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board dysfunction

5 Questions to Get Your Board Moving

microphoneI love questions. I think sometimes asking people a probing question can be a great way to get them engaged, excited, inspired–awake. I’ve written before about the 5 hard questions every nonprofit should ask, but today I want to focus on specific questions to ask your board.

What the vast majority of nonprofits have in common is a struggle to get their board working effectively for them. But instead of giving into frustration and berating or guilting your board, try asking individual board members a few questions the next time you meet. And if you don’t regularly (at least once a year) meet one-on-one with each board member, you should start that practice this year.

Here are a few questions to try:

  1. Why Do You Serve?
    This is such a critical question for your board member to answer. Often we don’t ask board members to articulate why they volunteer their time and invest in a nonprofit. Forming this answer can help your board member re-commit to her service. And if she has a particularly compelling answer, you might ask her if you could videotape or write it up to use on your website, in prospect materials, etc.

  2. What Do You Bring to Our Nonprofit?
    Board members shouldn’t just take up space on a board. They should be recruited because they have specific skills, experience, or networks that directly contribute to the strategic goals of the organization. If you and your board member don’t know what assets he brings, it’s about time to start figuring it out. This question can also launch a conversation about how your organization can more effectively tap into those assets.

  3. What Are Your Individual Goals for This Year?
    Each individual board member must take responsibility for her board service. How does she want to contribute to the effectiveness and sustainability of the organization? Can we create specific goals for how that will come to fruition in the coming year? Create an environment where each individual board member is expected to take an active and conscious role in her board service.

  4. What Results Is Our Nonprofit Achieving?
    As I’ve written before, the nonprofit sector is changing, and it’s no longer enough just to do good work. Nonprofits must begin to articulate how they create change to a social problem. So it’s up to you to start educating your board to think in this new way too. Begin a conversation about what your board member thinks your nonprofit is achieving, what change you are creating. This can be a real opportunity to get your board member excited about where the organization is going, and the value it is providing to the community. With that excitement he can become driven to do more to make that vision a reality.

  5. How Do You Want to Contribute Financially?
    Oh, believe me, I know how much this question strikes fear in the heart of board members and executive directors alike. But I strongly believe that every single board member must contribute to the financial bottom line of their nonprofit. The good news is that there are countless ways for them to do that (see my long list of ideas here and here). Even your most fundraising shy board members should be required to bring money in the door in some way, every year. So start a conversation about this individual board member’s plans, and help her brainstorm ways, based on her answers to #2 above, that she can contribute.

I would love to see nonprofit boards and staffs have more open, honest and engaging conversations. Move past comfortable, polite interactions and start asking hard questions to unlock the power of your board members.

Photo Credit: judyboo


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10 Traits of a Groundbreaking Nonprofit Board

Again and again, I’ve heard people say that innovation will never become part of the nonprofit sector — that nonprofits are too set in their ways. Or that the sector is too broken to emerge anew. And a particular area of dysfunction that people point to is the volunteer group that leads the nonprofit sector: the board of directors. But that attitude is unacceptable. There is great danger in dismissing the nonprofit board. The new Social Velocity e-book released today, “10 Traits of a Groundbreaking Board” sets that attitude on its head.

Sure, boards tend to be inefficient, dysfunctional and broken. Yet there is tremendous potential for innovation. Indeed, without innovation at the board level, the broader movement to solve social problems is doomed.

A groundbreaking board can lead the reinvention of the nonprofit sector. A groundbreaking board demands more from itself, its nonprofit and the sector as a whole. It leads the nonprofit it serves to greater financial sustainability, more effective use of resources, and ultimately more social change. Through its excellence, a groundbreaking board can transform the nonprofit they serve, the community the nonprofit impacts, and ultimately the sector itself.

This 28-page e-book examines the 10 traits that define a groundbreaking board. Each of the 10 chapters of this book describe in detail how a groundbreaking board operates:

  1. Defines Itself: The board as a whole decides what it should do and how.

  2. Assembles the Right People: A groundbreaking board doesn’t leave recruitment up to chance or circumstance.

  3. Drives Strategy: A groundbreaking board leaves the day-to-day operations of their nonprofit to the staff and instead grapples with the big picture, strategic, visionary questions of the organization.

  4. Ensures Mission, Money & Competence Alignment: A groundbreaking board ensures that the nonprofit they serve is positioned for greatest success.

  5. Craves Impact: A groundbreaking board shows up because they care deeply about the change their nonprofit is making in the world.

  6. Raises Money: A groundbreaking board understands that every single board member must be responsible for helping to bring money in the door.

  7. Wields the Money Sword: The groundbreaking board continually analyzes the financial model of the organization and monitors the ability of that model to deliver on mission.

  8. Pursues Excellence: The groundbreaking board never rests on its laurels, but constantly strives to improve itself and the nonprofit it serves.

  9. Builds the Organization: A groundbreaking board never stands in the way of organization building, in fact they are their nonprofit’s biggest advocates for that critical support.

  10. Asks Hard Questions: A groundbreaking board understands the harsh realities of the nonprofit sector and is honest and transparent about the state of their nonprofit.

It doesn’t have to be so hard. The nonprofit board can be reinvented and in so doing become a powerhouse for social change.

Download the e-book.

Photo Credit: haydnseek

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