When your Board is your main risk

Imagine if your board was as good as you want them to be.

Yet there are many things that non-profit boards can find difficult and that is understandable.  It can be hard work to ensure that their oversight and contributions are timely and welcome.  And they sometimes need to make hard decisions – nobody’s favourite activity.

But you can’t get away from the fact that they are there to do the hard stuff, to develop a sensible, working strategy, to consider and manage the risks all organisations face, to keep the organisation within financial and legal rules, represent the needs of members, and the list goes on.  They are then tasked with supporting the Chief Executive and their staff to deliver on the agreed strategy.

So, there should never be a point where something becomes too difficult and gets shelved.

But we see this time and again.  Boards saying that they are only there for a while, don’t want to rock the boat, don’t want to make a wrong decision or waste resources, etc and so those hard decisions just get put off again and again.

How do we get round this stalemate?  There is usually a reason why a particular board is not confident enough in its make-up or actions or is not clear about its role or its responsibilities.  It often stems from long-embedded practices and a lack of training about their roles.  Alongside, we encounter true reluctance to take a long, hard look at how their collective behaviours are affecting the organisation they are there to represent.  It may be compounded by staff being reluctant to grapple with strong personalities or long-service individuals who are no longer contributing relevant ideas or have become a bar to implementing new ideas. 

Every organisation needs to find the chink of light, perhaps one individual on the board who is willing to grapple with the thought of reviewing governance arrangements.  In truth, the way to tackle the hardest impasse is to be clear that such actions will always be about the benefit to members, whether in terms of services or resources, and that the changes which may be needed will mean that members will stay.  There is likely to be a moment when it should be clear to everyone that stale organisations who are suffering with members disappearing can and should be stabilised and made relevant again. 

So, if the board knows they should do so for the good of the organisation and therefore the members and still fails to act, it means the board itself has become the main risk to the organisation. 

The question to ask now is ‘Why are we not doing this?’ when all the best advice is that good governance is the bedrock of a successful organisation.  The task is then to remind the board that their main duty is to act at all times for the benefit of the organisation and its members. 

It’s just a conversation.

Do it today.

If you need assistance about how to start that conversation or you would like to talk about issues you are currently facing, just give me a call and we will plan your best way forward.