As leaders, board members not only guide the organization but build its culture. They are responsible for developing the mission, exploring the need, and overseeing programs and services. Their duties also include identifying new board members and supervising the organization’s CEO.
Therefore who is on the board is extremely important. Unfortunately, board leadership can be a chicken and egg phenomena- who is on the board determines who is interested in the organization and who is on the board in the future.
Boards can be strategic and change the momentum of the body but the transition can be tough and often it leads to loss of some members. Board member transition is beneficial because it encourages the organization to engage new leaders and increases the organization’s network. But transition does not mean the organization says goodbye to a donor and friend.
Asking a board member to be responsible for new duties or step down is not easy. Begin by explaining why these new duties are important and how they will lead to stronger programs and additional opportunities for clients. Thank the board member for their service and identify outcomes they were partially responsible for. More importantly, ask them to take on new responsibilities that are connected to their passions and the organization’s new direction. For additional information on how to transition board members, see https://gaylenelsonesq.wordpress.com/2013/10/15/never-fire-a-board-member-again/
Once board members realize they need to build a new culture, the next step is to identify gaps in skills and knowledge. Building a new board culture is difficult for all organizations but it is more difficult for organizations with limitations on who can be on their board. Some organizations are tied to a neighborhood, community, or group of people. These type of organizations often require leaders be a part or member of the organization and are known as grassroots organization.
Grassroots organizations believe in empowerment since their members rise up to lead. Members are trained as leaders. Examples are unions and neighborhood groups.
Who can be a member of the organization or the board is often determined by the mission. Since members share common background, attributes, or characteristics, they typically are not as diverse as the organization needs. Sometimes they can look to staff to fill the voids. These organizations can also look to collaboration with other organizations to gain additional resources. Collaboration with others may lead to blending or expansion of the organization since there is no bright line between neighborhoods particularly when kids attend schools outside of the neighborhood.
Strong organizations are using new tools to raise resources and engage new leaders. We will begin to explore these new tools in the next post.