Reflections, stories & ideas on non-profit leadership.

All topics under Board Dynamics

Easy Board Home Improvements

July 4, 2017

Living in an 100+ year old house means getting used to a life with a long and never completed home maintenance agenda. Something always needs repair or replacement. And, out there in the world there is no shortage of additional household improvement ideas I could add to my list.

Non-profit boards almost always need work too. It is much easier though to identify the symptom or the problem than it is how best to fix it. Recommended solutions tend to focus on “best practices”. Often these seem daunting.

I wondered if I could come up with some easy improvement tips for boards. Easy things are, in my view, changes that do not require any training, the hiring of a consultant, or the setting up a committee to study the idea. They are also things that one can see immediate or quick results from. 
read more

Ex officios unearthed – Part 2

April 21, 2017

In the first post in this series I explored the possible benefits of external ex officio directors. These are places on the board for representatives of outside organizations. It was a call to dust off this artifact of non-profit board structure and modernize it.

I turn my gaze here to ex officio positions that are part of internal decision making structures. This has to do with adding more responsibility, generally without any specifics, to the work of those who are in primary governance roles. Usually this involves designating the board chair (or president), and the executive director (or CEO), where there is one, as an ex officio member of one or more board committees.
read more

Difficult board conversations

April 5, 2017

Is there an issue with a board member, or even your executive director, that you have avoided addressing? Perhaps you have a board chair that is failing to exercise any control over meetings, or a board member that dominates every discussion. On one hand you are afraid to broach the issue because the relationship is important. On the other, if you do not try to resolve things, the relationship may be in peril. In the context of non-profit governance, the existence of unresolved conflict can often lead to board member resignations by those close to the conflict and even those on the sidelines.
read more

Ex officios unearthed – Part 1

March 12, 2017

Many non-profit boards include people who, by virtue of their job or past role, sit as ex officio directors or committee members. This can include government representatives, past chairs, or the executive director. Typically these positions are named in the bylaws or board committee or position descriptions. Ex officios are considered non voting directors although this meaning of the term is not the original one.

Are ex officio positions on boards an old idea we should let go of? Are there benefits of ex officio involvement on one’s board? Little has been written about the expectations of ex officios
read more

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?
read more

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.
read more

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.
read more

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 .
read more