Once again I am preparing to train a non-profit board. This board, like some of the others I’ve trained, is a working board, not a governing one. That means that the members of the board are the hardest working of the volunteers and often make up the composition of the committees, sometimes chairing and sometimes serving under one of the other board members as chair.
This is sometimes a source of conflict. On one level they are all equal as board members. On the other level, they serve different roles in the different committees and sometimes have dispute about responsibilities and levels of authority.
Too, in a working board if there is staff, the staff is limited and all too often board members both defer to staff as the experts (where there expertise is really limited) and dump most of the work on staff members (where their time and resources are limited.)
Finding balance is an interesting challenge.
It’s easy to say, “let’s determine vision and align activities to that vision” but what actually happens day to day in a working board is often at a different level. Committee activities and needs are the day-to-day operations of working boards, and the needs and communication issues within these committees and between them is sometimes a problem needing intervention and resolution.
I’m planning to use exercises from my Board of Directors Training Manual and these will include process as well as content.
Content will include looking at their by-laws, their job descriptions and responsibilities, and in this case, their relationship with funding organizations. They will also have to determine their vision for the next few years.
Process will partially be about how people need to treat each other, how to make decisions for the good of the whole (rather than just friends or a select constituency) and really how to problem-solve and make decisions.
Many people on volunteer boards are lacking in this type of decision-making background, coming from workplaces where their individual roles are to implement decisions made by others.
This is a great group of hard-working people and spending the day ( a very long day is planned) with them at a retreat should be quite enjoyable.