The Influence of the Board

The Influence of the Board

I am guessing that most of you either answer to a Board of some type, serve on a Board, or at minimum, work for an organization that has a Board. Those who sit “on” the Board may be called directors, members, trustees or governors. The bottom line is this – they are generally charged with providing the governance – legally, financially and ethically, for the organization to be successful. Non-profit organizations or ministries are no exception.

But is that ALL they do? We hope not. The role of serving as a board member is way more important than that. These folks are in a position to provide influence; their board services allows them to serve as a cheer leader, to give of their time, talent and treasure, to get others to give, to volunteer, etc. Many boards struggle from time to time to fulfill these roles effectively. A strong, functioning and supportive Board can be the CEO’s best friend, while a poorly performing or disengaged board can be his greatest headache.

I was recently talking with a friend who serves as the executive director for a small non-profit organization. When referring to his ministry’s future plans, he said, “I’m more and more convinced that I cannot build core competencies within the organization and it does not reside at The Board level.”

Let’s unpack this a bit. What was he really saying? If I were to guess, he is saying something like: “My organization needs to grow; there are things we do well and things we don’t do well; I have gaps within my small staff; we could do so much more if only …..……; I need help; one place I can look is my board, but I don’t see the time, talent or treasure there either.”

So, let’s look at the opposite scenario. If (some of) the needed “competencies” did exist at the board level, what would these look like? What are some things that board members can bring to their organization to grow it? Here are a few:

  • Engaging donors on behalf of the organization; cultivating relationships, inviting them to tours or events; soliciting their support at the right time.
  • Bringing a professional skill or experience to the organization; accounting, financial planning, legal advice, strategic planning, counseling; etc.
  • Make phone calls to thank donors at year end; hand deliver receipts to donors.
  • Speak on behalf of the organization at churches, service clubs and the like – we call this being an “ambassador.”

The key here is that not only are you providing a level of expertise, you are likely saving your organization precious dollars that would need to spent on hiring or outsourcing that expertise. This creates a “win-win” for both the board member and the organization being served.

(For more on this subject, consider my partner Ron Hass’ book entitled: “Ask For A Fish.” It was written with board members in mind. It is available at



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