Monday, June 30, 2014

A Nonprofit Board Member's Bill of Rights

(Purchased from Bigstock Photo)

I felt compelled to write last week's "Get over it" post to articulate a few realities about nonprofit governance that exist but aren't necessarily exciting and not always conducive to feeding the deeper motivations that drive many of us to serve. I did it so we all could move on to the meaningful work that impacts our communities and inspires us.

But even as I wrote that post, I knew that it could be used as evidence that nonprofit boards really are slackers who don't know or care about their "real" responsibilities, who are lazy and unwilling to do what "we" need them to do so "we" can succeed. That is not at all the case. It certainly is not what I intend to convey or support on this blog. I published that post and immediately felt compelled to write a counterpoint.

In the spirit of the holiday week here in the U.S., I present my "Nonprofit Board Member's Bill of Rights." The individual "rights" will be familiar to regular readers, because they're part of the larger message of my advocacy for nonprofit boards. I offer them as a collection today, as a bookend to last week's post.

The Nonprofit Board Member's Bill of Rights

We the community leaders who serve on nonprofit boards, in order to govern toward a more perfect vision of the future and a fulfilling mission that advances that vision, require an environment conducive to fulfilling the responsibilities entrusted to us. To that end, we have the inalienable right to the following:

1) A clear understanding of our responsibilities, outlined before we join the board, and clarity about why we are being asked to serve. We have the right to participation in a thoughtful recruitment process, where a governance-focused job description is presented so we can make an informed decision about accepting the invitation to serve. We also have the right to know the specific skills, knowledge, connections, etc., that make us the right fit - at this time - for the board.

2) A rich, multi-stage, user-friendly orientation process that prepares us for active participation and, ultimately, leadership on the board. The information presented in the recruitment process is only the beginning. We deserve both a thorough initial orientation (including supporting materials) after we join the board and ongoing support in the initial months of our service.

3) Ongoing access to information, stories, etc., that provide the context and data to make the best decisions possible for the agency and the community. We deserve timely, ready access to that information, in formats that are accessible to us and conducive to effective decision making.

4) Work that draws upon our strengths as community leaders. Our governance work is future-focused and impact-driven, grounded in questions of consequence. The work that we do does not waste our time. We come together to govern and lead, not wallow in management minutiae. We expect that that work will draw upon our individual strengths, expertise and skill sets. We expect to use our individual connections to broaden the base of supporters for our mission in engaging and appropriate ways.

5) Meetings that are intellectually and creatively challenging.  We have the right to agendas built around questions about the future, that demand our active participation, and that give us space to reflect and create. We deserve work environments that expect us to contribute regularly, as equal members of the governance team.

6) Experiences that bring us closer to the mission we are charged with advancing. The more vividly we understand the agency's work and the lives touched, the better we are able to communicate that impact to others and the stronger our own commitment becomes. We have the right to build our knowledge, not only in formal training events but in authentic experiential learning opportunities throughout our board service.

7) Expectations that are appropriately high. We have the right to set our own high bar, drawing from our significant collective expertise. We have the right to all of the forms of support required to fulfill those expectations.

8) A strong, effective partnership with our CEO. We recognize the complementary leadership responsibilities that each brings to the table, and we collaborate to ensure that both parties receive what we need to fulfill them. We neither receive our marching orders from our chief executive nor dictate from above.

9) Recognition that is personally meaningful. We deserve regular acknowledgment that what we bring to the board is valued. We deserve acknowledgment that different people prefer that recognition in different formats, and that our individual preferences should be appropriately accommodated.

10) Respect for our contributions as community leaders. We have the right to be supported and valued, not treated as inconveniences. Your power and potential rests, in large part, on our power and potential. Respect us, support us, and we will lead in ways that bring you closer to your mission than you could ever achieve on your own.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Quotable nonprofit governance: Stop knowing/doing, start asking

"Quotable Nonprofit Governance" is a summer series sharing awe-inspiring and instructive insights from several of my favorite nonprofit board resources. My goal is to not only share great quotes but to also suggest ways to use them to inform your own approach to governance.

This quote, from a book that I believe everyone should read (especially nonprofit sector leaders), packs at least three critical ideas into one brief passage.

First, no surprise, is the call to value questioning - especially the "why" questions that invite nuanced, informed and visionary answers. That, I hope, is obvious.

