Reflections, stories & ideas on non-profit leadership.

Motivating board members: it’s complicated

January 16, 2017

Executive directors and chairpersons are often at a loss to figure out how to motivate their boards to show more interest or take on new tasks. But what is it that motivates board members in the first place? Perhaps they are already motivated but efforts to get the board members to change miss the mark. Sure, ‘giving back to their community’ may well be the reason most people serve on a non-profit board but is it useful to know this? Might there be lots to understand about board member needs and aspirations as volunteers before we ask more of them?
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Representative boards: Good idea?

November 15, 2016

Some non-profit organizations are governed by “representative” boards of directors. This means that the composition of the board is determined by the formal connection of the directors to particular constituencies or stakeholder groups. According to Australian board consultants Lynn Ralph and Alan Cameron, representative boards are “superficially attractive” but the idea requires a much closer look.(1)

Often the main motivations for specifying the composition as representative is to insure that the board’s decisions reflect the will of the stakeholders. Also, such an organization is, in theory, directly accountable for its actions back to the stakeholders through the directors themselves. Fantastic, one might say. Ralph and Cameron suggest that the failings of this structure, in practice, often outweigh the strengths.

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Another wrinkle on family members on boards

July 26, 2016

The son of one of your nursing home clients, an elderly woman with dementia, is on your board. At board meetings he often raises issues around the care she is receiving such as how she is treated by staff, staff training, the cleanliness of the facilities, or the quality of the meals provided. The other family members around the table, which represent half your board, are usually quick to add their input based on their experience with their loved ones.  Having the executive director’s ear at a board meeting apparently can be too good an opportunity to pass up.
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Governing good is back

July 9, 2016

After a three year hiatus from GoverningGood, I am back with the intention of adding my voice once again to the blogosphere. I have a number of post in the works including ones on family members on boards, the importance of having a strong organizational culture, how to get your board onto a new recruitment train, successful difficult board conversations, and the value of ex-officios, guests and and advisors.

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Distinguishing Strategy

November 28, 2013

I was having coffee the other day with friend at the Humani-T Cafe on South Park Street in Halifax. In the course of a wide-ranging conversation about non-profits, she related a story about a organization she knew of whose board said they could not do strategic planning because they did not have the resources.
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Conduct becoming

September 24, 2013

A group of students at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, one of Canada’s premier small post-secondary institutions, started a music project in 2001 they called “Conduct Becoming” to raise money for cancer research. The students decided their project should recognize exemplary behaviour, not the opposite, with which they were so often labelled .
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Jigs, reels and non-profits

September 24, 2013

Here there is more to Scotland than a curiosity about “hairy coos” and ancient castles. Now some senior Nova Scotia government officials are all abuzz about importing social enterprise ideas from across the sea where they feel this idea has taken root more so than here.
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