Improving Board Governance: Part 2

Adrianne Geiger Dumond

The Importance of Effective Board Meetings

Board meetings can be comprised of dedicated supporters, and/or highly trained professionals – all committed to the cause, but with different skill sets for good governance. Part 1 of this series named the three ‘mindsets’ that Boardsource likes for adequate governance of a nonprofit. They were: Financial Insight, Strategic Insight and Generative Insight – the third mindset being the most challenging to grasp.

Generative governance requires time being spent to feel comfortable with the concepts – critical thinking, problem analysis, and tackling ambiguous Board circumstances. It’s more than the usual Board meeting agenda. Board, staff, and CEO must work as partners to handle the strategies going forward. A generative mindset might be quite healthy in a nonprofit’s staff and its teams. For example, a problem arises, the appropriate team analyses cause and effect, researches possible solutions, proposes recommendations to the CEO – who then takes it to the Board. A generative mindset might mean that the staff person/team leader also present their reasoning to the Board, since the Board may need to approve a large expenditure. This thinking for the Board is at a macro level that may feel uncomfortable at first. And it requires better preparation for Board meetings – asking better questions instead of focusing on immediate, short-term considerations – like balancing the budget.

Operating in a generative mode is educating Board members and requires more meeting time and resources for critical thinking, discussion and debate. Here are some tips for making the transition easier.

Consent agendas:  Sending out an agenda ahead of the meeting allows quick acceptance of routine reports and approval of recurring actions.

Pre-reading: No meeting time should be spent reviewing documents for information and knowledge, Information should be sent early enough for Board members to be prepared for discussion and to provide their opinions.

Board Composition: A diversity of thinking styles and problem solving is important. This is a great learning opportunity for all involved. Often, great team work is the outcome – members having better understanding of each other.

In Part 3 I will cover the important role of the Chief Executive in this process, and the risks and barriers.

Author:  Adrianne Geiger DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org