Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Inquiring nonprofit boards: Understanding our organization's key stakeholders, their needs

"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?

NOTE: This post is part of a series highlighting questions designed to promote inquiry in the boardroom. For others in the series, and a more general pool of resources on the topic visit my "Inquiring Nonprofit Boards" collection on Pinterest.


Bonnie Koenig said...

This is such an important question especially as the definition of 'stakeholder' changes. Boards should definitely explore this on a regular basis. They may find their own group of stakeholders evolving.

Debra Beck, EdD said...

Agreed, Bonnie. I knew it needed to be included in this series the moment I read it. The *basic* question is one that needs to be a topic of regular focus. Finding related, next-step questions facilitate a deeper dive that also is critical.