But there are couple of other key messages for nonprofit boards. Berger not only challenges us to ask more questions but to set aside two of the more attractive functions that board members enjoy and/or are called upon regularly to do.

How many of our boards pride themselves on being "a working board?" Yes, that's often offered as a counterpoint to the suggestion that they might sit around doing nothing but rubber-stamping anything the CEO puts in front of them (though I've seen my share of "working boards" do an awful lot of that). But we boards also get stuck in a cycle of doing that can be counterproductive in a couple of ways.

One, "doing" often equals "getting overly involved in management/administrative issues for no reason other than we want to be involved." We gravitate toward familiar areas (e.g., the management functions many of us engage in at work) because we want to contribute and they're in our comfort zones. Two, "doing" all too often translates into listening to report after report, voting on routine matters, and spending not a lot of time actually leading. Or governing .

Two, "knowing" is a common core function for nonprofit board members, and understandably so. Most of us are recruited, at least in part, for some mission- or organization-applicable knowledge that we have. Sharing that expertise is an important function, certainly. We expand the board's knowledge (and the nonprofit's capacity) when we do that. It is an obvious and appropriate contribution that we can make as individual members.

However, there also is an occasional risk that is related to the larger "question" theme. We may sometimes find ourselves feeling mighty uncomfortable having to acknowledge that we don't know the answers to something (especially something related to our expertise area) in an environment where we are expected to be leaders. Leaders have the answers, right? Well, maybe. But behaving as if we do when that is not the case can put our organizations in some tricky territory via ill-informed board decisions made because someone was afraid to admit he/she didn't have those answers.

I seriously doubt that Berger would advise nonprofit boards to permanently set aside all "doing" and "knowing." I'm certainly not suggesting that. But I am joining him in what I believe is a call for balance and perspective - and the rightful recognition that an essential function of leadership is asking questions.

It's asking those "why" questions that Berger calls for specifically, and for a range of questions that inspire and inform nonprofit boards to think and govern generatively.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Get over it: A few things nonprofit boards must accept so we can move on and govern

(Purchased from Bigstock Photo)

If you've read more than one post here, you know that my agenda - for this blog and for boards everywhere - is to present a more fulfilling, expansive, effective vision (and practice) for nonprofit governance. 

I advocate as strongly as I can for treating board members with the respect we deserve and for providing us with an environment that allows us to contribute our best to our agencies and the communities we serve.  I'm also constantly pounding on the message that boards should have more fun and pride of fulfillment in our service.

But as much as I try to stretch our vision beyond a narrow list of roles and responsibilities and the dominance of oversight in those criteria, I also owe it to boards and their members to point out a few realities we don't always like or understand. 

In most of the points I'm about to make, it's not the fact itself that board members might not like. Instead, it's a common definition of how we must govern around that reality that causes some of us to balk (or run astray). I raise these "musts" today, in the spirit of acknowledging some core functions that others (and I) consider to be essential to nonprofit governance. I also, however, remind readers that there may be multiple ways of fulfilling these responsibilities - and suggest that many of the common prescriptions offered in the sector need to be changed.

So here goes, boards: a few things we must "get over" so that we can govern as effectively as possible.

We're ultimately responsible for the financial health of the agency

We may rely on others to handle the day-to-day tasks involved in managing the finances and in generating resources (think fundraising and grant writing). But final accountability for ensuring that the nonprofit has what it needs to function long term belongs to the board. The proverbial buck also stops with us when it comes to stewardship of those resources. We must ensure that they are used appropriately and in the spirit and the intent of the donors and others providing them. 

Yes, fundraising is part of that mix. However - and I know some will disagree - direct fundraising isn't a core responsibility of governance. We may assume a role, out of necessity or a legitimate use of our individual skills and connections. But selling raffle tickets is not governance. Organizing and staffing special events is not governance. (I served on a board where planning the annual fundraising dinner consumed five to six months of our meeting agendas. We were not governing in that mode for up to half of the year. We failed our agency and our community.) The fact that board members are doing them does not make them governance tasks.

The board's bottom line is making sure that resources are available and sustainable. How that happens will vary from organization to organization, depending on individual circumstances. But the board must find a way to make sure that happens. 

"I'm not good at the financial stuff." "I'm not a numbers person." Heaven knows I've uttered those words too many times to count. You know what? I need to get over that. You need to get over that. Financial oversight is part of our responsibility as board members. If we need a different kind of information than we're getting to accomplish that oversight, we need to demand it. If we need extra help understanding what the numbers mean and what strategies we should be pursuing, we need to ask for it. But we must understand the overall financial picture and be prepared to act, thoughtfully and deliberately.

