Let’s spend a little time talking about how the Board gets it’s work done. I have written in past blogs about Boards and that Board meetings should be all about education and inspiration, strategic thinking and making policy decisions. So where does the work get done if not at the Board meetings? In committees, task forces, teams – call them what you want!
Standing Committees are groups of people who meet year-round, addressing on-going needs, such as building the Board, monitoring the agency’s finances, raising money, etc. Task forces come and go as needed, to deal in depth with a short term problem or issue, and then go out of business. When the Board needs to address an issue or problem in-depth, they convene a smaller group of people to study the problem and bring a solution to the Board for approval.
What I tell my clients is that committees are like the “divisions” in a company, organized around talented, highly skilled specialists who bring the latest ideas and technology to the company. The person in charge is usually part of the company’s management team, responsible to make sure that the efforts of the division or department are in line with the company’s mission. That’s how work gets done.
It should be the same in nonprofits. Committees and task forces are the divisions, and should be headed by a Board member. The rest of the group could be composed of talented specialists, from the Board and from the community, who understand the problem and can look intelligently for solutions. If it’s the challenge of marketing, the Board should find the best people in communication, promotion, writing and publications in the community, not Board members who are maybe committed to the agency but have no experience in marketing. You want the best people. Go out and find them!
Another benefit of reaching into the community is often that these individuals will bring with them pro-bono in-kind services; printing, contacts with media, graphics, that are available in their company. We’re not always just looking for money – sometimes we can get facilities, food, music, media-access that would normally cost lots of money – we can get this for free, or at cost, because we involved people in the community and they get excited about the project.
A client recently asked a top notch filmmaker to do a video for their organization. He and his crew spent over 40 hours interviewing the staff and clients and putting together a professional production. This could have cost in excess of $10K, and he did it gratis. During this time, his passion for the agency’s work grew, and when the project was complete, he was so excited about the agency’s services that he asked to come on the Board.
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Now he’s leading a major marketing effort and bringing in all his contacts. This is why we must be constantly reaching out to the community.