Making real change to nonprofit board composition and culture is hard to do. It’s one thing to discuss and understand the need for board diversity, but quite another to make it happen. Over the past 15 years, I have worked with dozens of boards primarily in North Texas. Some function well, some don’t. Most all look and feel like the national statistic onboard demographics; primarily caucasian with more than half of the members male, ranging in age from 50 to 70+. There are exceptions with some all-female boards for nonprofits serving women. According to Board Source’s “Leading with Intent 2017 National Index of Nonprofit Board Practices,” nonprofit boards are no more diverse than in previous years and recruitment policies indicate this is unlikely to change.
When I read Board Source’s survey results last year, I, like many others, felt a bit outraged. This country is full of nonprofit organizations that work hard to fill the gap for those in need, build communities, embrace culture, educate, appreciate, and enhance the very fabric of who we are as a nation. It would seem then that nonprofit organizations would lead the way for building diversity in leadership.
No more diverse. Recruitment policies. That’s it —
Over the years, I don’t think I’ve seen many recruitment policies. I’ve seen plenty of by-laws and I’ve read reams of board minutes which include nominating committee reports. Developing a board recruitment policy would allow members of your governing board to open a dialogue about diversity and about what diversifying membership would mean to your organization. When you look around the room at your board, a key question to ask yourself is:
Do I believe we have the right complex set of professional skills, experience level, community clout, and personality traits to make our governing body effective for our nonprofit’s mission and vision?
Running late with nominations. It’s that time again.
Nonprofit organizations who want to embrace diversity and build stronger boards are beginning to move away from Nominating committees toward Board Governance committees. The Board Governance committee, sometimes called Board Leadership committee, meets year-round to study the effectiveness of the board. This committee may oversee board recruitment, board orientation, board culture and its effectiveness. Too many nonprofits are recruiting people for their boards too quickly, often to fill a by-law requirement without really studying the relationship between the individual’s skill set and availability for contribution and commitment, rather than comparing it to what the organization’s board needs at a given point in time.
I highly recommend that anyone serving on a nonprofit board and all nonprofit executives subscribe to BoardSource.org.
Later this month, we’re offering an Executive Education session where we’ll address board diversity as a part of the program on How to Supercharge your Board. See the article in this newsletter about the Executive Education session and for links to register for either the Dallas or Fort Worth workshop.
If you are being recruited to serve and you are not fully certain why or what your role will be, ask why me and why now? Also, ask about the board composition and study its membership in relation to its mission and vision.
What do you think? Let me know today!