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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Board Membership Qualities – Only Skin Deep? - Leah

In reviewing Dennis C. Miller’s article, “How and When to Fire a Board Member” , it brought me back to discussions with classmates of mine discussing different types of individuals needed to fill board positions for nonprofit organizations. Although there is great emphasis placed on functional diversity and professional skills for board members, there is an underestimated importance in values and personal ethics. It becomes apparent in Miller’s article that when a board member is “acting out” and not “playing well with others” is basically when their participation on the board needs to be re-evaluated. A person’s basic core, values and ethics should be the foundation for choosing individuals to participate on nonprofit boards.

Yes, it is useful and effective to have people who have legal, accounting, medical, or other experiences that are important to the organizations cause, but if those professionals are not able to identify with the goals of the organization, they will be unsuccessful as board members. If an individual does not agree with the goals of the organiation, that person’s (a) dedication to serve, (b) motivation to make good decisions, and (c) ultimate performance on the board will suffer. The importance that nonprofits place on individual values and ethics cannot be overlooked when choosing board members. It is possible that if this first hurdle is overcome in the beginning of the process, many of the examples that Miller discusses in which board members have to be fired, such as lack of attendance, failure to become a team player, or failure to follow through on responsibilities could be prevented.

This quote from Doyle Brunson comes to mind: “A man with money is no match against a man on a mission”, which also ties into the article by William Judge and Carl Zeithaml, “An Empirical Comparison between the Board’s Strategic Role in Nonprofit Hospitals and in For-Profit Industrial Firms”. The article noted that board members for for-profit organizations were less involved in strategic decisions than those for nonprofit organizations. The article brought forth this truth, that individuals who are more closely tied to a goal on a deeper level will be more effective as board members. As overly optimistic as it may sound, if a person is emotionally and personally attached to a goal, and has a strong desire to make that goal a reality, their professional abilities, bank accounts, or titles matter little in the long run. I think it is important to be reminded of the core qualities that must be found in potential board members as a precursor to evaluating professional skills an individual can bring to the table.

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