Help! I was just elected to serve on a board. Has that ever happened to you? If so, then I have some more guidance for you this week.
Last week I took a look at the role of a board. I chose to look at it from the perspective of the purpose that it is supposed to fulfill. The article really dealt with the types of boards and the functions of boards serving non-profit organizations. This week, I want to look at what you and I must do if we are called upon to serve on a board.
There are three board functions that we covered. In summary, they are to advise, to consent, and to lead.
Advise — To advise means to offer suggestions about the best way to operate or the best course of action to take. The one being advised is under no obligation to accept the advice and the one providing it cannot mandate that it be accepted and implemented.
Consent — To consent means to give permission for something to happen. In theory, nothing happens without that consent. And that is where some problems begin in the non-profit world. Many a strong or controlling leader has made a consenting board into a “rubber stamp” board by packing it with friendly and like-minded individuals.
Lead — To lead means to operate and execute the day to day operations of the organization. And the board leads the organization itself through the insightful creation of strategies, plans, policies, and practices that increase the scope and span of the non-profit organization.
Focus on the Non-Profit Board Member
You have been elected to serve. Now what? You know the three basic functions that a board provides for an organization. But, what happens at the individual level? The answer is simple. And it is the same as at the board level. You are there to give your advice, to give your consent, and to lead the organization. That leadership may be a solo activity at times. But it is a function that you must be able to provide.
Advising — You are there to provide input. That input is just another word for advice. You are there to list to be sure. But you are there to speak. A completely silent board member is a wasted chair at the table. That sounds harsh and I realize that. But, if you just sit and observe what goes on and never contribute, then you are taking the place of someone who would be willing to do offer solutions to the challenges that most organizations face. I hope that the board that you serve on has a commissioning ceremony or some other occasion to mark the start of your tenure. But if not, don’t wait to be charged. Begin as soon as you can to contribute to the collective wisdom that rests within the board.
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