The majority of charity boards of trustees are dysfunctional.
Trustees spend too much time micromanaging charities and not enough time governing them. Their interference in the daily operations of charities distracts them from their larger role – to help direct the charity towards further growth and success. Board meetings as a result tend towards and inquisition of the CEO and other paid staff in attendance rather than a collaborative affair during which the charities long term direction.
That trustees are volunteers rather than paid directors contributes to this problem. Taking on the role of a trustee is then motivated by one of a few different archetypes:
– Founder – the trustee is a founder of the organisation
– Friend – someone joins the board due to their friendship/relationship with the chair
– Badge – trusteeship is simply another badge of honour to talk about at dinner parties
– No – someone is bad at saying no, so when asked took the role
– Money – as a major funder they have been asked to join
– Passion – the charity and the individual have highly aligned values
– Career Progression – individuals take the role to build expertise
Each archetype above comes with its own inherent challenges. However all bar the last two tend to yield trustees who interfere rather than set a vision.
I’ve observed this dysfunction while serving on boards myself. Even greater evidence for the dysfunction has come from the work Ella Forums does. 75% of the issues we help charity CEOs explore at Ella are directly connected to the trustees.
The health of your board will be affected by a number of things so start working on them now.
Your chair – don’t underestimate the importance of a good chair. You want your chair to be involved and motivated. The chair should be looking out for the CEO ensuring the CEO has what they need to do their job. This includes space to think; external perspective; and professional development. All the while helping to manage the other trustees.
Induction – New trustees should be inducted onto the board. Educate and train them on what is expected of them; outline their role; ensure they understand their liability; and share the vision that you want them to co-create. Start good habits right away and keep encouraging them.
Purpose – Utilise the board to set the vision and direction. Utilise the CEO to find the path/direction. Avoid allowing the board to micromanage without a clear need to do so.