The calibre of the Board and its ability to be a strategic team can make or break the organisation it governs.

Jul 24, 2018

Why not join a Not for Profit Board (NFP)? It’s a wonderful opportunity to use your expertise to add value to an important mission It will also enable you to gain important governance skills.”

Sound familiar?? I hear this so often in career development forums.

There are many great Not for Profit Boards, but some are not so great. Caveat emptor (Buyer beware)

My experience in “for purpose / not for profit sector” spans over 20 years. I love the sector and I enjoy working with executives and board members who have the vision and leadership skills to create value and make the world a better place.

The NFP sector plays an important role in our community and has a huge impact on the lives of many Australians. The sector is broad and includes health, aged care, the arts, sport, conservation, education, cultural issues and more.

Why do it?? Joining a Not for Profit Board can be a wonderful life-enriching experience, I have worked with amazing boards who are skilled leaders with the courage and capabilities required to create important community impacts.

The sector benefits greatly when its governing board members have high levels of expertise and range of professional backgrounds.

Sadly, I have also worked with underperforming boards, who lack skills and the fortitude required. Dysfunctional boards can reduce the material value of the organisation they govern and may risk the well-being of those in their charge. The calibre of the Board and its ability to be a strategic team can make or break the organisation it governs.

Don’t be swept up on the romance of changing the world, undertake your own due diligence before you invest your time, expertise and your reputation.

Here are some essential steps to undertake before you join that Board.

  • Ensure you understand the organisation’s mission.
  • Make sure you understand your legal duties and the legal structure of your organisation.
  • Review the performance of the chairperson and fellow Board members, are they a functional governance board? Do they have the skills required to do the task assigned to them? Do they debate – or group-think?
  • Is the organisation viable? Check the cash flow, activity levels, contracts and the external environment.
  • Does the Board create value for end users, does it duplicate other services or run-down cash reserves by pursuing an out of date mission and model?
  • Assess the organisational culture, are you joining an organisation that has a sick culture, check the recent turn-over of staff and understand the drivers. Does the Board support or undermine the CEO and the executive team?
  • Does the organisational have a set of values? Are they visible or token?
  • Modern Boards are transparent, does your Board engage with members and future end-users? (to test this; be a service user, ring the help line, visit the website-gain consumer insight)
  • How does the Board manage risk? Are they too risk averse to make the bold decisions required?
  • There are many Board that comply with legal duties but are still unable to progress the mission and create value in society. Don’t rely on just compliance audits, ask lots of questions.

**Remember Boards are legal entities and ensure you understand your legal duties as a Board Director – there is some great information available form the Institute of Company Directors (ACID), the Australian Charities and not for profit commission (ACNC) and professional consultants who specialise in not for profit matters.

Once you have completed your own investigation, don’t be afraid to say No thank you  if the results don’t stack up or align with your values.

With circa 56,000 registered charities in Australia, there will be alternatives.

And once you have found the perfect Board for you, enjoy the adventure and satisfaction that comes from being part of an amazing team, creating real impact.

I invite you to share your insights and recommendations in the comments section.