Building Breakthrough Boards

Building Breakthrough Boards - Step 5 Evaluate

Step 5: Evaluate
“What gets measured gets improved” -Peter Drucker

Boards perform better when they are constantly evaluating their own performance and effectiveness. The board of directors should consider building a board plan-within-the-strategic plan. Once the board has agreed to its own plan, it will need to assess its own performance.

According to a recent McKinsey survey of executives and directors of nonprofit social-service organizations found that only 17% of the respondents felt that their boards were as effective as possible.

“We found that many nonprofit boards struggle with basics such as recruiting the right members and running meetings effectively. The first task, then, is to nail down the fundamentals—a clear vision, appropriate board membership, and effective processes—because these elements enable directors to avoid wasting a great deal of time and energy. Getting the basics right makes it easier for a board to undertake the hard work of providing true performance and management oversight and to adjust the priorities of both the directors and the organization. Generally, the key isn’t to do more but to focus more.” - The Dynamic Nonprofit Board, McKinsey Insights

To start building a more effective board, it is helpful to evaluate the boards performance, priorities, and function. Please CLICK HERE to download McKinsey & Company’s Nonprofit Board Self Assessment Tool - Short Form. For a more detailed assessment please CLICK HERE to contact us.

Building Breakthrough Boards - Step 4: Engage

Step 4: Engage
How can boards become more engaged in the success of an organization? How can we boost morale and excitement during meeting times and in-between meetings? How can individual board members bring their passions to the forefront and drive ideas?

These are several of the main questions that many organizations are asking. When a board of directors is producing results and moving in a forward direction morale will be high. Producing results is the basis of morale. When boards design a plan to support the strategic direction, then they have the roadmap to generate forward momentum and progress, leading to higher morale.

Effective board engagement is realized when board members are allowed to unleash their abilities and passions in the following three ways:

  1. Leveraging unique ideas and the individual desire to drive them to completion. Board members that care about the mission of their organization and the people it serves tend to generate all types of ideas for improvement. These ideas are critical for the CEO and Board Chair to cultivate because they are the #1 way to build engaged and excited board members to action. When board members feel they have ownership in the success of an organization through contributing their own ideas, then they will be committed to driving their ideas into action.
  2. Joining a committee that can leverage their expertise to support the growth, organization, and/or capacity building. Second to individual ideas, is the capability of the board member to fulfill a functional need for the organization. During the enrollment process in step 2, it should be made clear to the board candidate why they are being asked to join the board. If the board does not communicate effectively to the future candidate, it can lead to issues around expectations. Leveraging talents and skills in committees or task forces is an important way to boost participation. Board members should be asked to join committees where they can add value and utilize their unique capabilities.
  3. Representing the organization to the external world through being a strong steward and story teller. To build strong advocates and story tellers, board members need to experience the service and mission of the organization. Put board members into the shoes of the people being served to build a stronger understanding of the mission and program side of the organization. For example: if your organization serves the homeless, make sure your board members get to meet the individuals and families that are living in the shelters. Let the board members learn about the personal stories and journeys of the individuals being served, and build a reality to the obstacles and challenges they face finding housing, jobs, daycare, transportation, etc. These types of activities are what makes the mission real for most board members and inspires them to become powerful voices to the external world. 

Getting board members engaged requires the ability to connect the two different worlds of the boardroom and people being served. It is a process that requires attention to detail, relationship building, and planning. Keep board members engaged and managing their experience is not an easy task and can take a fair amount of time. Follow these three approaches and you can unlock the potential of board members and get them more inspired and engaged.

Building Breakthrough Boards

The business models of nonprofit organizations are changing fast, but boards of directors are far behind the curve in making governance changes to keep up with the shifting landscape.

We are seeing massive disruption in every nonprofit sector due to technology, regulations, and many other factors. Donors and foundations have been trying to encourage nonprofits to prepare for this disruption for the last 5-10 years. Unfortunately, the pace of change in all nonprofit sectors is very slow. Donors and foundations have been trying to influence change through their grant-making strategy, but that too has been slow to evolve. The trend is moving away from small ($2,500-$5,000) grants to larger, more impactful gifts. With the increasing average grant size comes a decrease in the total number of grants available, making competition for grants tougher than ever.

Funders are also looking to ensure that nonprofit organizations will remain viable in the years to come. As a result, many of them are focusing more heavily on the following four areas as part of their giving strategies:

    1. Mergers, collaborations, and shared services: Large numbers of nonprofits are fighting for the same philanthropy. These organizations must find ways to work together with other like-minded nonprofits to leverage talent, share resources, and improve cost-effectiveness.

    2. Business model changes that integrate technology: Greater capacity, better resource management, and improved service can come from technology solutions, which must be adopted at a quicker pace.

    3. Ability to measure impact and capture data: Nonprofits must be able to clearly quantify how their programs are moving the needle and fulfilling their mission. They must establish credible metrics and capture reliable data to support higher-quality decision making.

    4. Building capacity to ensure a strong and capable workforce: Funders recognize that nonprofits need to attract talent to achieve their mission. Most organizations are stretched very thin with staffing resources to tackle new initiatives.

These shifts in funding strategy are not enough to fully drive change. Nonprofit organizations must take on the challenge of becoming more dynamic in the rapidly changing marketplace. This journey begins by building a breakthrough board of directors capable of aligning their organization with future realities.

Great nonprofit organizations build great boards. Boards can either maintain the status quo or lead their organization to new levels of governance, management, and achievement. It is more important now than ever for nonprofit organizations and their boards to be dynamic and adaptable. The boards of the future will need to be more capable, savvy decision makers and stronger players in driving change and adaptation. Boards must be able to think beyond traditional governance to ensure the viability of their organization. 

In the coming five blog posts (August–December), we will deliver insight into our 5 Steps for Building Breakthrough Boards, starting with step 1 in August. The 5 steps are as follows:

  • Explore: Finding the right board candidates 
  • Enroll: Ensuring a good match 
  • Orient: Harnessing passion and commitment
  • Engage: Leading fun and exciting meetings 
  • Evaluate: Understanding how to succeed and produce