Do non-profit board volunteers of a feather really flock together?


My mind has been stuck in a board development rut lately, and I can’t stop thinking about whether it is possible for a weak board to get itself out of the ditch. Author Jim Collins in his book “Good to Great” talks about the importance of getting the right people on the bus and in the right seats. Cross apply Collins best practice with that old expression “Birds of a feather, flock together” and that is where I get stuck.

So, the picture to the right of you screen represents a very traditional board development process for the average non-profit organization. I found this particular board development cycle in old materials from my last job, and is was apparently adapted from “The Board Building Cycle: Nine Steps to Finding, Recruiting, and Engaging Nonprofit Board Members”, Second Edition by Berit M. Lakey (BoardSource, 2007).

Have you ever sat in a non-profit board room, looked around the table, and saw a bunch of people with big hearts, small checkbooks, and very little influence?

How many times have you seen a group of people fitting that description try to transform their boardroom? I have seen it too often, and in each instance they toss out the names of the “Whose Who” in your community. Yet, at the end of the board development process, none of those names seem to be occupying seats around the table.

Every time I start to focus on this phenomenon, the expression “Birds of a feather, flock together” comes to mind.

Sure, sometimes I see “Average Joe” and “Average CEO” sitting around a boardroom table talking about governance, fundraising, mission, and all things non-profit. However, it is the exception and definitely not the rule.

This all leads me back to where I started this post. Is there a different process that non-profits should use to transform their board of directors into a group of highly influential people?

I’ve recently been speaking with an old friend who emphatically says “YES” to this question.

His process is external to the board. It involves recruiting one board recruitment champion who: 1) is not a board member and 2) has so much influence that it is virtually impossible to say “NO” when s/he comes knocking on your door. There is more to his process, but in the final analysis the boardroom is transformed with most of the old board members finding different seats on the bus and the new board volunteers being highly influential, effective and engaged.

Has anyone out there every seen a non-profit board transform itself? What did that process look like? How did it unfold? What role (if any) did the existing board play? Please use the comment box below to share your observations because we can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
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http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

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About DonorDreams

Erik got his start working in the non-profit field immediately upon graduation with his masters degree in 1994. His non-profit management and fundraising experience numbers nearly 20 years. His teachable point of view around resource development is influenced by the work of Penelope Burk and those professionals subscribing to a "donor centered" paradigm. Donors have dreams and it is our responsibility to be dream-makers because donors are not ATMs.

Posted on October 17, 2012, in Board development, leadership, nonprofit, volunteers and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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