Why does board performance really matter? Because success starts at the top, and the organization’s leaders—board members and executive management—are there as guardians of the mission and caretakers who ensure service to their distinct community. In a classic servant-leadership model, each tier of an organization serves the level beneath it so that service reaches the ultimate end user. In the nonprofit world, the end users are the people who receive the benefits and services from these critically important agencies.
Some could argue the duties of today’s boards, particularly in the nonprofit sector, are among the most important in all of society’s work. Nonprofit boards shepherd and champion the least-served in the least-funded arenas: human services, social causes, education, health and the arts.
Yet as fluctuating economic and business conditions affect the philanthropic sector, nonprofits are too often spotlighted on the precarious edge. Articles about financial mismanagement and other struggles are more prevalent than ever. When there is negative publicity, it affects an organization’s ability to raise funds and achieve programmatic and financial goals. It can also inhibit an organization’s ability to strategically prepare for the future or achieve sustainable performance.
While most boards do a solid job, forward-thinking board members are asking how to measure their performance to ensure they meet their responsibilities and limit their liabilities. In these challenging times, evaluating board performance is not just a concern—it’s an essential principle of good governance and legal and fiduciary responsibility.
Individuals on boards are often successful high achievers. If a board is not functioning at peak performance, board members may become disillusioned and detached. When board members disengage or when they resign, the organization loses not only committed volunteers, but also valuable donors and a link to the financial community.
Today’s challenge for many organizations is to secure both funding and committed board members. In a time of economic scarcity and competitive adversity, nonprofit boards, already inherently challenged, have an intensified need to successfully execute their duties and achieve consistently high performance. Organizational success and board performance are inextricably linked. Board members are your visionaries and your champions—take care of them so they will stay and make sure you achieve your potential.