Nonprofit dynamo Carole Berde was quoted in an article by NonProfit Director saying, “A good staff person and an effective board member ask questions that make others think about issues in a different way.” This is probably the most accurate and best description of a good board member (or staff member) that I’ve ever heard.
Elmira Bayrasli nailed it for Forbes in Building Successful NonProfit Boards when she said, “People need to think of nonprofit board seats as a deep responsibility and a job that requires due care and attention. To begin, the very cause of the organization is at stake as is its survival. That’s a higher ethical imperative than just ensuring the health of the organization’s bottom-line.”
One of my friends puts it more bluntly when speaking of her term as board chair, “If we screw up, someone will be sleeping under a bridge.” So, let’s take a look at habits of highly effective boards.
5 Habits of Highly Effective Boards
Courtesy of Sarah Daxton/Third Sector Today,
A team of researchers from The Bridgespan Group and the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation recently collaborated to pinpoint what drives the highest performance among nonprofit boards.
Bridgespan shares the results in Becoming a More Effective Board. Successful boards have a clear understanding of the organization’s mission and maintain oversight of financial, legal, and executive procedures. They also understand that internal operations are as important as outward goals: “How the board does its work—i.e., its people, culture, decision-making processes, and structures—is as important as what it does.”
In an interview with Nicki Roth and Gavin Fenn-Smith, founders of Saroga, an organization dedicated to developing nonprofit leaders and staff, Bridgespan advocates Asking the Right Questions About Leadership Effectiveness. The Saroga leadership model outlines the expected strengths of nonprofit leaders. Performance reviews and evaluations open a dialogue among board members and between the board and staff, creating opportunity for change and progress.
The Saroga model starts with Passion, “being able to touch the heart of an employee, touch the hearts of those you serve, is essential,” says Fenn-Smith. Impact, on the end, is about “creating a better future for those you serve.” In between are five essential strengths or habits of effective nonprofit boards.
5 Essential Strengths or Habits of Effective NonProfit Boards
- Detect — analytical skills, creative skills, conceptual skills, skills that help leaders be strategic.
- Weave — pulling the parts of the organization together, thinking about structure and management practices, and creating a productive work environment.
- Bridge — building relationships with funders, team members, local governments, and the communities they’re trying to serve.
- Grow — individual leaders being curious and open to learn, but also being critical while cultivating others.
- Flex – nonprofit leaders wear many hats during one day.
Add to Today’s Tasks: How does your board measure up?