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ONCE A MONTH, I’LL ROUND UP SOME LINKS TO POSTS FROM AROUND THE INTERNET ON OUR TOPIC OF THE MONTH. HERE’S THIS MONTH’S READING LIST FOR YOU ON BOARD CULTURE.

How important is culture to your nonprofit board? (New.org) – A nice roundup of points to kick off this list.

“Nonprofit boards are groups. All groups have cultures. The best and most productive groups have cultures that foster inclusiveness, accountability to each other, trust, open and honest discussion and where members of the group feel valued and appreciated. The most effective groups have leaders that truly believe mission, vision and values are critical to group accountability. In all my years working with nonprofit boards and CEO’s, I have found that most boards do not pay enough attention to or even question the role “culture” plays. Bottom line…culture is about leadership. Leadership cannot be put in a policy. All board members have a duty to lead.

We all understand governance now, and almost all boards have board member job descriptions as well as a code of ethics. About 70% or more of all nonprofit boards have passed policies that call for the annual review and signing of a conflict of interest policy. No written policy can take the place of culture. And, how do you create a sustainable culture when the Board Chair role changes frequently or the person filling the role was strong-armed into the role because no one else would step up? What if the person has never lead a group or lacks leadership skills?”

What Defines the Culture of Your Nonprofit Board? (Huffington Post) – This post is interesting because it’s written By Professor Eugene Fram, who is Professor Emeritus of Management at the Rochester Institute of Technology; and who has served on 11 non-profit boards.

“The General Motors debacle is fresh in everyone’s minds. A deficit in the company culture was recognized as being responsible for the disaster that resulted in the deaths of 13 people. Board members at GM were obviously not culpable since the board was many levels above the people who were negligent in changing the defective switch.

Although nonprofit board members are closer to crisis situations when they happen, a deficit or weakened board culture can frequently be responsible for their occurrence. Often nonprofit staffs are only a level or two away from the board whose obligation it is to see that the mission, vision and values of the organization permeate all levels.”

The Power of What Cannot Be Seen (Inside Higher Ed) – a perspective from Higher Ed on board cultures.

“Governing boards are dynamic groups of individuals where, sometimes, the whole does not equal the sum of its parts. Presidents want and need their boards to be active, productive and engaged assets for the college, university or state system that they govern. Yet too many boards underperform. We argue that it is not what boards do (or don’t do) but how they do their work that really matters.

Consider these examples of poor board behavior:

  • The perennially underengaged board asks few questions of the administration and fewer of themselves;
  • The overly powerful executive committee controls 85 percent of the agenda and excludes other trustees; and,
  • The impulsive board quickly moves to decisions without divergent or devil’s advocate thinking.

We think that educating boards on what they should do—their roles and responsibilities—while important, is insufficient. In actuality, underperforming boards may know their roles but have cultures that limit their effectiveness. Board culture, those patterns of behavior and ways of understanding that are deeply ingrained, reinforced and taught to new trustees, is what demands attention.”

Why it’s critical to care about board culture (Harrison Young) – an interesting essay by a banker and author.

“A lot of what we believe about management comes from the military.

Organization charts display hierarchy. Boards have authority and ultimate responsibility but they cannot accomplish their mission by issuing orders.

In creating boards, and judging boards, we are interested in soft issues as well as hard.

We care about culture.”

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Does your board care about culture? Does your organization care about the culture of its board?

Maddie Grant is known for her experience as an expert digital strategist who has helped hundreds of organizations engage with their customer base and build capacity for using social media and online communities to achieve business results. Recognizing the transformative and human-centric power of social media early on, she helped organizations integrate social media into their culture authentically, rather than attempting to bolt it on a new process.

Maddie Grant is known for her experience as an expert digital strategist who has helped hundreds of organizations engage with their customer base and build capacity for using social media and online communities to achieve business results. Recognizing the transformative and human-centric power of social media early on, she helped organizations integrate social media into their culture authentically, rather than attempting to bolt it on a new process.

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