Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Engaging Your Board For Effective Management And Oversight

Much of the subject matter of my previous posts has been about Board recruitment, development and responsibilities.  Here is where I tell you flat out and in no uncertain terms, where a board can overstep its power and in the most well meaning way – impede the organization from meeting its mission.

First, I need to talk about leadership.  The Board is the governing body of an organization.  They establish the mission and guidelines.  They recruit, hire and train the executive director.   And then, (here’s the hard part folks) they TRUST the executive director to handle and lead the daily operations of the organization.  A board cannot be an effective board if they get involved in every personnel issue,   marketing and communication pieces, or even each program that is developed.  Ever hear the expression, “too many cooks in the kitchen”?

Think of the board as the heart of the organization.  The board sets the tone and rhythm for the executive director to execute its directives.  They help with many tasks – including fund development, program development, finance, etc.  The board should focus on the big picture and the board members should focus where their personal talents and skills can most benefit the organization.  At any given time, a board member can be called on to assist in the writing of a marketing piece, help with a grant proposal or even offer advice on daily management.  Now, here’s the but – BUT, an effective board with an effective executive director knows that it is not a good use of time or resources if the ED is not empowered to make decisions and act on those decisions when necessary.

At times there can be a temptation for the president or executive director to rely too heavily on the board as a whole to review printed materials, critique solicitation letters and approve stewardship correspondence. There is a natural inclination to do so, especially when the organization is new and the board  is in its formative stages. Yet it is incredibly inefficient in trying to simply get things done. I know of one president who had her entire board review, edit and otherwise re-write each of three solicitation letters. To say this "gummed up the works" is an understatement. In addition, the Rule of Thirds came into play: one third read and commented on the letter, one third reviewed it and had no comments whatsoever and the remaining third never remembered seeing it. Needless to say, it wasn't the most effective use of anyone's time.