Distinguishing governance from management -- I'll open with this article by Barry Bader, because it's the one that started it all for me. Bader edited Great Boards before it moved under the AHA umbrella. While my email subscription brought a steady stream of board learning (and still does today), I keep coming back to this one in my teaching, training and consulting. It offers an excellent overview of what it means to govern, and the contrast vs. management functions usually is a revelation for audiences asked to read it.
Competency-based governance: A foundation for board and organizational effectiveness -- I've had this one downloaded to my desktop for awhile now, but I finally cleared time to sit down and read it. Wow. The complete document may be more than I would normally assign for board workshops or retreats (though it may appear on a course reading list someday soon). I'll encourage you to download a copy, read it, and decide for yourself whether it is something your board will find helpful. In the meantime, I'll highlight elements that I found especially intriguing:
- Collective board-level competence elements (p. 15). Boards that tend to these six elements are pretty much guaranteed to be on a path to governance success.
- Board member core competencies (pp. 18-20). Yes! Whether or not all feel germane to every nonprofit setting, they represent the types of qualities that boards should define as essential criteria for every board member to have.
- Board member personal development plan (pp. 45-46). As with the competencies, the specifics for your board may vary, but the general premise of this plan - and the format - is worthy of review.
- A tool for personal competency-based board member selection (pp. 47-56). This process may feel like overkill for a smaller organization, but let me point out the parts that I find intriguing. How you implement them may vary, but the pieces of the puzzle are important. One, selection is tied to the personal competencies in the second bullet point: the board using this process is recruiting for the criteria it says is required of all members. Two, it includes check-off items illustrating what those qualities might look like in ways that are applicable to organizational needs. Three, it includes interview questions for each competency. This is no "any live body will do" process. It is thoughtful and tied to stated board competencies.
Committees: The key to generative governance -- The entire Great Boards article by Pamela Knecht is a worthwhile read, but the "foundational committee practices" described on page 1 are especially noteworthy. Committees structured and driven by these practices are committees that inform and support effective governance.
Board chairperson position description -- This sample job description offers a good, basic, fairly comprehensive foundation for describing the responsibility areas and core competencies/expectations for a board leader. I'm spotlighting it because (a) I know some organizations have no job description for this critical role and (b) despite its very basic format, this one really does capture all of the essentials (even those we may not know are essentials, like numbers nine and 11).