In my last column I delineated the roles and responsibilities of all boards of directors, regardless of ethnicity or religion. In a nutshell, all boards should adhere to the accepted principles of governance, advocacy and philanthropy (the latter meaning to both give and to get). Refer to my blog at ngildin.tumblr.com for the specifics.
About 15 years ago, I attended a seminar entitled “Building a Fundraising board” presented by Ronald Larose, an eminent fundraising consultant. He described 12 types of boards. In my experience, I have come across every version. Let’s discuss the grim realities.
First, there’s the “Some Do and Most Don’t” board. This type of board may have 12 to 18 members on it, but philanthropy (“giving and getting”) is limited to three to four members who have the capacity to do good. Unfortunately, the burden falls on the shoulders of the few, which doesn’t portend well for the nonprofit.
Then there is the “We Have Never Done This Before” board. Oy vey! This type of board may have well-intentioned folks serving on it, but members have no resource development history or philanthropic capacity. The nonprofit won’t stand a chance to evolve and grow because its finances and fundraising future are limited.
The third type is the “I’m Not a Fundraising Type of Guy” board. There may be folks here with philanthropic capacity, but they have no desire or willingness to undertake their fundraising duties. It is hard to make forward progress unless one can change these board members’ inclinations.
The “All Aboard” board is a large group—maybe 45 to 50 members—with 12 to 15 proactive donors and “go-getters.” Certainly, it benefits the organization having active board members, but the larger group needs specific development guidance.
Some nonprofits have the “Not Quite Prime Time” board with a heavy concentration of mid-level corporate and community leaders. These folks have great potential, but can use leadership training to help them maximize their potential.
A sixth board is the one with “A Good Talent Pool.” This is a desirable board to have because there is a good mixture of balanced talent distributed to working committees with fundraising consigned to a specific committee.
Of course, many of us are quite familiar with the “No Dinero” board. You will often hear them say: “We give our time and talents,” and have respectable people on it. But, they don’t give! Not really helpful because a balance of giving and talents is essential.
You may have seen the “An Evening of Reruns” board. This board is constituted of the “old guard” who describe themselves as “tired and tapped out.” Usually, they have no term limits and, historically, have a noticeable absence of younger members.
Senior executives are very acquainted with the “What Kind of Wood Are We Using for the Fence” board. This is a board that exists to oversee the staff and, quite often, micromanage the organization. Frankly, if you hire a competent professional and competent staff, this type of board can be quite counterproductive to the best interests of the organization.
Then there is the “My First Commitment is to My Alma Mater” board. The allegiances and loyalties of this kind of board are questionable. They seem to make other institutions priorities and not this one on which they serve. So, my question is this: “What motivates them to serve on the board of this nonprofit?”
Another group comprises the “Who Is in the Driver’s Seat Anyway?” board. This nonprofit may have a board of directors and a board of trustees, or two distinct groups representing different communities and, hence, different constituencies. Again, allegiances may “cross swords” and not be helpful.
Finally, there is the “Devoted to Playing Small Ball” board. Here you find individuals who love to support special events, which are often labor intensive, or not great on the ROI (Return on the Investment), but do not get involved in major gifts solicitations or other indispensable fundraising building blocks. This group also needs direction to their priorities.
So, which board are you and are you prepared for change?
By Norman B. Gildin
Norman B. Gildin has fundraised for nonprofits for more than three decades and has raised upwards of $92 million in the process He is the president of Strategic Fundraising Group whose singular mission is to assist nonprofits raise critical funds for their organization. He can be reached at [email protected].