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Good governance

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Question:

What are three ways that board members can provide better oversight for their nonprofit?

Answer:

* Have a current strategic plan.

Boards should have a strategic plan that specifically defines expected results around four areas — program direction, program management, sustainability and governance.

This plan should be strategic, not operational or long-range, and something board members have developed because they understand what’s going on beyond the board.

They should not get stuck within their own box, but should actually talk to a lot of people, including their customers, and be fully informed in terms of where they should head next.

* Keep a scorecard.

Boards should have a scorecard of some sort, one that regularly reports on the status of goals, and actual progress, in their program direction and management, and in their sustainability and governance.

It may seem very fundamental, but many nonprofits don’t do this. Instead, they report frequently on operational issues, and on how people did on fundraising, but they don’t report strategically.

They don’t stop every six months or quarterly and say, “Where are we today?”

* Participate in ongoing training.

Boards should pay more attention to governance, and that should involve an ongoing educational process that talks about the actual work of the organization, rather than how it functions.

That could involve having customers present or taking a site tour.

Such activities bring alive to the board the work it is doing and create the kind of governance that is beyond strategic.

The only way that can happen is if the board pays attention to its own capacity and makes certain its leadership has ongoing training.

–Compiled by Caroline Monday


Mike Burns is a partner at Brody Weiser Burns, a Bradford, Conn.-based consulting firm specializing in board development.

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