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Wilson Is At It Again: What a Dog Can Share About Nonprofit Boards

June 6, 2013

We can learn a lot from animals. In this case, my dog (who thinks he is a person) is a good teacher about some governance smarts.

I thought I would share his PowerPoint slides for tomorrow’s presentation, a short exploration of nonprofit boards with the United States National Committee for UN Women.

Wilson Lesson 1.
All of us are better at our jobs when we know what the expectations are.

wilson1

Now it’s pretty obvious to Wilson that throwing a stick in the water means he has a few steps to follow that will surely result in happiness on everyone’s part. Run out there, swim, retrieve the stick, bring it back. He loves it because it’s crystal clear how the game works, and he has an important role.

When it comes to nonprofit boards, we have to know what’s expected of us–both as individual board members and as the board of directors as a unit. We owe our boards the proper introduction to their roles and responsibilities, as well as continuous exploration of those roles as our organizations evolve.

Wilson Lesson 2.
Sometimes it helps to look at things sideways.

wilson2

Falling victim to “group think” is one of the most dangerous shifts that occurs on boards where diverse perspectives are not encouraged and sought after. When we don’t invite different points of view or challenge the status quo, we can leave important conversations and possible solutions on the table. Board meetings become boring, and worse, we stop being effective and innovative.

Wilson Lesson 3. When you grow tired, it’s time to take a break.

wilson3

What do we mean by taking a break? Get off the board! We have seen some nonprofits profiled in The Giving Partner with boards that do not have reasonable term lengths or limits. This keeps people on the board who may be well-meaning and crazy about your mission, but who do not have the new energy, ideas and considerations to keep your board propelled forward.

It is essential to have a governance process by which old board members cycle off and new board members are elected deliberately based on your organization’s needs. This board development process should be in the works throughout your year.

That Wilson…when it starts raining, his mind goes to town…

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County

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