A Traditional Nonprofit Board vs. A Nonprofit Policy Focused Board: The Difference is Operational
By Eugene Fram
Scenario: The nonprofit agency, ABC, has been criticized for not having enough minority staff members. Because ABC, a large well-known organization, primarily serves urban residents in a major U.S. city, board members are concerned about the criticism.
THE TRADITIONAL BOARD
The Executive Committee meets in a regular session. Spread out before each member are half a dozen copies of article criticizing the organization for having too few minority staff members. The articles have appeared in the local newspaper and on blogs in the past week. Social networking media have carried the message further.
Emotions run high at the meeting. Many board members feel the organization has been treated too harshly, both in print and online. The hiring and training of minority staff members has been n agenda topic at least three different times in the last six months. (Actually the topic had first been raised eighteen months ago in the Personnel Committee, which had not fully considered the question because it has been tied up for months settling a grievance related to health benefits for several retirees.)
Two times in the past eight months, the Executive Committee had discussed the minority staff issue but had run out of time and tabled it for later consideration. During a third discussion initiated by a member at a full board meeting, the board had been unable to agree on a solution. Instead, since the Personnel Committee agenda was full, a special ad hoc committee was due to report back in another month.
Executive Committee members argue that the existence of that special committee should have been pointed out in the newspaper articles. They spend most of the reminder of the meeting discussing how to counteract the negative publicity the organization has been receiving and ask the executive director his views about the most effective way to use social media to the organization’s advantage. Several members maintain that if the organization has a board member with public relations experience, this situation would never have happened.
THE POLICY FOCUSED NONPROFIT BOARD – A DEFINITE DIFFERENCE
The Executive Committee did not read about the lack of minority staff in newspaper articles, on blogs, online posts, in text messages or in other palaces. The criticism was contained in a report presented at the last meeting by the board’s Assessment Committee, one of three standing board committees. The report pointed out that the CEO should have taken action that was more decisive in the staff area.
At today’s meeting, the Executive Committee members agree that the organization must take steps to hire and train minority staff. The president/CEO agrees that this issue needs to be a higher priority on his operational agenda. He says he will update the personnel plan developed two years ago. In addition he will work with the board chair to develop a contingency plan to address any criticism that may appear in the meantime.
Source: Eugene Fram with Vicki Brown (2011), “Policy vs. Paper Clips” Third Edition. Available on Amazon. Com.
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