Don't mistake obsessing over every line on the budget as oversight, though. Frankly, doing so can blind us to the bigger picture. I once served on a board that spent copious amounts of meeting time engaging in exactly that - while the ED embezzled funds from us. Find a balance between the daily details and the agency's overall financial health.

Vision, mission and strategy are not "frills"

If I had a dollar for every time a board told me, "We don't have time to ask all of these big questions. We have real work to do...," I'd be enjoying a tropical vacation right now. Questions about our community impact, discussions about our vision of the future, testing decisions to mission fit are not frills. They are not special issues to save for the annual board retreat. They are the work of the board. They are the ultimate purpose of the board. 

The vision and mission of the organization need to be embedded in all board work and in all of the discussions and decisions that emerge from it. We need to understand that strategic (and generative) thinking and governance are where the board's unique leadership can be expressed and where our most important contributions are made.  If we can't or won't commit to asking big questions, researching big answers, and for accepting ownership of the better future we're called to create, we need to step off the board.

There's a secondary component to this, one that may be uncomfortable. But it's critical. Given the preciousness of board member time, we have an obligation to speak up when that time is misused. Agenda items that are overtly management issues, board members who wander off onto nonproductive tangents, endless reports about events past - if they're dragging us down and away from the focus we need to maintain, we need to step up and demand that those activities stop.

Governance is not management

This may be the biggest challenge for some boards: mistaking management tasks for governance roles. Board immersion in management issues can be, at best, a diversion from the governance work that is their responsibility and, at worst, an obstacle to fulfilling those tasks in day-to-day organizational life. 

There are at least three factors that play into this one. First, we may not know what governance really involves. What is board work? What is management? We aren't sure. That's a sector issue, one that I don't see being resolved any time soon. Barry Bader's article, "Distinguishing Governance from Management," offers a framework for understanding the differences that many boards I've worked with have found valuable.

Second, if your organization is new or small, there may literally be no one else to assume core management responsibilities. Board members may be called in to handle some essential functions in these situations to ensure that the work is done. But be aware of the previous reality point: just because the board, or a board member, is doing it does not make it governance. Boards in these situations need to remember that they cannot afford to let the governance work get lost in the management shuffle.

Third, management questions and functions probably are quite familiar and, as a result, within our individual comfort zones. Depending on our professional backgrounds, we may be not only used to management tasks, we may be downright expert at them. We want to make the most of our board service and contribute something of value, so we make the management leap. We can't do that at the expense of our governance responsibilities.

We must lead

Governance is leadership at its most basic. But to reach our full board potential, all members need to do more than just show up for meetings. We need to lead in some way that advances the work. It may be serving as an officer. It may be leading a committee or task force. It might be taking on a special initiative that draws from your individual passions or expertise. But we must lead.

We must contribute, including financially

I know I'll receive pushback on this one, but it's true for an increasing percentage of nonprofits. If you rely upon grants for funding, if you engage in major gift fundraising, your ability to say that everyone on your board contributes financially to your organization can mean the difference between receiving external funds or not. I've written about this question elsewhere. Your board is free to set any policy it wants on this question. But set it knowing the potential consequences.

We must collaborate, as partners, with the CEO

The board and executive director form a leadership team, with complementary and equally essential roles in ensuring the agency's success. The CEO is neither neither your slave nor your boss. The CEO does not set the board agenda. He/she is your partner in moving toward everyone toward the future you desire. Treat the relationship accordingly.

 Board accountability lies in the board's hands

One thing the CEO is not: she/he is not accountable for the board's fulfillment of its responsibilities. It is not the CEO's job to goad you into doing your job. Peers discipline peers (translation: the board, usually through its leadership, holds individual members accountable for their actions or lack thereof).

The CEO can be a valuable support in developing board development plans and self-assessment processes. But carrying them out, and keeping the board on track, is the board's job.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Quotable nonprofit governance: Valued experiences to engage board members

"Quotable Nonprofit Governance" is a summer series sharing awe-inspiring and instructive insights from several of my favorite nonprofit board resources. My goal is to not only share great quotes but to also suggest ways to use them to inform your own approach to governance.

It's a familiar theme here, but Gail Perry says it so well in this quote from her great book that I had to highlight it. We serve our organizations and our communities best, we fulfill the high expectations set for us, and we are happier doing so when we are given the responsibilities and the challenges that belong with nonprofit governance.

