Nonprofit Boards: Governance and Guidelines

Human and Organizational Understanding and Development

Guidelines for Service on Nonprofit Boards

This is an empirical article based upon my observations of happenings on many nonprofit boards.

I initially felt that a discussion of fiduciary responsibility would correct behavior.

It was found that bringing up the word fiduciary made some people uneasy.

After the Scottish Rite Masons made posters out of the three included tables,

it was decided that specific itemized instructions would better serve as a guide.

I realized the instructions were the main theme and fiduciary became the sub-text.

Thus, the three charts are presented after a one-page introduction.

If you use them, please provide constructive feedback.

Then the editor of a reputable business magazine replied that its readers knew how to act.

As this countered my observation of human behavior, it seemed best to provide free access to my input.

You decide!

Governance on Nonprofit Boards:

Why is it so hard to accomplish?

The word governance seems to cause more unease for board members that fiduciary.

Mentioning it at a meeting was greeted with more shock than inappropriate use of a four-letter-word.

Fund raising, volunteer work, discussing mission worthiness is more satisfying.

Governance is further inhibited by poor leadership and groupthink.

In the reams that are provided on how to govern,

little is provided as to why it so much repetitive material is needed.

This short six-page paper covers governance precepts,

pressures for group conformity,

influence of the executive director and chairperson,

and reasons normally differentiated board members

may underperform as trustees.

I contend:

Awareness of emotional underpinnings of unwise behavior can be corrective.

The Leadership page lists a set of essays that deal with awareness

of the large number of incompetent leaders

and corrective measures needed.

True Vignettes

Short descriptions of actual dysfunctional board situations that I experienced will be posted.

I intend to open this site to others who also want to share “war stories.”

Some sort of blog or social network will be established.

My hope is shared experiences will awaken others to odd board happenings

and validate those who have unpopular observations.

 Unproductive behaviors are perpetuated on a board ,

because social pressure encourages conformity

and too little is written about board malfunctions.

Publications and consultants in the field consider dysfunction as unwitting problems

that more governance literature and interventions can fix.

They tend to not question basic assumptions.

More to come!

Feel free to download, copy, and distribute posted material.

Please provide attribution and feedback.

The material copies well in color and black-and-white.