February 15, 2009

Do you have a written policy that defines the performance expectations of your board members?

I hope so. Because if you don’t, you’re really behind. And you’ll fall more and more behind if you don’t fix this fast.

Best practice and the body of knowledge tell us that we need clear performance expectations, even for board members.

So do it. Start now. Bring up the topic at the next Governance Committee meeting. And if someone says, “But we cannot expect volunteers to follow the rules. . . ” Or “It’s hard enough to get good board members without having performance expectations. . . ”

Then tell them “You’re wrong. The best organizations long ago adopted performance expecations. And the smart organizations who haven’t done this work yet are doing it darn fast.”

Be afraid. Be really afraid.

Governments around the world are real tired of the nonprofit / NGO messes. Governments are expecting self-regulation, or they’ll regulate you themselves.

Just troll the Internet and you’ll find lots of articles about good governance and not-so-good governance. Read the headlines about nonprofit / NGO mishaps, misbehavior, and just plain old scandals.

Articulating performance expectations — applicable to all board members — is a good start. Talk about performance expectations at the board level. Have a good, deep discussion. Collect samples, like the one on my website.

Draft your own policy. (But I stress, mine is darn good, the best example, actually. And there’s no exception or excuse. Everyone can perform as I’ve described, if staff enable them well.)

Then you use these performance expectations to screen candidates for board membership. You nominate someone to board membership only after the individual agrees to fulfill these performance expectations.

You review performance on an ongoing basis. You provide feedback. And you confront board members who are not fulfilling the expectations. If the board member doesn’t improve his performance, you indicate he needs to resign at this time.

Just do it!

About Simone Joyaux

A consultant specializing in fund development, strategic planning, and board development, Simone P. Joyaux works with all types and sizes of nonprofits, speaks at conferences worldwide, and teaches in the graduate program for philanthropy at Saint Mary’s University, MN. Her books, Keep Your Donors and Strategic Fund Development, are standards in the field.

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