Who’s On Your Board?

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The question always comes up: “Who’s on your board and why did they join?” Some of the worst answers are often the most common: “They’re a few friends of the founder. . . the executive director just went out and appointed some people. . . they joined years ago, nobody knows what motivated them.” Nonprofit boards are too important to be left to this kind of random “personal roundup.”

 

Experience has taught that a fully-functional, well-built board includes members from four broad categories. Because each organization has its own special circumstances these categories are presented as a general guide, not a rigid template. With that in mind, here are four quadrants of a valuable nonprofit board.

 

  1. Clients or people who can contribute clients’ perspectives are critically important on a board. The work is all about clients, after all, so how programs are designed and carried out needs client input for best results. Without a client perspective, we make too many assumptions and miss too many opportunities.
  2. Professional peers, people with training and experience comparable to the senior staff, make valuable board members. “A board helps map out the mission and overall program of the nonprofit,” said Thomas Boyd, chief editorial consultant to The Grantsmanship Center, “and it should have members who know what it takes to do the work.”
  3. Members who bring management sector expertise will help oversee the budget and make sure that the organization is in compliance with myriad rules. These might include a CPA, an attorney, a systems or human resources professional—someone who knows how organizations properly handle process.
  4. Finally, a board must have members who have (or have access to) financial resources. This doesn’t mean all boards have to have a rich person or two or that only big gifts from rich people are welcome. It does mean that nonprofit boards need some members who are able to “give or get.” The scope and scale of this expectation are obviously different from nonprofit to nonprofit but the board’s place in fundraising and development is a constant.

 

Use these broad categories to take a closer look at your board. See if there are gaping holes. Consider filling those holes when vacancies come up. Your board is likely to get better and stronger as a result.

 

 

Thomas Boyd is Chief Editorial Consultant for The Grantsmanship Center

and an independent consultant to nonprofit organizations.

 

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