Why Are Dysfuctional Nonprofit Boards Interesting? Revised/Updated

Why Are Dysfunctional Nonprofit Boards Interesting?

By: Eugene H. Fram

My blog (http://bit.ly/yfRZpz) has been drawing an unusual number of views related to dysfunctional nonprofit boards.  Is it because:

  • Nonprofit evaluations have become a prime media interest?
  • Dodd-Frank passage has alerted a greater number of nonprofits to really review their charters?  
  • More boards have found board problems arising as a result of reviewing the expanded 990-form section on governance?
  • More audit committees are being given expanded responsibilities?  

Can a nonprofit organization focus on its mission vision and values if it has a dysfunctional nonprofit board?  I have seen this accomplished in situations where the CEO is managerially oriented and can live with the board’s problems or foibles.  For example, one nonprofit I encountered had an eleven person board, four of which never attended meetings and several others were sometimes absent for personal reasons.  Meeting minutes clearly showed a focus on operational detail. However a strong CEO was able to focus well, and the organization prospered. On the other hand,the CEO openly complained that she was overworked, needed board assistance and could become a “dictator” for the nonprofit!!

In another situation I encountered, the board chair and ED were very strong, but the board governmentally weak. Work and family pressures constrained the time directors could devote to their governance responsibilities. While the organization performed reasonably well, performance problems and board liability issues might arise, if either the chair or ED retired or resigned.

If you have any other insights as to why I am getting so many views related to dysfunctional nonprofits, I and other viewers would be delighted to have your comments.





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