The Value of Boards that Evolve Alongside their NGOs
“The board meeting is not going well. (...) To the consternation of some board members, the executive director suggests that increasing staff diversity is a top priority.” One exasperated member says to the executive director, “You want to spend your time on that? We have so many more-pressing problems!”
Drawing this scenario, an article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, lays out the importance of a healthy relationship between a board and leaders in higher non-governmental organization (NGO) performance.
The authors, Robert F. Bruner and Gerald F. Warburg, describe three sources of tension in NGO governance:
- Who rules: How should decision-making be apportioned between the board and NGO leaders?
- Toward what healthy vision of board-management relations should NGO leaders and their boards aspire?
- How can the leaders and the board best manage—and serve—each other?
Bruner and Warburg state:
These questions about organizational governance are almost universally relevant to organizations in the for-profit, government, and NGO spheres. Friction between a board and the leaders it oversees wastes time and energy, distracts an organization from its mission, and prompts high leadership turnover—an enduring problem in the NGO world.
Taking into consideration their experience as NGO leaders and board members, as well as a review of published research, the authors offer a list of board management best practices. Invest in internal, external, and crisis communications; establish accountable, adaptable leadership; recruit talented team members; and focus on core competencies to avoid mission creep, are among their ideas.
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