This past week I had the opportunity to facilitate discussions on board excellence across the state. 25 Board leaders participated in learning more about the six areas on which boards of directors can focus for improved board performance. As the session got underway, I posed this question: What does an excellent board make possible?
At first the answers were focused on the organizational level: growth for the organization, donor and volunteer confidence, sustainability, staff support and reassurance, and more partnerships.
Then we took it to a higher level and looked at what an excellent board makes possible for the community: greater community involvement, more people receiving benefits, a healthier community, a greater economic development, improved community pride, and a greater quality of life.
When a nonprofit is formed, the board is typically focused on the community improvement aspects of their work - that is why they came together in the first place. Enthusiasm builds based on the possibilities of all that they can accomplish for their community. But over time, the need to raise funds, hire staff, meet legal and financial oversight requirements, etc., can make the work of the board seem administrative and less exciting.
Yet, it is in the excellence of leadership, planning, great governance, financial leadership, and resource provision that the board makes it possible for the organization and its staff to thrive. Through their work, the community is transformed; and it is all because they are operating based on a sound plan, have a strong balance sheet, and possess the confidence that they will be able to follow through with the promise of their mission.
So at times when board work may not seem very interesting, stop and ask yourself and your board - what does (insert non-interesting work activity here) make possible for our mission? How will it help board members have a greater understanding and confidence in our nonprofit's financial position? How will it instill confidence in donors? And with donors feeling confident in our good stewardship - how will the gifts they give make a difference to the community we desire to be better? Reminding board members how their planning, oversight, governance and policy work will make many things possible can be the catalyst to stimulate the decision leadership needed to move the organization forward.
The possibilities for better communities begin when nonprofit boards operate with excellence. DANA's Board Excellence workshops and retreats can help nonprofit Directors better realize their board and organization's potential. To learn more visit our website at delawarenonprofit.org.