Sitting on committees and charity boards is something many of us do out of office hours. Recently we were asked to comment on the dynamics of boards of not for profit organisations.
So here are a few thoughts :
- It’s essential to have a clear and shared goal and part time boards often miss this. The chairperson must be clear on what the board’s role is in relation to the rest of the organisation and he/she must continually remind them of what the ‘main thing’ is. I’d expect to hear words like growth, survival, excellence, professionalism or accountability.
- Each team/board member should understand and be confident in their role, their unique contribution. If this is well understood the right people should contribute at the right time to debates, with insight and authority. Unhappy boards often suffer from one or two loud voices that dominate without contributing real wisdom.
- I believe an effective board should embrace a healthy degree of conflict behind closed doors whilst being able to govern as a tight unit. One of the best quotes I’ve heard on this is from a board chairperson who said “We debate with many voices but govern with one”
- One also shouldn’t underestimate the role of administration and its impact on happiness. Informed, succinct reports and minutes delivered in good time make the life of a board member considerably easier and importantly enable them to do their job well. Similarly well structured meeting agendas that keep discussions to time and on subject are essential.
- For part time boards of non-profits I believe it is also really important for the board members to get close to the cause, serve the staff and beneficiaries from time to time and be reminded of the passion and need that they are tasked with governing. All too often, there’s a wealth of wisdom locked into a boardroom that never gets its hands dirty and therefore fails to grasp the purpose and motivation of the organisation.