Board Accountability

Some say that nonprofit board accountability is a myth.  They feel that since the only consequences for board members are minimal (firing or embarrassment), accountability is impossible to enforce.

Board accountability depends on who you recruit to serve and who you recruit to lead your board.

Board service is part of board members’ self-image.  Being asked or forced to step down should be a significant consequence. A reason someone might ignore the consequence is because they believe the leadership is insincere about holding members accountable.

Someone fired for nonperformance from a board knows they are unlikely to find another board who wants them.

Board members who are passionate about helping your mission, clients, and community will keep their commitments to your nonprofit.  Recruiting the passionate ensures you recruit the accountable.

A board is a group of leaders.  Good leaders motivate their teams positively rather than through negative consequences.  Having good leaders on the board ensures everyone will be motivated to be accountable.

Board members should be high-achieving individuals.  High-achieving individuals seldom fail to fulfill a commitment.

Effective leaders ensure everyone knows what is expected of the members.

The failure of a board member to fulfill commitments is a symptom of a larger problem.  The problem might be a need for better leadership or the board development committee needs to do a better job of recruiting and preparing board members.

Next Step:

Ensure board members know what is expected of them before asking them to join your board

Ensure your board development committee knows that it is more important to recruit the right people for the board than it is to have every seat on the board filled

Ensure your board members are each capable leaders

Ensure everyone on your board understands how important accountability is to the success of your mission, clients, and staff

Encourage your board development committee to remove board members who are unable or unwilling to be accountable

Your board sets the tone and establishes the culture of your nonprofit.  The staff’s accountability is often modeled after the accountability of the board.  When a board is accountable, it is easy for the donors to trust the board and staff.  The donors’ level of trust is reflected in their generosity, loyalty, and engagement.  You can use the accountability of the staff and the engagement of the donors to determine the perception of the accountability of the board.

Rarely is it possible for a team to outperform its leadership.  Since your community expects excellence, your clients need excellence, and your staff wants to be excellent, it is incumbent on your board to be committed to excellence.  A drive for excellence will ensure your board is accountable, your nonprofit is sustainable, and your mission is creating significant value for your clients and community.  A drive for excellence makes the need for accountability moot.

Take It Further:

What are other areas of board performance that are keeping your nonprofit from fulfilling the expectations of your clients, staff, donors, referral sources, advocates, and community?

Read more about board accountability here and here

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