As Dennis Miller used to say (before he went off the rails), “I don’t want to go off on a rant here…” but we have a big problem with nonprofit boards. Nonprofit board members are falling short in their skills, knowledge, and experience, and are ill-equipped to meet the needs of the organizations they serve, according to a study conducted by the Stanford Graduate School of Business, in collaboration with BoardSource and GuideStar.
The 2015 Survey on Board of Directors of Nonprofit Organizations, which surveyed almost 1000 directors, found that 27% of respondents don’t think their board members have a good understanding of the organization’s mission and strategy; 65% don’t think their fellow board members are experienced enough in governance, and almost half (47%) do not fully understand the role and responsibilities of a director.
In addition to their personal financial commitment, a board members’ main contribution is to provide governance and leadership in key areas: establishing and maintaining financial integrity; developing specific and measurable performance objectives for the organization and its leadership; evaluating the CEO; creating board leadership succession plans; and planning for strategic growth of the organization.
People join boards because they want to have an impact in their community and contribute their energy to an organization’s mission. It’s concerning when they do so without a clear understanding of what that commitment entails. It is important that the organization recruit committed and (ideally) experienced board members, but it is equally important that those board members be educated about what it means to be productive and how to fulfill their obligations as a board member. Organizations can contribute to this process by establishing clear strategies and goals, and by developing performance and evaluation metrics.
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