In the last article, we discussed why a governing board was highly functioning and one that merely managed was not, because it exercising passive stewardship. Another key characteristic of a highly functioning board is having moved from passive stewardship to dynamic leadership.

After 40+ years of nonprofit consulting I began to ask myself what made the difference between an effective, successful nonprofit and one that just ran in place year after year?

I found that those organizations that had dynamic, highly functioning board members stood head and shoulders above their peers in their respective fields and in the community.  They had moved from passive stewardship to dynamic leadership.

What is passive stewardship?   Well, one thing it is not, is visionary. It is satisfied with marginal existence doing business-as-usual year after year.

What are the reasons for passive stewardship? Typically, they are: Not knowing the real reason you’re on the board in the first place (what is the mission?). Lack of understanding of the most important tenets of board responsibility.  Not challenging fellow board members on assumptions and decisions.  And, very importantly, not willing to take any risks to make incremental growth in the organization’s plans and activities.

Now, let’s look at the hallmarks of dynamic board leadership: The board revisits the vision and mission statements on a regular basis to determine the organization’s continued relevancy in current societal and economic conditions.  It has an effective and supportive relationship with management.  It has a sense of real ownership in the organization. It participates in ongoing governance issues and is involved in choosing organizational leadership.  It challenges management and the board to think unconventionally out of the box, and it embraces a willingness to take calculated risks to carry out an expanded vision and mission. Its members are 24/7 ambassadors and promoters of the organization and its mission.  And, finally, it has an ongoing, effective and proactive board governance committee and a committed and evolved development committee.

These last two are, in my opinion, the most important committees on a highly functioning nonprofit board. Yet, ironically, they are the ones that are typically avoided by board members and are typically not executed very well. Why?  Because they require dealing with uncomfortable issues, and they require a deep, personal commitment to the core success of an organization.

Ultimately, without strong, dynamic leadership ensuring that an organization has more than adequate resources to carry out, grow and improve its mission, it will never become a leader in its field and make a significant impact on the community and the people it serves.

Let Mirenda & Associates guide you through the process to evolve your board from being merely stewards to dynamic, highly functioning leaders.