Norman Gildin Says, “There’s 12 Different Types of Nonprofit Boards!” is an insightful, accurate and fun take on nonprofit governance and leadership. Here’s what the founder of Strategic Fundraising Group, Norman Gildin, has to share.
Over the years, I worked with both large and small boards of directors and boards of different ethnicities and religions. What I found was that size, ethnicity nor religion were determinants of effectiveness. What remained critical was whether boards unambiguously understood their roles and responsibilities. It was their steadfast resolve to follow generally acknowledged best practices and accepted principles of governance, advocacy and philanthropy (the latter of which means to both give and get) that dictated their success.
The crucial role of a nonprofit board has intensified over time as the numbers have increased. In 1940, there were only 12,500 charities registered with the IRS. Today, there is an estimated 2.3 million nonprofit organizations operating in the United States, with approximately 1.6 million registered with the IRS. Since 2000, we have seen a nearly 30 percent increase in such entities.
Board members now are the lawful fiduciaries of the nonprofit institution, and govern by steering the organization towards a sustainable future by adopting sound, ethical and legal governance and financial management policies, as well as by making sure the nonprofit has adequate resources to advance its mission.
Board members also are uniquely positioned to be successful advocates and ambassadors for their missions. As business leaders, community volunteers, philanthropists and opinion leaders, they have the connections, the confidence and the respect needed to speak up on behalf of their organizations when policy decisions are made that might affect the organization’s ability to achieve its mission.
More than sixteen years ago, Ronald LaRose, an eminent fundraising consultant, presented a seminar I attended entitled “Building a Fundraising Board” wherein he described twelve (12) types of boards. In my experience, I have come across every version. Let’s discuss the grim realities as presented by LaRose.
First, there’s the “Some Do and Most Don’t” board. This type of board may have twelve (12) to eighteen (18) members on it, but philanthropy (giving and getting) is limited to three (3) to four (4) members who have the capacity to do good. Unfortunately, the burden of carrying the ball falls on the shoulders of these few, which doesn’t portend well for the nonprofit.
Then there is the “We Have Never Done This Before” board. OMG! 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 “I’m Not a Fundraising Type of Guy” board. There may be folks here with philanthropic ability, 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 forty-five (45) to fifty (50) members—with twelve (12) to fifteen (15) proactive donors and ambitious people. Certainly, it benefits the organization having active board members, but a larger group can be cumbersome and needs specific fundraising 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 need 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 helpful because a balance of giving and talent 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. Just not helpful.
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, micromanages 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 the priority and not the one on which they serve. So, my question is this: what motivates them to serve on the board of this nonprofit in the first place?
Another group is comprised of “Who is in the Driver’s Seat Anyway” board. This nonprofit may have a board of directors and a board of trustees, or two (2) distinct groups representing different communities and, hence, different constituencies. Again, allegiances and priorities 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 investment), but do not get involved in major gift solicitations or other indispensable fundraising building blocks. This group also needs direction to set its priorities.
So, which board do you have, and are you and they prepared for change and ready to undertake their true mission?
About the author: Norman B. Gildin is the author of the recently released book on nonprofit fundraising “Learn From My Experiences.” He is the President of Strategic Fundraising Group whose singular mission is to assist nonprofits raise critical funds for their organization. His website is at www.normangildin.com.
Norman Gildin Says, “There’s 12 Different Types of Nonprofit Boards!” was first posted at INSIDE CHARITY.
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