Boards can get MESSY. Any group with a lot of people will have its problems, and learning how to remedy those issues is key to the success of your nonprofit.
When you’re starting to grow your company, you need a board. The hardest challenge you will face at this stage is finding GOOD board members. You want to keep it small to be able to make decisions quickly. Having people who understand the programs you’re using, you’ll want a lawyer and an expert finance person amongst the members.
Some questions to ask yourself, “Do I want to add someone who is very good at fundraising? How about someone who is very good at partnerships? What about all of the above?”. The key to growing your board is to do it slowly as time goes on.
One issue you may face is when you try to raise money, certain funders will have an expectation of how big your board is. They may want to know exactly who is on the board and what they bring to the table. One of the hardest people to find is a good finance person or treasurer, so be on the lookout! If the quality of your board isn’t strong enough, you may have a hard time funding. If the board members don’t understand nonprofit boards and only have for-profit board experience, it may cause issues down the road.
Because SO many nonprofits are international, internal controls are NOT easy. Any risk or fraud problems are very difficult to solve without the right people and the right knowledge. Working with experienced people in finance or management can help a lot of the experience isn’t fully there yet in terms of the board.
Another problem you can run into is if your board gets too big. You need to get everyone on the same page. If you’re trying to approve a budget and are worried about the size of your board, start with the finance committee first, then talk to other members of the board (starting with the most difficult people to sell to first). You will have to convince all of these members, which can get time-consuming and difficult if they have different ideas of what they want for the nonprofit.
As Amazon states, if you can’t share two large pizzas easily between everyone, the board is too big. While this may be true for for-profit companies, nonprofits have a bigger board. You can have boards that are fully strategic, or you can have some boards where the people on it just help fundraise and help with connections.
The larger the board, the more issues arise.
It really depends on what the exact problem is. In a general sense, a chairman would sit down with the board member in question. The most important thing is to LISTEN… which is harder for some than we may think. Simply asking, “Do you feel that you’ve been heard?” can change everything.
Sometimes, people feel like they’ve been shouted over and snuffed out. They don’t feel like they have a voice, and that leads to tons of frustration. At the end of the discussion, the board member may just agree to disagree and continue with the nonprofit as they still agree with the overall goals. Other times, they may resign from the board. This resignation does not have to be on bad terms, either! Sometimes people just aren’t good fits. Wish them well and keep on moving!