trustee governance

Director Independence: a Nonprofit Board Issue?

Director Independence: a Nonprofit Board Issue?

By: Eugene Fram       Free Digital Photo

In the best of all nonprofit worlds, every director is an independent agent whose ability to make critical decisions on behalf of the organization is regularly uncompromised by outside pressures. This, unfortunately, is not always the case. Based on field observation I have concluded that questionable practices can plague nonprofit boards when social or political pressures are brought to bear on a director. In governance terms nonprofit decision-makers should be “outside directors,” not overtly or covertly susceptible to management or board colleague personal pressures.

Discerning recruitment committees can screen candidates to be certain they are not subject to influences that might impair their judgment as board members. Lack of independence could easily divide and perhaps polarize the board as has happened in our country’s Congress. A candidate who is “sponsored” by a major donor and maintains personal ties with the donor can create a “hornet’s nest” for the recruitment group. There are no easy solutions to these problems. (more…)


Do Today’s Business Leaders Make Effective Nonprofit Directors?

Do Today’s Business Leaders Make Effective Nonprofit Directors?

By: Eugene H. Fram

The names of the new board nominees have been announced. They include several outstanding recruits from the business community. Will these new formidable directors perform well in the nonprofit environment? William G. Bowen, a veteran director in both the for-profit and nonprofit environments, raised the following questions about such beginnings in a 1994 article:*
Is it true that well-regarded representatives of the business world are often surprisingly ineffective as members of nonprofit boards? Do they seem to have checked their analytical skills and their “toughness” at the door? If this is true in some considerable number of cases, what is the explanation? (more…)

What Nonprofit CEOs Think of Their Boards – Some Projections

What Nonprofit CEOs Think of Their Boards – Some Projections

By Eugene Fram

Governance articles frequently cover issues related to relationships between the CEO and board. A comprehensive report was recently published in a recent Harvard Business Review* citing what for-profit CEOs readily think of their boards. Following is a projection of how some of the article’s conclusions can apply to nonprofit CEO’s thinking, based on my decades of experience with nonprofit boards.

• “[T]he best leadership partnerships are forged where there is mutual respect (between CEO & board), energetic commitment to the future success of the enterprise and strong bonds of trust. … Great boards support entrepreneurial risk taking with prudent oversight, wise counsel and encouragement.”

These statements should be the gold standards for nonprofit CEO- board relationships. Unfortunately, not many nonprofits have the gold standard or even reach for it. Too many nonprofit boards, because of long traditions, see the CEO-board relationship as a “parent–child” one. This leads to mistrust, board focus on operations and missed strategic opportunities for growth. Many nonprofit boards are very careful with risk related decisions, but the gold standard does allow nonprofit boards to assume reasonable risks. (more…)

What To Do About Weak Nonprofit Board Practices – Reissue

What To Do About Weak Nonprofit Board Practices

By Eugene Fram

Peter Rinn, Breakthrough Solutions Group, recently published a list of weak nonprofit board practice. * Following are some of the items listed and my estimation of what can be done about them, based on my experiences as a nonprofit board director, board chair and consultant. (more…)

Is Your Nonprofit Strategically Deprived?

Is Your Nonprofit Strategically Deprived?

By: Eugene Fram

A vital concern to the future of any nonprofit organization is frequently neglected. Responsibility for the lack of strategic planning must reside with the chief executive, board members and the tactical challenges that inevitably flow to the board.

Before a nonprofit board can begin successful strategic planning, it must: (more…)

Lifestyle & Behavioral Information – Critical in Seeking Nonprofit Directors

Lifestyle & Behavioral Information – Critical in Seeking Nonprofit Directors

By: Eugene Fram

Over the last two years, I have conducted several nonprofit board recruitment projects. The boards with which I worked had rather similar challenges. (more…)

Bridging Effectiveness Gaps in Nonprofit Organizations

Bridging Effectiveness Gaps in Nonprofit Organizations*

By: Eugene Fram

Like for-profit boards, nonprofit, “Effective board oversight demands information that is as current and relevant as possible. There are, however, natural gaps between what management communicates and what the board needs to know. “ The purpose of this blog is to highlight major gap areas, cited in the NACD report listed below, and to show their relations to nonprofit governance. (more…)