It’s Just a Stage…

A funny thing happened on the way to the forum (not the 1966 movie or the stage show featuring Nathan Lane and the musical number “Something Familiar, Something Peculiar…A Comedy Tonight!”) but on the way to the non profit forum – the board table.

Every board tries to be nimble, accountable, and effective and we nearly all turn to some type of tool/process (e.g. the board skills grid) to help us figure out who our board members are, what constituent groups they represent, and what skills they bring to the board table. We also use the grid as a tool to help us with new board member recruitment.

Checking off the boxes on the skills grid is an annual tradition for many nomination committees – one outgoing lawyer replaced by one incoming lawyer, one youth leaves and one youth arrives, gender, age, ethnicity balance – box checked/ box unchecked. But when was the last time your organization revisited and expanded those boxes?

Organizations spend a great deal of time and effort recruiting volunteers. Many organizations spend considerably less time figuring out what a volunteer needs in order to work effectively on their board or to stay on the board past a first term, and what knowledge, behaviours, and competencies will be needed to work effectively with existing board members and help their organization reach their preferred future.

Boards can easily and inexpesively outsource certain tasks that require specific skills (i.e finding a new office or making recommendations for new accounting or information management systems) but can rarely afford the cost of not having effective decision making and good team work around the board table.

Healthy organizational cultures and practices lead to good decision making and confidence around the board table. So, even if your board meetings have never felt like a farce, comedy, or tragedy, please consider the following tips: 

  • Host new board member orientation each year.
  • Invest in on-going evaluation and board member training.
  • Continue to work on team-work.
  • Articulate your values and share the rationale for significant decisions that have an impact on future board members. 
  • Encourage curiosity and openness. 
  • Be prepared to change the box.
  • Ask for help when you need it. 

Stay tuned. Volunteer Victoria will be hosting a New Board Member workshop with Dr. Vic Murray this May.   

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