Nonprofit Board Members Share Criticism

Sat, Aug 10, 2013 at 7:10PM

Hardy Smith, Nonprofit Speaker & Consultant

Participants in my survey of nonprofit board members to identify why board members don’t perform as expected shared several criticisms about the relationship between nonprofit organizations and their boards.

This information is important because, according to survey results, the issues mentioned can contribute to enthusiastic board members becoming turned off, a silent threat to the welfare of an organization.

Responses from five long-term board volunteers offered revealing insights when they were asked to identify their biggest criticism related to nonprofits and relationships with their boards.

Their comments are representative of replies collected by the survey.

Former Florida State University President Dr. T.K. Wetherell felt that problems can develop with board relations because “nonprofits often expect more and more of board members who still have lives and businesses to run.” Dr. Wetherell suggests, “Ask only when you need their help and limit the asks to something that can make a difference.”

“Lack of communication about expected performance is my biggest criticism,” said Mayor Rusty Jessup of Riverside, Alabama. “I also believe openness about differences is essential. Don’t pretend there is not a problem. Never ignore the thousand pound gorilla in the room. Don’t sugarcoat anything for PR purposes. Close your meeting if necessary, but talk about the gorilla.”

Penske Corporation executive Walt Czarnecki is an advocate of “management and boards working more closely on all issues–not just financial,” as a way to improve board relations.

Lori Tolland, an active community volunteer in Ormond Beach, Florida, cited the general “need to communicate expectations.”

Nebraska Chamber of Commerce President Barry Kennedy added this concern “the need to ask for input on key issues.”

Acting on the constructive criticism and suggested solutions from these five engaged board members will improve board member relationships and will also help keep them performing as expected.


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