Board Stiff: 5 Ways To Reform Ineffective Boards

Non-profit Boards of Directors (Boards) have evolved from the premise that our communities should be effectively represented within the organizations that provide beneficial services to us. This stewardship should provide an integration of the organization’s vision and mission with the larger community good. Unfortunately, in my experience, most Boards are marginally effective in this stewardship, resulting in the “showing up for a good lunch or dinner” approach to an important responsibility. In fact, it is reasonable to argue that most Boards should reassess who they are and reconsider their membership, with the following possibilities in mind:

  • Each Board member should have a personal mission and passion consistent with the stated mission of the organization and should be able to articulate it. Passionless Board members are deadly and increase the risk of dysfunction and failure.
  • Each Board member should have a personal plan based on specific accomplishments that are tied to the success of the organization. “Hanging out” at BOD meetings in the name of community service is a disservice.
  • Boards should select for diversity with a wide range of criteria, including generational representation.
  • Boards should model transparency in their actions and encourage the same in their interactions with management. Without this management is discouraged about the prospects for more alignment with a Board that may be perceived to be on a separate course.
  • Boards need to have a strong leadership role in setting the foundation for the strategic positioning of the organization. There is an inevitable tension here, but the willingness to encounter it increases the positive impact of the service effort.

It is unfortunate that many Boards have increasingly become a legal anachronism. At a time when non-profit organizations are looking to increase customer value, each underutilized resource should be reconsidered. Today’s non-profit Boards are about as underutilized as they come.