3 forms of a change in governance

November 6, 2014       The NonProfit Times      

Change comes in all sizes, from the barely noticeable to the “What happened?”

During the 2014 Nonprofit Executive Summit in Santa Fe. N.M., Melanie Lockwood Herman said that the governance changes that have occurred in nonprofits could be categorized in three distinct ways: Classic, Evolving and Inspired.

Each category shows up distinctly in a variety of settings. The following provide a few examples.

  • Governance structure. Classic: Same structure since startup. Some committees inactive or ineffective. Structure is hard to manage. Evolving: Recent changes to improve governance, such as new committees or committee roles. Inspired: Adjusted regularly to meet evolving governance needs. Committees are active and relevant.
  • Board composition. Classic: Members serve too long. No policy on term limits or issue is ignored, arm-twisting is the principal board recruitment strategy. Evolving: Occasional turnover. Generally more candidates for openings than candidates. Inspired: Intentional diversity achieved through ongoing leadership recruitment and vetting. Terms limits mean board development is an ongoing, high-priority activity.
  • Board policies. Classic: What policies? Do you mean bylaws? Evolving: We have a few, including policies related to spending, investments. Focus on understanding governance roles and responsibilities during orientation. Inspired: Evolving to meet a changing landscape, priorities and the needs of the nonprofit. Policies are clear and understood by incoming and veteran members.