Your Board Leadership Needs to Be Able to Make Big Changes
This is a big challenge for nonprofits. How do you coach your board members — and especially your board chair — on their roles?
This can get tricky because while we want close board relationships, there always will — or should be — a little dynamic tension. Why? Because the board — and especially the board chair — supervises a nonprofit's CEO.
We have seen both spectrums of board engagement. On one end, a board can be too engaged in daily operations and micromanaging the CEO and staff. On the other end is a board that gets too comfortable with its role and doesn't have proper checks and balances. The members don't ask questions; they don't know what is really happening.
One of an organization's top donors shared with me recently that he is resigning from the board. No more gifts. The reason — a CEO who has languished for more than a decade. This donor shared that during this time, the CEO has spent around $1 million on "coaching" from one of his best friends. Morale is terrible; the organization is dysfunctional. The No. 2 attends meetings around the country sharing how inept the CEO is. But there's no change. He has worn out board chair after board chair because no one is willing to make the hard call, even after a major ethical blowout.
A few years back we provided a development plan for a similar organization. We found that former board leaders ran from the organization because they saw ethical and performance issues, and enough of the board was blinded by the CEO.
The CEO is an organization's chief fundraiser. Good donors —and even board members — flee when they see problems that the board is sometimes blind to or doesn't want to deal with.
Whether you are staff or volunteer, be sure that your board has systems and practices to enable its members to be the stewards of your organization. They hold a public trust, and at the end of the day this starts and stops with their oversight of the CEO.
Looking for Jeff? You'll find him either on the lake, laughing with good friends, or helping nonprofits develop to their full potential.
Jeff believes that successful fundraising is built on a bedrock of relevant, consistent messaging; sound practices; the nurturing of relationships; and impeccable stewardship. And that organizations that adhere to those standards serve as beacons to others that aspire to them. The Bedrocks & Beacons blog will provide strategic information to help nonprofits be both.
Jeff has more than 25 years of nonprofit leadership experience and is a member of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.