(From The Value of Governance)
"Does our board understand who our (organization's) key stakeholders are and their most important needs and concerns?"
-- "The Value of Governance"
The answer to this question may feel so obvious that even considering asking it seems like a waste of valuable board time. If that really is the case, all the time, for your board, congratulations. Please tell us how you've managed to reach this state of absolute clarity. We really want to know.
If you're like the rest of us, your board has varying levels of understanding of your key stakeholders, their interests/needs, and the intersections of their concerns with your mission. Understanding those needs and tending to them in appropriate ways is an essential part of your board's responsibilities - especially its stewardship and accountability functions.
Most boards will find value in asking this initial question. Articulating those groups with a vested interest (or potential vested interest) in your mission and your work is a healthy process that encourages boards to center their work in meeting those needs. For some, that will be an affirmation and reminder. For a few, it may be an exploration. Whatever the case, boards should find value in periodically answering this question.
This question is a starting point. Following are examples of next-level follow-ups:
What does each stakeholder group's interests/needs look like?
In what ways are we already addressing them?
How are we communicating those intersections with each group?
Are there any potential conflicts between their needs/interests and ours?
In what areas are we falling short? What opportunities exist to change that?
What roles can the board play in reaching out to specific stakeholder groups?