Issue No. 249 of Your Weekly Staff Meeting features a hot-off-the-press board governance resource—a must-have book (and thoughtful authority) to reference at your board meetings. Plus, this reminder: check out my Management Buckets website with dozens of resources and downloadable worksheets for your staff meetings.
85 Answers for Your Board
Peter Drucker, the father of modern management, used to say, “My greatest strength as a consultant is to be ignorant and ask a few questions.”
“Behind every good answer lies a good question,” says BoardSource in the introduction to their hot-off-the-press third edition of The Nonprofit Board Answer Book: A Practical Guide for Board Members and Chief Executives.
This latest edition, now with 85 questions and answers, is a must-have resource for both new and veteran board members as you inspire them to be life-long governance learners. Suggestion: bring it to every board meeting—and pass it around the room. It will be irresistible to your board members in their search for proof texts!
When you scan the table of contents, dozens of relevant questions will jump off the page—and tempt you to read the crisp, well-written two- to four-page answers. Examples:
Part One: Basic Board Functions
1. What are the basic responsibilities of a nonprofit board?
5. What is the board’s role in strategic planning?
7. What is the board’s role in fundraising?
9. How does the board avoid the extremes of “rubber stamping” and micromanaging?
Part Two: Board Structure
13. What is the best size for our board?
19. What is the role of the board chair?
21. How should we select our board officers?
Part Three: Board Member Selection and Development
23. How can we recruit active, involved board members?
25. What is the chief executive’s role in board recruitment?
30. Should members of the same family serve on a board?
32. What should we do about uninvolved board members?
35. Should board members be compensated?
37. Should individual board members be evaluated, and, if so, how?
Part Four: Board and Committee Meetings
39. How often and where should we meet?
41. How can we encourage debate while promoting civility in the boardroom?
42. What is the purpose of a board retreat?
44. How should staff members participate in board and committee meetings?
47. How can e-governance improve board and committee work?
Part Five: The Board’s Role as a Fiduciary
52. What are the signs of financial distress in an organization?
54. What policies and practices should we adopt to manage conflict of interest?
55. How can we protect the organization—and ourselves—from lawsuits?
57. Why should every board member make an annual monetary contribution?
58. How can we develop board members’ fundraising skills?
59. How can we generate revenue beyond fundraising?
61. What’s the best way to keep track of board policies?
Part Six: Board-Staff Relations
64. What is the ideal relationship between the board chair and the chief executive?
66. Should board members be hired as staff members?
67. How should we evaluate the chief executive?
68. How do we set fair compensation for the chief executive and the staff?
70. What is the board’s role in relation to the staff?
72. How can we facilitate the end of a chief executive’s employment?
Part Seven: Organizational Change
75. What is the typical lifecycle for a nonprofit organization?
76. How do we ensure that the organization thrives after the founders depart?
82. How should we respond to an organizational emergency or controversy?
83. What is the board’s role in hiring a consultant?
84. When should the board consider closing a nonprofit organization?
To order this book from Amazon, click on the graphic for The Nonprofit Board Answer Book: A Practical Guide for Board Members and Chief Executives, published by BoardSource.
Your Weekly Staff Meeting Questions:
1) Raise your hand if you think commercial airline pilots should be life-long learners. Now raise your hand if you think board members should be life-long learners. When is the last time you read or viewed the latest thinking on board governance?
2) Question 77 asks, “When should an organization consider revising its mission statement?” (Not this year! We just spent $5,000 framing it on the reception wall!) BoardSource recommends you review the mission statement’s relevance annually and “discuss whether new laws, dramatic economic or environmental shifts, other organizations entering the picture, or other changes may justify a revision.” When is the last time we have seriously reviewed our mission statement?
One of the big ideas in Chapter 8 in my book, Mastering the Management Buckets, is that “because we are human we will always have relational conflicts, so we are zealots about resolving conflict early.”
The Culture Bucket has much to say to the Board Bucket. It’s the rare board that doesn’t have conflict (either expressed in the boardroom or in the hallway). But the “Slippery Slope of Conflict” from Peacemaker Ministries notes that we often tilt toward escape responses or assault responses—rather than biblical reconciliation.
Is your staff culture and board culture healthy? Are your core values just posted on the wall or are they resident in your organization’s DNA? Do you have a core value that addresses relational conflict?
For more help and recommended books, including a link to a Peacemaker Ministries innovative video, visit The Culture Bucket webpage.
ECFA Blog on “Governance of Christ-centered Organizations”
Add your thoughts and comments to John Pearson’s weekly blog posts, including the latest post (and maybe an oxymoron), “The Perfect Board Member.”