Outside Influences: How is Today’s Political Climate Impacting Boards?

“I’m dealing with board implosion all over,” said an officer from an organization with hundreds of US affiliates. The comment tickled my curiosity. Given the harsh quality of public discourse, is her experience an aberration or a trend?

What’s Happening?
To learn more, I asked a dozen leaders who interact with multiple nonprofits. Two responses emerged. The first was no change. The second was neither greater board cohesion or conflicts, but more of both.

Admittedly, my inquiries only scratched the surface of a larger conversation. Are certain nonprofit sub-sectors more susceptible to turmoil, i.e. nonprofits with missions around jobs vs. the arts? Are boards in red and blue states calmer than those in purple? Big picture, how do cultural trends impact boards? Is outside influence greater in low-functioning boards?

What to Do?
Let’s keep watch and learn. Imploding boards drain and stunt revenue growth.
Can you inoculate your board against corrosive influences? You can by incorporating tactics, such as:
  1. Insisting on a Mission Focus. Susie Bowie, Executive Director
    Manatee Community Foundation, explains, “Our board members have different political beliefs…but, they focus on community and philanthropy… a space where all can come together for the benefit of all.”
  2. Evaluating Meetings. Before you end meetings, ask, what did we do well? Affirm. Then finish strong by asking: what can we do even better next time?
  3. Creating Ground Rules. Use “better next time” commitments to institute ground rules, that is, behaviors the board adopts. Post, incorporate, review, and refine these rules to support success.
In every meeting, your board moves toward decay or growth. Add value. Nudge your board toward growth by using these and similar tactics. To learn more about growing boards, read Guilty as Charged, Prove your Board Supports Your Organization.

It Doesn’t Have to Be Lonely at the Top

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