Lifestyle & Behavioral Information – Some New Ways To Seek High Performance Nonprofit Board Members

Lifestyle & Behavioral Information – Some New Ways To Seek High Performance Nonprofit Board Members

By: Eugene Fram            Free  Digital Image

Over several years, I have conducted nonprofit board recruitment projects. Two boards with which I worked had rather similar challenges.
• They had concerns recruiting sufficient numbers of board members to fill their needs.
• Current board members, largely composed of younger people, in the 30-40-age range, had significant problems balancing work and family obligations and attending board and committee meetings.
• Attendance was sporadic. Although the boards were small, board members really did not know each other, and, in another situation, a board member sent a  work subordinate to attend board meetings. A well-regarded board member never attended meetings and only occasionally met with the ED to offer advice. One experienced board member admitted she did not know others involved. In both instances EDs and board chairs had significant power. One of the EDs complained she was doing the work of operating the organization and operating the board, and she had too much potential liability.
• Although these organizations, with budgets in the $8-$10 million range were operating successfully, the EDs involved realized that they were in line for long-term problems if board recruiting didn’t change.

What to Do
• Consider establishing two boards, a board for governance and a consulting board. For the governance board, make certain the typical directors in the 30-40 year age range have a good understanding of their work-family obligation to be able to devote time for the organization.
• For the consulting board, ask volunteers to work on projects that have a defined time limit. They will not be asked to be involved in more than one or two projects per year, an ideal inducement for millennials who are used to short bursts of activities. It may be necessary to recruit several persons with the same skills to provide coverage for several projects.
• Keep communications flowing to the consulting board like one would to the governing board. Have social and educational events that allow the groups to meet informally. If the organization has a volunteer manager, this person should be charged to keep the communications flowing. Members of the consulting board will only have occasional contact with the organization.
• Overlay the traditional nonprofit skills grid with several time dimensions to recruit:
1. Recently retired people, both those traditionally retired and those who retried early, who may have time to be candidates for both the governing and consulting boards.
2. Seek individual contributors who may have more control of their time, such as doctors, lawyers, professors and small business owners.
3. Seek successful entrepreneurs who can schedule their own time, can resonate with the organization’s mission, vision and values and who want to give back to the community.
• Beyond the time requirement, seek persons with experience on for-profitt or nonprofit boards so they can share their board knowledge and become models for those having their first board experience. Their questions and behaviors can teach as much or more than formal seminars.

Summary
The traditional nonprofit board skills grid can still be helpful in the 21st century. However it needs to incorporated lifestyle and behavioral information for each board candidate. These are important candidate attributes that must be thoroughly vetted.

 

 

2 comments

  1. As always, Dr. Fram is appropriately tuned-in to the current challenges nonprofit boards are facing. I would like to quibble slightly with his suggestion about constructing a parallel guidance structure which he offers as a Consulting “board”.

    I believe it’s important to maintain only one governance entity with the title “board”. More than one confuses all about who actually has fiduciary responsibility while at the same time acknowledging that governance is a responsibility and board is a structure.

    A review of work done by David Renz from Univ of Kansas City Missouri can help with this thinking as can some recent additional consideration by Fredrik Andersson and David Renz on what he is labeling the Dominent Coalition. This “coalition” identifies who really is the board and leaves the option for ensuring that the “board” steps in or up as THE board.

    Like

    1. Mike: Thanks for adding to the discussion. Your point is well taken. It was only a compromise for one of the boards. Board members were willing to work on defined time-limited projects but simply not able to devote any time to the governance function. The long-serving board chair was dominating the governance function.

      Gene

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.