It’s usually easier for 8 people to agree on a course of action than for larger groups to do so. Although the average not-for-profit board size in Canada is 14, more not-for-profits now recognize the problems inherent in large boards. Reducing Board size often involves issues such as representation of certain constituencies. Strong two-way communications for all members may reduce the requirements for designated representatives for certain groups. Alternatively, associations with large boards are delegating more work to their executive committees or task forces to enhance and speed up decision making.
Given the time constraints of elected leaders, organizations will continue to move away from bylaws-mandated standing committees to ad hoc task forces. Volunteers become disillusioned with committee service because many of their assigned tasks are total time-wasters. It’s easier – and usually far more effective – to recruit volunteers for issue-oriented task forces with a limited service commitment. Once the job is completed, the task force disbands and the members earn a sense of accomplishment.
Strategic Nominating Committees
As Boards recognize they need ongoing attention for peak performance, nominating committees are becoming “leadership development committees.” Instead of just proposing a slate of nominees, they identify future leaders to help assess and improve operations.
Fresh (Outside) Perspectives
No matter how sophisticated the leaders may be, group-think enters the deliberative process. Boards facing complex issues can benefit from an outside perspective. One innovative way to accomplish this is to add a “public” member (that is, someone outside your industry or profession) to the Board. The inside ‘outsider’ helps Boards address the big picture. Public members tend to see the forest and the tree.
Faster Succession Tracks
Those same volunteers who are frustrated by cumbersome procedures will not hang around for years to “earn” their place in the association’s leadership. Boards are beginning to define leadership paths that can be completed in a reasonable amount of time. What’s “reasonable”? Good question and the answer have yet to emerge. However, comprehensive orientations, ongoing training and written policy manuals provide Board members with the in-depth understanding of the association they formerly obtained only “on the job.”