Friday, September 30, 2016

Governance toolbox: September potpourri

Please pardon the recent absence of the toolbox feature - it's definitely been a "life happens" month here. As September comes to a close, I do want to offer a few of the noteworthy resources that I've been bookmarking along the way.

I want to open with a tweet that is not a tool but a challenge to a notion that I regularly encounter in discussions about board development and learning: "Keep it short. Keep it simple. Keep the board member investment as minimal as possible." To the extent that we need to respect their significant time contributions, and to the extent that we must focus our learning and performance support efforts on topics that build governance capacity, yes.  But when the short-and-sweet becomes a bare-bones checklist, when it offers no context for thoughtful discussion and application of nonprofit governance as a leadership function, when it boils it all down to monitoring functions, and when it fails to inspire members to rise to a high performance bar, we should be pushing back. Look at Julian's graphic. Consider what would be possible if all of our boards' learning and development experiences (not just training) could be described by even a few of the descriptors he offers. Anticipating another familiar refrain ("but we don't have time"), I'll offer a simple caveat: it's not a matter of creating new "amazing" opportunities. It's about doing better with the existing learning and capacity building experiences that we already have.

Think your board chair succession is secure? Think again -- In this post, Gayle Gifford analyzes data from our board chair survey through the lens of leadership succession planning. What are we doing to prepare our next generations of board leaders? Her insights on the topic are compelling. The questions she offers at the end provide an excellent starting point for having those discussions with your board.

7 cage-rattling questions every board should answer -- Not getting the best out of your board? Check your questions. Tricia's seven questions are fantastic examples of what we should be asking our boards. Capture them, share them with your board, schedule ample time to address those that are most compelling at future meetings. But almost as great as the questions she offered is this description of why we should care: "When people get invested by contributing their ideas, talent, and creativity, they will move mountains. It’s human. Then, giving money becomes a no-brainer." Are you helping the bright, wise leaders you've recruited to invest in their governance work? If not, that is your issue - one you must address, starting with Tricia's questions.

Visionary, strong, engaged boards: The key to nonprofit success -- Alison Rapping offers her own wise perspective on board member commitment and engagement in this recent LinkedIn post. She makes a strong case for valuing and prioritizing expansive, engaging board discussions (and offers her own great set of questions for sparking some of those conversations). She also reminds us of the very real perils of valuing expediency over thoughtful board deliberation.


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