Monday, August 4, 2014

Quotable nonprofit governance: Building board member community

"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.


Over the last two years, I've become more convinced than ever that this is a major, missing piece of the board performance puzzle. 

Not that we don't have other significant challenges - some of our own making, others not. But the fact is, too many nonprofits bring bright, committed, talented leaders into their boardrooms only to have them wallow and wither on the governance vine.

Why is that?

Gail's quote (from her marvelous book) reminds us that when boards are a team - a community - their potential to collaborate, to create, to envision expands exponentially. But how often do we take the time to create that community? To get to know each other? To find and build upon our common visions of what is possible? To do more than get together long enough to check off the items on our overcrowded agendas?

I fold broader issues of board dynamics into the concept of community. Governance is not one, non-stop Kumbaya moment (as much as that might make the process easier). True communities deal with the highs and lows of working closely together, of debating sometimes thorny issues, of bouncing around wide-ranging (and sometimes contradictory) visions of the future, of challenging each other to be the best we can be so that we can collectively reach our dreams. They not only survive, they often thrive - and succeed.

Questions for reflection with your board:

Is our board a community? How do we know?

If the answer is no, what is missing? What would make the difference?

What can a successful board community accomplish for our nonprofit? For our community?

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