Afterwards, we noticed the people we were talking to had begun to ask deeper questions like, “How do you know if a nonprofit board is doing a good job?” It seems that article helped nonprofit leaders, board members, and major donors to start thinking more critically about what they should look for in determining if the board they are connected to is being run effectively and accomplishing the organization’s mission. They wanted more information about what they should be on the lookout for – what kinds of red flags might signal an underlying culture problem or what kinds of signs indicate that the board is going off track.
As a result, we put together this resource based on our team’s extensive experience in both full-time and interim nonprofit leadership roles. We hope this will help your senior leadership team to work more effectively with your board and promote overall organizational success!
Red Flags that Indicate Board Ineffectiveness
Understanding the Cause
What causes these behaviors? They usually don’t pop up overnight but develop as symptoms of other challenges. One situation that can lead to these types of situations occurs when the board chair is not confident in their role, authority, or expectations. There is a fine line between “abdicating leadership responsibilities” and simply not knowing the expectations of the role. Board training and board leadership onboarding go a long way to addressing this common issue.
Another reality may be that not all board members are experiencing the same things. Some may think things are fine because they aren’t hearing any complaints. The simple task of taking the list above and asking board members if they have ever experienced or witnessed any of those situations can set up some very healthy discussions about expectations for the board in the coming term.
Now that you know what to be on the lookout for, it’s time to get ready to address these issues head on. Remember, it is much easier to call out and discuss these issues in the abstract, before they become an issue, than it is to try to solve the problems they create once the damage is already occurring!
Having the right leadership in place is key to addressing board dysfunction before it brings down an organization. Ensure that your Executive Director and/or Board President is willing to be blunt and take the steps needed to correct problems as soon as they arise. When a nonprofit leader is coming into an organization where these types of problems are already occurring (and may have been happening for a while), they will need to be prepared to put an end to destructive behaviors and lead from a clean slate. In these cases, it is critical to be transparent with the incoming leadership about the organization’s current challenges to ensure that they have the context needed to lead well.
When you need board advisory services, we can help! Our nonprofit consulting team has extensive experience leading nonprofit organizations and coaching nonprofit boards across many different types of organizations. Contact us today to find out how we can help!
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