Why in the world would we recruit smart, connected community leaders to our boards and not use that opportunity - and their precious time - to address the weighty questions and plot paths to the grand visions of the future that we have?

Assuming we don't want to waste board members' time, passion and expertise, here are three questions for reflection:

What are the unique perspectives/passions/skills/connections that this particular group of board members brings to our nonprofit?

What problems or opportunities can those gifts help us, in ways that move our mission forward?

What changes do we need to make - today - to not only eliminate barriers to accessing those board member gifts but actively draw them out in ways that meet our needs and honor the board members' willingness to share them?

Agenda item: Make question-asking quality part of nonprofit board recruitment

Agenda item 19: Ask board recruits to bring questions to the recruitment interview

Many of us are used to tacking on a vague, "any questions..." to the end of our interviews with prospective board members.

We do it, in part, because it offers an easy way to bring the process to closure. It also offers a token opportunity for the prospect to slip in a last-gasp attempt to figure out everything he/she needs to know to understand expectations.

But what if we asked for questions as a different part of the process? What if their responses became part of the assessment for fit that we engage in with each prospect?

I drew inspiration for this agenda item directly from a phenomenal book, A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas by Warren Berger.  (You know I bought that one with boards in mind.) Berger suggests that, instead of asking the all-too-common "any questions..." at the end of an interview (and waiting for the inevitable inane or hyper-specific questions that it invites)

"Tell every person coming in for an interview to bring a few questions with them. Make it clear that those questions should be ambitious and open-ended...Why, what if, and how questions are recommended."

What questions do they bring to the table? Are they relevant to your organization? To your mission or industry? Do they show intellectual curiosity? Do they show a capacity for leadership versus a management mindset? Is it obvious they did some research in preparation for the interview. Berger states what I hope should be obvious: "The questions this person brings up reveal a lot about him or her."

Berger asks, "Are the questions audacious and inquisitive or more modest and practical?" I heartily applaud the spirit and intent of that question (and would strive for erring on the side of the former versus the latter, because our boards are desperate for "audacious and inquisitive" mindset). But I would add that healthy boards need both types of thinking.

As someone who calls for incorporating intellectual curiosity into our member recruitment criteria, I appreciate this simple, but powerful, way to make that quality visible and potentially actionable.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Quotable nonprofit governance: Balancing empathy, boundary negotiation

"Quotable Nonprofit Governance" is a summer series sharing awe-inspiring and instructive insights from several of my favorite nonprofit board resources. My goal is to not only share great quotes but to also suggest ways to use them to inform your own approach to governance.

The larger message of this Katherine Tyler Scott quote is an important one: we cannot govern from a place of detachment from the nonprofit's mission and those it serves.

But today, I'm choosing to focus on the second half of the statement and targeting those "working boards" who take great pride in telling me they're just too busy "working" (translation: wading through management functions and organizing events and volunteering in direct service modes) to govern.

Yes, I get that you're a small nonprofit. Yes, I get that you're ultra-committed to the work and you're understaffed (or without staff). Yes, I understand that you are dedicated and want to act on that dedication to ensure the organization's success. Yes, I know - from experience - that front-line volunteerism is immediately and deeply satisfying.

But here's the rub: the governance and policy-setting work that also is essential to the organization's survival is your responsibility and yours alone. If you don't do it, no one else will - and the nonprofit will suffer. Not only that, it's your job as a governing body. Anything else is a bonus (and sometimes a distraction from your real work as a board). 

You can throw all the great community events and fundraisers you want. You can plaster your town with posters to your heart's content. You can ladle soup, answer hotlines, walk dogs - whatever "direct service" means to your nonprofit and to your sense of self-worth as a volunteer.

But if you are doing so at the expense of the leadership responsibilities that comes with governance, you are failing as a board and as individual board members.

 Returning to Scott's original quote...

It's a matter of balance. It's a matter of understanding of when it's time to govern and when it's time (usually as a volunteer, not a board member) to go elbows-deep in direct service work. (Don't take my word for it. For an excellent description of these two "hats" that board members may find themselves wearing, watch this Movie Mondays video featuring Jane Kuechle.)

