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Transforming Nonprofit Boards for Effective Governance and a Better World

The challenge facing a number of nonprofit organizations is that the boards are not suitably organized, structured, or prepared for their authority to guide, shape, and govern the organization.  And some boards are lacking board members or leaders with the necessary experience or diversity of backgrounds to address the important global, national, and community challenges they face.

The challenge facing a number of nonprofit organizations is that the boards are not suitably organized, structured, or prepared for their authority to guide, shape, and govern the organization.  And some boards are lacking board members or leaders with the necessary experience or diversity of backgrounds to address the important global, national, and community challenges they face.  Then, too often, when well-qualified business people do join nonprofit boards – if the board is not well organized or led, then the new members find themselves stymied in their attempts to add value.

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Furthermore, many very talented nonprofit CEOs are frustrated by boards that are unprepared to be effective partners in advancing the mission and work of the nonprofit.

 

In order for a board to be fully effective, it needs to work in partnership with an expert CEO to do the following:  

  • understand its role as a board
  • envision the organization’s greater potential in addressing a compelling need (fulfilling the nonprofit’s mission in education, healthcare, the environment, etc.) by creating and achieving a robust revenue model
  • establish the board’s agenda and work for the board to add value, working in partnership with the CEO to accomplish success
  • establish an efficient board structure (size of board, number of meetings, board agendas, committee structure, etc) to allow the board to work effectively and efficiently; (by the way, board structures need to be customized by board)
  • determine the optimal board composition – exactly what expertise, experience, and diverse perspectives and backgrounds, networks and relationships will be most useful for the board in achieving success for the organization
  • create a plan to build the board with the right people, and prepare them for their roles
  • identify and transition to the right board leaders and establish a framework for ongoing leadership development and leadership succession planning
  • establish ongoing board education systems re: governance and the substantive work of the organization

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What I learned over 15 years ago, when I first began training and placing hundreds of business executives to serve on nonprofit boards of directors, is that some of the boards I placed them on wanted professional consulting to help revamp boards from where they were to where they wanted to be in terms of board effectiveness. 

 

That’s when I began creating and facilitating new change processes to transform boards into high-functioning bodies.  There is a hitch….good results always require that the board and CEO be earnestly willing to change the way they function as a board (sometimes, resistance from the old guard or entrenched powers can be quite firm and stymie those who seek progress). 

 

The good news is that there are many new drivers for boards and CEOs of nonprofits to shift to more effective governance, not the least of which are challenging new financial forces, demands for greater transparency, and greater acceptance of innovation, diversity of backgrounds and perspectives, and younger generations.  As we see in all sectors, the business models of the past are no longer working.  It is time for new ways of doing business, and the public is also beginning to see that boards are a major factor in leading the way.

 

About the author

Korngold provides strategy consulting to global corporations on sustainability, facilitating corporate-nonprofit partnerships, and training and placing hundreds of business executives on NGO/nonprofit boards for 20+ years. She provides strategy and board governance consulting to NGO/nonprofit boards, foundations, and educational and healthcare institutions.

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