What Boards Need – Stuff I'm Thinking About…

CorkWhat if boards don’t need training?
What if board members already know what they need to know,
and just need to be reminded of that?

What if “what boards need”
is help with uncorking and putting to use
the wisdom they already have
just from living life?

What if “what boards need”
is encouragement to trust the life experience
that is the reason they were recruited
in the first place?

What if “what boards need”
to complete their legal oversight role
is just a checklist –
not training, just a to do list?

And what if what boards DON’T know –
how to do the actual work of the organization,
how to fundraise…
what if that is the job of the staff?

What if it is really that simple?

Photo info: Tequila! January 2011

7 thoughts on “What Boards Need – Stuff I'm Thinking About…”

  1. As a board member for a small charity, that would be kinda exciting – but i am not sure people can set direction without some experiential knowledge of how the service is delivered and funded. Because choosing where to go also means choosing where to leave or where to not go.

  2. I will be honest. I think it’s not that simple. I think it is that simple in terms of board’s using their wisdom and becoming a learning co-hort. I did a retreat with a group of 5 board members yesterday and they had all the wisdom they needed. What they did not have was any knowledge of what fundraising is. There was this sense that it’s about asking the rich guy — oh maybe Bill Gates — for money. And if it were possible for the staff to just do it — the fundraising that is — then we would need more people on staff to just do it. Fundraising is not “a job” — it’s the act of engaging with the world on behalf of the people you are serving. That seems like a natural for the board and something that the little fundraising staff is not going to be able to do without the credibility and the social capital of the unpaid volunteer out there as their partner.

  3. Hi Hildy,
    Two thoughts (as a former Executive Director of a NPO myself):
    1. Asking these questions of the board is a great one – to get them thinking about “owning” the organizational director a bit more
    2. I think this is a great line of questioning to do as an excercise. Do you do this in your board trainings? I think asking board members, as an initial retreat or board meeting exercise “what do think you need?” is such a good question. I’m betting that statements such as “what is my role” “how do I fulfill legal responsibilities” will come up. If the staff roles are clearly delineated then the questioning brainstorming can arise and I wonder…will that release inner wisdom and teachable moments from fellow board members?

    Lastly, I think there is the issue of the board member (and there is always one!)who isn’t fully committed. Asking “what will it take to make a full commitment” is a great question, too!


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