Changing Nonprofit Board Structures: The Place of Process Directors
By: Eugene Fram
When changing, or even just modifying, a nonprofit’s board structure, the typical nonprofit board will be divided into several groups on the issue: 1) directors who want change, 2) directors opposed to change, some strongly opposed and 3) what I call process directors.
Process directors like to sit back and examine issues. They always ask, “Have we consulted everybody? Or say, “Let’s make sure we have considered everything. Often they are directors who call for postponement of the vote, even after a lengthy discussion.
Process directors are well-intentioned, sincere individuals. However, the board has to be careful that these directors don’t continue to look at one angle after another until they lose sight of the committee’s main job. They can keep action in limbo indefinitely!
In my experience, boards often lose some of their best volunteers, who get frustrated and quietly resign. Their usual reason for resigning is the “the pressure of job obligations.” To me, that’s a covert message the board is getting mired in minutiae, usually initiated by process directors. One friend recently resigned from a board using the “job obligations” excuse. The real reason was that the executive director, a process oriented person, used board-meeting time inappropriately, including asking the full board to review detailed public relations Power Point presentations.
The first and third groups (directors who want change and process directors) will be very willing to appoint a committee to review the board’s operational structure, but it up to the board chair to satisfy process directors who create obstacles. Process directors, in fact, like to look at options.
Source: Policy vs. Paper Clips, Third Edition, (2011) pp.26-27. Available on Amazon.com in paperback & Kindle formats.
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This was a sad incident for the organization. The director was a contributing, thoughtful person who went on to become a director in other nonprofits.
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