The News Leader story “Left Unanswered” undoubtedly stirred many strong emotions. For me, in my role as CEO of the Community Foundation, it stirred my passion for organizational governance. It should compel the board of directors of every government agency and nonprofit organization to ask themselves if they are exercising proper and thorough governance.
Strong governance takes time and commitment to develop. It is difficult at first, but gets easier over time as governance muscles strengthen.
A board of directors must make a long-term commitment to exercising routine governance. If they don’t, their work as a board can quickly shift from proactively exercising its governance responsibility to serving in a more advisory capacity, which under the best of circumstances means assisting with the next fundraising event, golf tournament, or silent auction. At its worst, the board places itself in the unenviable position of reacting to issues and possibly becoming the next unfortunate headline.
There are many models for good governance. Almost a decade ago, the Community Foundation adopted policy governance. Our board invested considerable time in the development of a detailed set of policies to keep them on track. Policies outline the authority they delegate to the CEO, their expectations for the impact that our organization will have within our community, and the boundaries within which the CEO will work to achieve the organization’s desired impact. Our board also devotes time at each of their meetings to determining if we are abiding by our policies.
I realize the opportunity to participate in the exciting world of organizational governance is not what motivates most individuals to join a board of directors. However, if you are a member of an agency or nonprofit board of directors, or are considering an invitation to join a board, you owe it to that organization to help that board serve the community to the best of its ability.
While the traditional business of a Community Foundation is building endowment and presenting grants, scholarships, and awards, we also welcome the opportunity to assist any organization work through issues that they may be facing, including their governance practices.