Challenge #1: The Failing Board


I offer advice to many nonprofit leaders and board members each week. Over time, several common nonprofit challenges have surfaced from those discussions. This week, we will be taking a look at five of the most common challenges I hear from nonprofit leaders, and how I advise approaching these issues. Let’s start with number one:

  1. How can I get more out of my board? Too many times, it is ineffective, it disappoints, and it fails to deliver what I need so we can succeed.”

An ineffective board can be the cause of a variety of agency-wide issues. There can be many reasons for this challenge and without completing a hands-on assessment it is hard to diagnose the root of the problem.  However, here are several thoughts for you to consider:

•  Is it a communication problem? Are you clearly explaining to them what you need? Are they given specific assignments with deadlines and clear expectations?

 •  Is it a competency problem? Are you certain you have the right people serving on your board? Are your directors’ skills a good match for what your agency needs today to succeed?

• Is it a new director orientation problem? Do directors really understand their role?

• Are clear expectations set? Do you discuss your expectations of them when recruiting a candidate onto the board and then let them ask questions about what they can expect from you?

• Do you conduct annual individual and board performance reviews? This is a great way to clean up any misunderstandings and to discuss individual goals for the director and the board for the coming year.

• Does your board have several new directors? If so, you may want to conduct various team-building exercises. Some laugh at these exercises, but they work!

• Does everyone share a common vision for the agency? Maybe the board (and key staff) would benefit from a retreat to re-establish the agency’s mission, vision, and values. Maybe even a new strategic plan?

I hope that I have given enough considerations for you to diagnose your board issues and begin problem-solving. Once you establish clear expectations and adequately prep board members for their roles, you will begin to see improvement in your board’s effectiveness. Visit our blog tomorrow for the next post in our week-long series of “5 Common Nonprofit Challenges.” Also, check out my New Board Member Orientation resource (below) to see how you can kickstart effective board leadership – right from the start.


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