We must find creative and meaningful ways to understand our mission, to make the impact and the stories of lives changed real to our boards. We need to value board members that accept governance as an active process, who want to lead and to contribute to the better community that we all seek. But we can't accept boards who are so deep in "doing" - and doing other types of volunteer service to the organization - that they aren't doing the job for which they were recruited: governing and providing the solid foundation it offers.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Quotable nonprofit governance: Right group + right cause = right board passion

"Quotable Nonprofit Governance" is a summer series sharing awe-inspiring and instructive insights from several of my favorite nonprofit board resources. My goal is to not only share great quotes but to also suggest ways to use them to inform your own approach to governance.

It's impossible to talk too much about passion on nonprofit boards - that's my motto. This quote, from June Bradham's The Truth about What Nonprofit Boards Want: The Nine Little Things that Matter Most, complements last week's post on the "passion of the explorer."

It also takes the more general "board passion" conversation a step further with Bradham's last sentence: "In fact the more seasoned a board member, the more passion is required."

I find that statement to be quite thought provoking. At one level, it seems counter-intuitive. After all, we seasoned vets understand the importance of a single-minded focus on our nonprofit's mission. We know that our collective commitment, stated and enacted, can mean the difference between just getting by and changing our community. We know all too well the weight of the responsibilities and the sacred community trust that we hold in our hands.

On the other hand, I think back to my first board board assignments. I remember the awe that came from learning more about their common mission, about the impact we were having on individual lives, and about the challenges we accepted for changing public opinion and state laws. We applied metaphorical band-aids for today's needs while envisioning a day when we would put ourselves out of business. That passion was new and fresh, and it was inspiring

Obviously, it's not an either/or situation. The larger message of Bradham's quote remains pivotal. But I can't help asking - you and myself - what we can do to light a different kind of renewing passion spark for our veteran board members.

What do you think?

Friday, June 13, 2014

Unlocking the passion of the (board) explorer

There's passion, and then there's "the passion of the explorer."

As someone who holds up "passion for mission" as the board member bottom line, and admitted ideal, I am intrigued by what Hagel is describing in the video below.

I also am inspired to ponder what might actually happen in our nonprofit boardrooms - and our communities - if we managed to foster the three qualities that make up the passion that Hagel describes here in our governing bodies.

Hagel doesn't address nonprofits or their boards directly. But the environments he describes ring quite familiar, and the three attributes feel quite applicable to our organization's purposes. I invite you to watch the brief (5:53) video and imagine how we might apply it to spark deeper commitment and efficacy within our boards.

Three attributes feed the "passion of the explorer," according to Hagel (1:21):

  • Long-term commitment to domain driven by a desire for impact (sound familiar?)
  • Questing, welcoming new challenges with excitement and a drive to "get right to it" and 
  • Connecting with others in related domains, to learn from them and collectively work for a solution to the challenge.

The latter two attributes are dispositions, fueling "an orientation towards action." I especially like that in the context of nonprofit boards. Plenty of smart people who care about our missions fill our rosters. Unless they - and we - are prepared to act, the impact we desire will elude us.

I was interested in the statistics Hagel offered regarding the percentage of individuals studied who could be considered to have the "passion of the explorer." It's a tiny number, only 11 percent.
I immediately thought, "Find and recruit these people to our boards ASAP!" Beyond that initial impulse, I thought about whether that might (roughly) represent the "explorer" core that we naturally end up recruiting. I also wondered, do we respect and nurture that once we have these individuals in the fold? Or do we end up inadvertently squashing that exploratory impulse?

Why is the "explorer" contingency so miniscule? Basically, our workplaces drive it right out of us.

"They want predictability, reliability - somebody who can follow instructions," Hagel says of the typical corporate structures. In these environments, "failure is not an option" and people are conditioned to manage or avoid risk at all costs. People who embody the "passion of the explorer" are unpredictable. They occasionally and inevitably fail along the way. That makes them "dangerous," at least in our traditional work environments.

A couple of thoughts that come to mind immediately as I revisit Hagel's observations here. First, many of our board members spend their work lives in these kinds of environments. We may invite or cajole them to mix things up, to be expansive in imagining a better world and govern from a place of abundance. But that may be in direct opposition to what is expected of them where they spend a big part of their lives. Second, even small steps can feel pretty risky for a small, cash-strapped nonprofit and the board charged with sound stewardship of its limited resources.

It's easy to talk about generative governance environments, but the leap for the typical board member can be Grand Canyon-sized without some major assistance.

