Blogger Question Regarding Board Accountability
August 16, 2009
Hi, Illene: I have a question regarding your two handouts, "Ten Stupid Things That Board Members Do To Mess Up Their Organizations" and "10 Practical Ways to Engage Your Board of Directors in Fund Development." Perhaps you've been asked this question before…
Who has the authority to ensure that this advice or these suggestions are followed? The language implicitly assumes that some one or entity has the power or authority to make sure these things happen -- or don't. It would be wonderful if providing board members with copies of your practical advice would solve the problem, but we both know it won't. So who runs the show and gets board members to get things done?
I have my own thoughts, obviously, but your answer and/or thoughts are welcome. Thanks for your time.
Dave Stiller, Executive Director
North Fork River Improvement Association
Dave – Thanks for the question; here’s my best shot at a meaningful response…
Regardless of the respect garnered by the Executive Director, this person has no position power to “make” a board of directors do things in a certain way. I believe that the worst-case scenario – and the one most frustrating to staff – is when the Executive Director has knowledge that can be helpful to the board, but is hamstrung in conveying and leading execution on this knowledge.
Thus, the staff’s role is relegated to providing structure and systems that allow the board to succeed, should it ultimately choose to take action.
People involved with any endeavor – including and particularly the board members of a nonprofit entity – can run the organization in any way they choose as regards performance expectations, accountability, structure, etc. Regardless of external pressures and internal motivators, doing nothing always is an option.
The impetus to change, excel or otherwise take action must come from within the leadership body – typically this either is in the form of a president, a fund development chairman, a self-designated champion of organizational excellence, or similar. The zealot, catalyst, whatever you want to call him/her will be the one who makes certain that things get moving. Interestingly, tasks often are tackled single-handedly by the given individual. Other board members certainly will be “along for the ride” and glad to give permission for action, but may put in little collective time or effort.
This doesn’t fit perfectly with the theories people like me espouse, but it is the most common reality.
Your thoughts, Dave?