“Do you really need a Board or does having one just lead to more chaos…?”

A few months back, this loaded question was asked of the Nonprofit Professionals Group on LinkedIn, and a robust discussion followed.

My favorite answer, though, came from colleague John McClusky.

need-a-board“…we, the public, “entrust” the “trustees,” the predominantly volunteer body named “the “board,” to serve as our agent to ensure that the NPO actually pursues the socially beneficial purpose (mission) it claims to fulfill and acts in a fundamentally responsible way with the charitable donations and tax exemptions we grant it…”

In other words, the Board of Directors is entrusted with the responsibility to make sure that the mission is fulfilled.

For years, I have been telling boards that their job is to ensure that the mission of the organization can be fulfilled now, and in the future. It lays the groundwork for the board’s role in ensuring that the resources necessary for this fulfillment – financial, intellectual, capital, social, vision —  are available to the organization.

But I’d never really looked at the other side of the role. When we serve on boards, we are not only serving our own nonprofit organization, we are also serving society. We, the Directors and Trustees, are the eyes and ears of society, are responsible for making sure that the dollars which society entrusts to us are used wisely and to fulfill the intent which we proclaim. Our donors give us their wealth; our government is giving up tax dollars to us.

As directors and trustees, we serve our nonprofit. But we are also trustees of society, and as such, responsible for upholding our end of the bargain.

Being on a board is an awesome responsibility. Let me know if you’d like to talk about instilling this vision of a board’s role throughout your work.