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Turbocharge Your Board . Betsy Hills Bush Program Officer, Westchester Community Foundation Adjunct Professor, Pace University. Role of Board of Directors. Legally responsible for the organization “A corporation shall be managed by its board of directors.”

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turbocharge your board

Turbocharge Your Board

Betsy Hills Bush

Program Officer, Westchester Community Foundation

Adjunct Professor, Pace University

role of board of directors
Role of Board of Directors
  • Legally responsible for the organization
  • “A corporation shall be managed by its board of directors.”

Article 7, sec 701, New York State Non Profit Corporation Code

IRS new 990 form pointedly asks if board has reviewed financial information, compensation reviews.

we all know the roles the board is supposed to play
We all know the roles the board is supposed to play:

According to Fisher Howe¹, who wrote the definitive work “Welcome to the Board”, the seven responsibilities are:

¹ Howe, Fisher. "Welcome to the Board: Your Guide to Effective Participation" by Jossey-Bass, 1995

the seven responsibilities
The seven responsibilities:
  • Attendance at meetings
  • Adherence to Mission
  • Hire and fire the Chief Executive
  • Oversee finances
  • Program oversight and support
  • Fund raising
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of the board
but staff at many organizations are disappointed with the performance of their board members
But staff at many organizations are disappointed with the performance of their board members
  • They’re disengaged, never want to do anything, don’t attend meetings
  • Won’t fund raise
  • Overly intrusive, block good ideas
  • Ask too many questions at board meetings
board staff relationship
Board – Staff Relationship
  • Staff is trained in nonprofit management; board (most likely) is not.
  • Staff attend educational sessions;
  • Board does not.
  • Board members are volunteers, work and family commitments often conflict.
Board members may feel marginalized, unsure of their roles and responsibilities, and are not sure where to go for guidance.
board membership was an elite institution through the 1950 s
Board membership was an elite institution through the 1950’s
  • In 1940, there were only 12,500 charities registered with the IRS.
then in the 60 s everything changed
Then in the ‘60’s everything changed
  • Government began funding social programs and nonprofits were formed to take the funding and run the programs.
  • The nonprofits had boards made up of community members, not people of wealth
  • Nonprofits were formed to effect social change, rather than uphold the elite power base.
the rise of the superhero nonprofit founder executive director
The rise of the superheroNonprofit Founder/Executive Director

Twilight of the powerful board of directors?

the number of 501 c 3 s skyrockets
The number of 501(c)(3)’sskyrockets
  • In 2008, there were almost 1.9 million nonprofits.
  • Since 1999, an increase of 53%
  • In 1999, there were 745 NPO’s per 100,000 households
  • In 2008, 1,016 per 100,000 households.

Source: Giving USA 2009

how to form a ny nonprofit
How to form a NY nonprofit

Step by step instructions from the Web site

Citizens Media Law Project:

Step 1: “Write out your mission”

Step 2: “Figure out your fund raising plan”

Step 3: “Choose a business name”

Step 6: “Recruit and appoint a board of directors”

board and staff confusion of roles
Board and staff confusion of roles

“You’re asking me to serve on the board as a favor, and yet I’m the one whose legally responsible for documents filed with government agencies.”

“All you want is my money. You don’t want my opinion on anything.”

“You recruited me for my expertise, but you expect me to sit quietly at meetings and rubber stamp reports.

bringing balance back to the board staff relationship
Bringing balance back to the board/staff relationship
  • Look at best practices for boards
    • Better Business Bureau Standards
    • Independent Sector
    • Governance Matters
    • Board Source
two best practices
Two best practices
  • Term limits – should be in your by-laws and you should adhere to them.
    • Boards need fresh blood and the fresh enthusiasm that comes with new people seeing the program through new eyes.
    • Need to constantly cultivate potential members will keep board members out there, looking and communicating to others.
    • Board chairs especially need term limits.
best practices cont
Best Practices, cont.
  • Limit related parties on the board, i.e., married couples, parents and children, etc.
  • Be wary of the appearance of “cliques.”
  • Both practices are turn offs to potential board members.
turbo charge your board
Turbo charge your board
  • Include them in problem solving
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate
  • Give them experiences that will help them understand your mission
  • Place your organization’s mission in a global context
include them in problem solving
Include them in problem solving
  • An opportunity for the board to contribute in a meaningful way.
  • You have to be honest with your board – they are legally responsible for the agency. Hiding information breeds distrust.
  • If there’s bad news – use board members as a sounding board before going to outside donors.
  • They need to be constantly updated on programs, have an “elevator speech” to easily explain what agency does.
  • Board needs to feel confident in talking about the agency.
  • Take the communication challenge: Communicate every day with a least one board member.
make it an experience
Make it an experience
  • Younger affluent “board member types” often belong to what I call the Experiential Class – they want to acquire experiences for themselves and for their children. They are intensely interested in the world, in other cultures, and in understanding big issues.
    • Eco tourism vs. beach resort, etc.
    • Volunteer on vacation
how can you give your board an experience
How can you give your board an experience?
  • What does your agency do that is out of the realm of experience for your board?
    • Work for a day in a job training program
    • Offer a tour of the neighborhoods in which your agency works, or from which clients come
    • Eat a meal in your soup kitchen
tie your programs to larger social issues
Tie your programs to larger social issues
  • Help your board see that what you’re doing has global implications – no matter how small your program.
    • Share articles, press reports, web site/national organizations concerned with the same issues.
example 1
Example 1:

“Education is the civil rights issue of our time.”

  • College graduates earn $1 million more over a lifetime than high school graduates
  • The US cannot afford to lose the brainpower of millions of its young people
example 2
Example 2:

“The wonderful thing about education is that no one can take it away from you.”