I read a recent article in the online New York Times Dealbook about Lance Armstrong and was reminded that the flipside of finding new board members who’ll participate in the fundraising of the organization is the removal of board members who won’t or don’t measure up in other ways.
“His recent resignation from the board of the Livestrong charity, which he founded, is a valuable reminder that boards should have in place a protocol dealing with “fitness to serve” issues for officers and directors.”
The first step, of course, is figuring out whether you have a problem or not. Is your board fit? Do you measure their fitness at regular intervals? Do you evaluate individual board member performance? You should. There are plenty of measuring tools and surveys out there: just Google it. One of my favorites is from Board Source.
Their self-assessment will take you through the main functions of the board:
- Funding and Public Image
- Board Composition
- Program Oversight
- Financial Oversight
- CEO Oversight
- Board Structure
The second step is to have policies and procedures in place to deal with under- or non-performing board members. Of course, just having the policies and procedures in place doesn’t work if you don’t follow through and actually hold board members accountable for their performance.
I’m always surprised to find organizations that don’t have things like this in place. Term limits, removal procedures, triggering events, consequences and so on. And if the board does have them, they often aren’t enforced. One of the most common excuses I hear is that “you can’t fire a volunteer”. Actually, I think that’s BS. Of course you can fire a volunteer. Done respectfully and with genuine care, it can demonstrate the board’s commitment to the mission and future of the organization.
The “fitness” of your board is a reflection of the health of your entire organization. Do you know how fit they are? Do you enforce board expectations and requirements?