Generation gap, Part 2

By Todd Cohen

Nonprofit boards have become an “under-performing asset” at a time when boards are focusing increasingly on compliance and neglecting their role in advancing their nonprofits’ mission and work, says Deborah Hechinger, CEO of BoardSource.

To help boards move from “passive stewardship to active leadership in order to make a discernable difference in their organizations,” BoardSource last year released “The Source: Twelve Principles of Governance That Power Exceptional Boards.”

One of those principles, known as “Revitalization,” calls for boards to “energize themselves through planned turnover, thoughtful recruitment, and inclusiveness.”

Diversity and inclusiveness “bring an array of perspectives to the table,” Hechinger says, and “are important in building boards that are able to meet the constituents’ needs and the community’s needs that they serve.”

Some boards like to recruit younger members “because they like to have a voice at the table that has a different perspective than another board member who may be in their fifties or sixties,” she says.

“What is important is for boards to assess what a particular organization needs,” she says, “and then seek the kinds of voices at the table that help the organization and the board make the best decisions they can.”

A big challenge facing nonprofit boards today is “making a discernable difference in the organizations on whose boards they serve,” Hechinger says. “They make that discernable difference by executing their fiduciary responsibilities and by bringing intellectual, reputational and financial capital to the organization needed to meet its mission.”

Making that difference is the idea behind the 12 principles of governance spelled out in the new BoardSource publication.

One principle, “constructive partnership” between the board and CEO, for example, can be accomplished though strategies such as “independent open-mindedness, through the importance of a culture of inquiry on the board, through a culture of compliance, and ethics, as well as the importance of making sure that the organization has appropriate resources to live up to its obligations,” Hechinger says.

Other stories in the series:

Part 1: Nonprofits face challenge engaging different age groups.
Part 3: Greater generational diversity seen as key to expanding talent pool.
Part 4: Generational matrix’ seen as tool for strengthening nonprofits.

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