Things to do before you join that NFP Governance Board.

May 20, 2020

There are many great Not for Profit Boards, but some are not so great.

 “Join a not for profit board (NFP), a wonderful opportunity to use your skills to progress an important mission and great for your professional reputation.”

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

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 board, and includes health, aged care, the arts, conservation, education and cultural issues.

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.

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

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

  • Ensure sure you understand the organisation’s mission.
  • 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 is there groups think?
  • Make sure you understand your legal duties and the legal structure of your organisation.
  • 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• Does the Board create value for end users, does it duplicate other services or run- down cash reserves by pursuing an out of date mission and model?
  • Organisational culture, are you joining an organisation that has a sick culture, check the recent turn-over of staff and understand the drivers. Do they support /undermine the CEO?
  • Does the organisational have a set of values? Does it follow them?
  • Modern Boards are transparent, does your board engage with members and end users? (to test this – Be a service user, ring the help line, visit the website)
  • How does the Board manage risk?
  • All Board Directors have important legal duties. There are many Board that comply with these 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 creating an impact.