Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giving thanks for nonprofit boards

I tend to bristle at the all too common tendency to focus on the myriad ways in which nonprofit boards fail to live up to the expectations placed on them. As this day of thanks comes to a close, I'd rather focus on the many contributions that our volunteer leaders make to the health of our organizations and our communities.

I share this brief list of gratitude, acknowledging that board members are imperfect human beings. They do fall short on occasion. They do lose steam at inconvenient times. But when they are recruited strategically, motivated consistently and supported fully, our boards will fulfill their full leadership potential - and our communities will be better for it. As you read my list of thanks, ask yourself this question: how do I/we ensure that each statement will be true?

Giving thanks for our boards

Our boards bring commitment to, and passion for, their organizations' vision and mission. They come because they want to make a difference - to move us closer to our vision of a better future.

They bring experiences and the power to move you closer to that future. Recruited well, individual members expand the group's collective capacity to govern, by sharing their expertise, their life experiences and their informed perspectives to the boardroom.

They bring the dual gift of time and energy. In return, they ask that those resources be used wisely, focused on meaningful work rather than minutiae. They want to govern.

They bring varied connections to key stakeholder groups, extending your reach and your voice in the community (however your organization defines community). They expand and engage our networks in service to our mission.

They bring a unique kind of credibility with those audiences as committed community volunteers. When they speak and act, people listen and respond in ways that are different than when paid staff initiate contact.

They bring wisdom and the desire to grapple with the big questions that our vision and mission demand. They not only are ready to really govern, they are destined to govern (when we respect and support their right to do so).

What other contributions to our boards make? What can you - and I - do to ensure their success?

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