Strengthening Our Nonprofit Community

Your Board Really Can Be Great!

April 11th, 2019

Your Board Really Can Be Great!

by Susan Ross, Partner

I was asked for my perspective on the probing question “Is Your Board Any Good?” in a recently released short video from local agency Angel Oak Creative.

During the filming, I suggested to the interviewer that “Is your board as good as you need it to be?” might be a better question.

At moss+ross, we work with lots of boards, and Mary and I have rarely run into one that really is not “any good.” But we have seen boards that aren’t making best use of their skills, have fallen into performance ruts or lost their focus, and have ended up being less effective than the nonprofit or institution – or their board members – deserved. Sometimes a retreat or custom training can be a big help to getting a board reengaged and focused.

Last Friday, moss+ross led a workshop with a wonderful group of folks who serve on a university board of visitors. Because this type of board is not a governing board, it has a different role to play than the more proscribed legal role of a board of trustees or board of directors. But believe me, their work matters greatly to the CEO, and their support is critical to the institution.

These leaders represent a wide variety of professions and skills, and all are passionate about the cause and want to serve it well. During the meeting, they reflected on their many successes as a board, and then challenged themselves to be even more impactful in their work.

All boards are expected to provide time, talent and treasure. Typically, members are (or have been) volunteers, are interested in the cause, bring a needed skill set, and offer a particular perspective. In the case of a board of trustees or directors, they also maintain legal and fiduciary responsibility for the nonprofit, hire and fire the CEO, and set the strategic direction of the organization.

What else can a great board do for its cause?

  • Provide a deep and diverse talent pool that the nonprofit would never be able to hire.
  • Offer guidance and input on strategic issues and policies with long-term implications.
  • Help the nonprofit stay focused on its true purpose and avoid mission-creep.
  • Serve as ambassadors for the cause, finding ways to share the story and bring new people in.
  • Support staff leadership without trying to take over and solve every problem.
  • Show that this volunteer role is meaningful to them through their time and financial support.
  • Finally, step aside at the right time so new talent can come in, while finding ways to remain engaged.

We tip our hats to all the thousands of board volunteers who make our Triangle nonprofit community thrive. If your board is ready to challenge itself to be as good as it can be, let us know if moss+ross can help!