Hagel shared a more heartening number: at least 45 percent carry at least one of the three attributes within us. We likely have something important to contribute to a collective "passion of the explorer." But the board environments in which we work must encourage us to use our existing strengths and nurture the "explorer" attributes that may be bigger personal stretches.

Hagel points out a choice all organizations have: we can have safe and predictable as an organization, or we an have the elements for "extreme performance improvement."

Are our nonprofits brave enough to make the latter choice?

Will we accept - even welcome - the element of risk that accompanies the "extreme performance improvement" needed to help our boards reach their full potential?

 Do our board environments engage all three attributes in its members?

Can we - will we - find ways to nurture the "passion of the explorer" that lies within our boards?

Monday, June 9, 2014

Quotable nonprofit governance: Creating an effective group spirit in the boardroom

"Quotable Nonprofit Governance" is a new series sharing awe-inspiring and instructive insights from several of my favorite nonprofit board resources. My goal is to not only share great quotes but to also suggest ways to use them to inform your own approach to governance.

Strong, effective nonprofit governance doesn't just happen. We don't just throw a bunch of people - even a room full of smart community leaders - into a room and tell them to govern. We know that, even if we don't always act as if we know it.

Revisiting this classic board text, written by an adult education icon (a major shock when I discovered it during my dissertation literature review), I appreciate this particular quote even more today. Houle captures the essence - the "effective group spirit" - that we ultimately need for the kind of environment where governance can evolve and emerge as true community leadership. 

Yet, as a sector, we often sweep past the board dynamics and legitimate need to feel like we're accomplishing something important to emphasize roles and responsibilities - tasks that have a place but are far from all-inclusive of what governance requires.

The second part of Houle's quote is important today. It probably was downright revolutionary when he first published the book. His four factors are intended to expand our thinking about what is required for an effective governance experience. And, yet, they also feel like only a basic starting point. Nevertheless, I invite you to pull out those four elements, take them to your board, and ask:

How are we doing on each of these factors?
How close are we to being strong on all four elements?
Where are we challenged?
What can we do to address our challenge area(s) and bring balance to our boardroom?

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Nonprofit boards: The power of changing our governance frames and questions

Sometimes, inspiration comes in the most surprising places. I clicked on this TED Talk, interested in the title topic, "The Transformative Power of Classical Music." The talk addressed that (in a thoroughly entertaining way - I highly recommend!), but Benjamin Zander's takeaway for his for his favorite subject applies perfectly to mine.

At about 16:50, Zander asks his audience, "How would you walk? How would you talk? How would you be if you thought, 3 percent of the population likes classical music, if only we could move it to 4 percent?"

He then challenged his audience to change the frame and the question:

"How would you walk? How would you talk? How would you be if you thought, everybody loves classical music -- they just haven't found out about it yet?"

Can you see the major difference? As Zander himself notes, "these are totally different worlds."

In which world are your board's questions focused? I suspect that more than a few of us will recognize the first set. 

What would happen if our board framework and questions more closely resembled the second? 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Quotable nonprofit governance: Board credibility impacts organization's public trust

"Quotable Nonprofit Governance" is a new series sharing awe-inspiring and instructive insights from several of my favorite nonprofit board resources. My goal is to not only share great quotes but to also suggest ways to use them to inform your own approach to governance.

I've been thinking a lot lately about trusteeship, which led me back to an old friend, Katherine Tyler Scott's Creating Caring and Capable Boards: Reclaiming the Passion for Active TrusteeshipIn a sea of "roles and responsibilities" articles and publications, any focus on governance as trusteeship is noteworthy and, to me, quite welcome.  It's also an excellent foundation for this summer series.

Why should we invest in our nonprofit boards? Why should we do more than tolerate a group of people that can be labor-intensive and occasionally problematic? Regular readers know there are myriad ways to respond. One of the more straightforward reasons is the credibility that a committed, effective nonprofit board brings.

As Scott states here, there's more at stake than the bottom line requirement that we have a board.  Who we bring to the table, how we engage them to advance our work and mission, sends a message to the community that can trigger additional support or send red flags a 'waving.

It's more than recruiting the "right" people, though. How we support them once they accept the invitation increases their potential for success, not only for fulfilling the essential responsibilities expected of nonprofit governing bodies but for reaching their leadership potential.

These Scott quotes prompt two questions for me that boards might find useful for reflection:

  • What does our board communicate to the community, by its presence and its actions?
  • What do board members need from us to be the best community ambassadors possible?