By: Eugene Fram Free Digital Image
The wise person learns from his/h own experiences. The wiser person learns from the experiences of others
The CEO Forum published an article covering the governance views of five business board members, known for their wisdom and vision. Following are some of topics in the article that relate to nonprofit boards. *
Good governance is dependent upon well-curated boards. This means that nonprofit boards must look beyond the functional competencies (e.g. accounting, marketing, law, etc.) for candidates. Within these groupings, they need to seek candidates who have strategic outlooks, are comfortable with critical thinking and have documented leadership skills. This requires recruiting and vetting efforts that go well beyond the friends, neighbors and colleagues who traditionally have been the sources for board positions. Also related is the issue of board succession, since that many will leave the board after a four to six year period. The current board(s) has an obligation to make rigorous recruiting and vetting become part of the nonprofit’s culture.
Assessing long-term sustainability. In the past, nonprofits have projected longevity because there will always be a need for the services or products they provide. This is no longer an assured proposition. Nonprofit day care centers now must compete with those that are for-profit. Improvements in medication have decreased the need for individual counseling and many new technologies can quickly solve problems that are embedded in the nonprofit’s mission.
Review governance best practices carefully! Know who is suggesting them and make certain they are appropriate for a specific organization. For example, some experts suggest that executive committees should be eliminated. However an executive committee that is responsible for a slim board committee structure can be effective in driving change and promoting better communications throughout the organization. **
Changing public accounting firms. Nonprofit accounting practice suggests changing public accounting firms about every five years. However one expert suggests, “It is important to ensure that judgment areas such as nonGAAP disclosures are well-defined, supporting calculations are well-documented and that the definitions and calculations are consistent across reporting periods.” At times of accounting firm change, nonprofit board members need to be able to add these issues to their question that they pose to management.
Ethics & Compliance. Like business organizations, nonprofits are subject to significant lapses in ethics and compliance. One study of 58 cases found the total fraud loss to be nearly $30 million. The total fraud loss for all U. S. nonprofits was estimated to be about $40 billion annually. *** As shown in the recent Wells Fargo debacle, establishing the tone for rigorous applications of a standard needs to start with the board and flow through all management levels. In the current environment, audit committees have to be especially alert and take immediate actions when red flags arise in either the ethics and/or compliance areas. In my opinion, a nonprofit audit committee that meets only once or twice a year is not doing the necessary job.
Strategy. The nonprofit board has an obligation to help management see “around the next corner.” This involves board members assessing coming trends and sparking civil and meaningful board and committee discussions.
Board member comfort zones. Like their business counterparts, few nonprofit board members are “comfortable testing how to rock the norms.” It is easier to acculturate new directors to the current norms, a process that is inward bound and self-defeating. But a start can be initiated with questions such as, “If we were to start a new nonprofit across the street, what would it look like and who of the present board and a staff members would we ask to join us?
**For documentation see: https://www.amazon.com/POLICY-vs-PAPER-CLIPS-Corporate/dp/1456374052