According to Houle (1998), “The central value of a board is that it provides the opportunity for shared wisdom”. It can stand to reason that board maturity is a value to the overall effectiveness of a board. What does a mature board look like? This depends on the organization and the member makeup. Maturity has little to do with the age of the members alone or the years spent in membership to the board. Board maturation could be described as the level at which the board effectively fulfills the organization’s mission.
The actual face of the board will not be one demographic but a mosaic of individuals whose experiences are rich and shared with the organization. Diversity of members is extremely important. Rubber-stamping, yes-voting members may be good for a CEO that has their own priorities; but this is short sided and shows board immaturity. The ability to question, investigate and contribute to decisions demonstrates a mature, well-rounded, and effective board. In addition to diversity of gender, race, ethnicity and socio-economic status, functional diversity is equally important in a mature board. Functional diversity is the professionalism that members bring to the table. For example, a functionally diverse board may have members who are bankers, lawyers, managers, business owners, and other relevant-to-the-organization professionals. This allows for separation of roles and responsibilities that are specific to members own expertise.
Board maturation cannot occur overnight. Members will come and go and there will be times when recruitment is needed. Recruitment efforts should be based around who can serve to fulfill the goals of the organization. There will also be times when board members become stagnant. A way to avoid this is to include terms and term limits in the board of director bylaws. This assures that members are not only constantly revolving but that new input is present and involvement is high.
A mature board will be more likely to make good, educated decisions for the organization’s success. However, it should be noted that there may be a downside to a very diverse board. Its strength can also be its weakness. When a room is full of different perspectives, it can take a lot of time to carefully deliberate on each agenda item. In the long run, this will be beneficial to the organization. It would be a good idea to create meeting agendas with high priority items and create smaller committees for lower ones.
A nonprofit with a mature, diverse, and well-qualified board will be highly effective for the organization. With special consideration of how each board member can be utilized, their individual assets will work as a synergy of value to the organization.
Daley, J.M. (2002). An action guide for nonprofit board diversity. Journal of Community Practice, 10(1), 33-54.