Arab-American writer, Khalil Gibran (1883-1931) wrote “If it were not for guests all houses would be graves”. The sentiment may seem be a bit extreme, but speaks to the idea of isolation from the world. I wonder if there is a message here for non-profit board “houses”?
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.
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.
Have you ever been uncertain about whether an item to be decided by your board requires a formal motion? Perhaps your board flirts with some version of “Robert’s Rules” even though no one really knows them? Maybe your board follows past practices with respect to making motions with no idea of where the procedures came from, or what could be improved. If any of this is true, you are in good company.
You might be surprised to know that here is no universally accepted or prescribed set of procedures that non-profit boards must follow in their deliberations and decisions.