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 has 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.
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 liability issues might suddenly occur, if either the chair or ED retired or resigned.
The Nonprofit Quarterly Newswire (July 8th) reprinted a 2007 study showing “ The Best and Worst of Board Chairs.” Based on personal interview and online surveys, conducted by Yvonne Harrison & Vic Murphy, the study showed five major clusters for effective nonprofit chairs and one cluster for ineffective behavior. Effective chairs had; 1. Relationship Competencies; 2. Commitment & Action Competencies, 3. Analytical Skill Competencies; 4. “Willingness to Create” Competencies; 5. Ability to Influence Competencies. Ineffective Chairs had: Dominating Behavior.
I thought it would be helpful to show this leadership characteristic information along with the action attributes from previous blog. The action attributes Were developed from my field insights into the action attributes of effective chairs.
The Best Attributes of an Effective Nonprofit Board Chair
By: Eugene Fram
A nonprofit CEO’s professional attributes are the topic of dozens, perhaps even thousands, of articles. However this is not the case with Board Chairs.
Following are my views of the professional attributes a nonprofit Board Chair needs to have to operate effectively.
Has significant mission centered interest in the organization. Although the chair’s professional efforts may be far afield from the nonprofit’s objectives, he or she must be able to perceive substantial value in the outcomes of the staff and board efforts. < (more…)
The Nonprofit Board As a Stereotype For Its Organization
By: Eugene Fram
How stakeholders and potential donors view a nonprofit board can easily be used to stereotype the entire nonprofit, even if it is offering good service! Following are some major differences between what might be called a “modern” board, one that has grown and has exited its start-up stage and a “conservative” board, one that has grown, but the board still operates as if it were a start-up stage. (more…)
Executing A Nonprofit Organization’s Planning Function With Radar & Traffic Cops
By Eugene Fram
A nonprofit board has the primary responsibility for ensuring that proposed programs and services that the organization can offer are in the best interest of the clients it serves and the community or membership it represents.
Specifically the board’s board planning and resource committee provides the “radar” for the nonprofit board and also acts as its “traffic Cop.” <–more–> It provides the radar by evaluating whether the organization is being correctly positioned to meet the current and future needs of clients. As a traffic cop, it helps make certain that new board projects align with the mission, are completed in a timely manner and that wise use is made of volunteers’ efforts and time.
The committee has an obligation to seek the best sources of information for policy changes and to review and filter proposed changes that come before it, as suggested by the staff, board, volunteers and community members.
The entire nonprofit board is responsible for monitoring the implementation of adopted changes, which should be those that best fit the organization’s mission, vision, values and resources.
Source: Policy vs. Paper Clips, Third Edition (2011), p. 102.
How to know when a nonprofit board has achieved a positive culture?
Nonprofit board culture is really about having chemistry that works. Is there transparency and openness? It is an intangible, but it is critical. Is there a spirit of inquiry? That means, for example, that one director can disagree with another director or with the CEO without being hostile or being viewed as hostile for having an opposing opinion. (more…)
I thought some followers might be interested in the Leader’s Guide for my Book Policy vs. Paper Clips Third Edition (2011). The book is available in paperback and kindle formats on Amazon.com
Leader’s Guide for Policy Vs Paper Clips–Third Edition
by Dr. Eugene H. Fram, Professor Emeritus
E. Philip Saunders College of Business Rochester Institute of Technology 1 West Edith Ave (A103) Los Altos, California 94022 firstname.lastname@example.org | 650-209-5724)
While Dr. Fram is certainly an advocate for the Corporate Governance model, you don’t have to be a believer to find a number of gems applicable to all nonprofit governance issues contained now in his just-released third edition of Policy vs. Paper Clips.
President of BWB Solutions, “Nonprofit Board Crisis,” April 5, 2011
Copyright 2011 by Eugene Fram
Using This Guide
The third edition of Policy vs. Paper Clips can be effectively used as a discussion vehicle for one-day executive seminars on NONPROFIT GOVERNANCE targeted to chief executives and board directors.
The book’s strength is based on recognizable problems and opportunities covered within a compelling storyline. (more…)
What’s required to develop a positive nonprofit board culture?
In order to maintain trust between the board chair and the CEO, the board chair must be certain that the evaluation of the organization and the personal evaluation of the CEO are inclusive, i.e., cover a balance of the most relevant outcomes.
The interpersonal chemistry between the board chair and the CEO must be a positive one. If the interpersonal chemistry is poor, civil discourse at meetings is hard to maintain.
The CEO needs to be flexible. He or she needs to accommodate to a new boss every year or two and can’t become complacent. The CEO needs to be alert to the fact the board, often initialed by a new chair, may want to move in a new direction.
Directors & CEO Alert: Never underestimate the power of the established board culture as a barrier when attempting to make changes. However in some instances culture can be an asset in change management.
Source: “Policy vs. Paper Clips” Third Edition, 2011, pp. 156-157.