Building board cultures of thrivability and philanthropy

Building board cultures of thrivability and philanthropy

Posted on October 24, 2013 by Pam Truitt

I hit the jackpot. Within three days, I got to hear two expert consultants speak (separately) about different aspects of board roles for community benefit organizations (CBO).

Go ahead. Roll your eyes if you think board issues rival watching paint dry.

Boring? Not even close.

Once you get past the academics and best practices, both consultants presented real-life examples. If you guessed that the "Human Factor" is at play here-- Bingo! You know a message rings true when audiences at both events gasped accompanied by significant head nodding.

Consultant Betsy Steiner shared best practices for boards in the transformation process—from a culture of governance to culture of philanthropy. These processes are necessary to ensure fresh minds and ideas are at the table doing mission-focused work.

Steiner provided a recent example to illustrate her point. A 98 year-old organization, serving families, got comfortable in their place. Board members did not roll off and fresh ideas and energy was no longer part of the board values. They’d lost their culture of philanthropy and when the forces of a changed economy hit, their business model was no longer viable. By this time, the existing board did not possess the energy and willingness to transform board seats from burdens to assets.

Steiner queried the audience—members of the local chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and by a show of hands about one-third are developing the culture of philanthropy. Kudos to them! This approach is more than a culture of philanthropy; it’s a culture of thrivability.

Two days later, I participated in a workshop led by Dr. Sandra Hughes, a renowned and sought-after board governance consultant. Hughes brought a fresh perspective and shared governance trends.

Trivia--Did you know that Robert’s Rules of Order was written in 1870 and fills out more than 780 pages?

Of the trends….

• Board Chairs are facilitators and consensus builders who treat everyone with respect.

• Significant time on each board agenda is devoted to discussing mission impact items.

• High-performing boards want to collaborate/partner and learn from each other.

Likely the largest trend is that board structures are moving from the hard line organizational charts of the past to more of an amoeba-like form that reshapes itself to respond to new realities.

Hughes and workshop participants had so many insightful thoughts and I was able to tweet a few:

All good stuff. What are you seeing?

  • Learn about these and other concepts used in TPF's approach to philanthropy.


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