Legal registration, clearly documented policies, governing boards. These are not typically thought of as the “fun” parts of running an organization, and can often be neglected in favor of more exciting endeavors like vision-casting or amassing capital. But any institution without proper governance cannot stand, just as a building cannot stand without a solid foundation.
Our desire is to see LCIs in our network become strong, resilient, permanent fixtures in their communities, locally owned and led and sustaining. We know firsthand that ensuring institutional governance is an essential step in that process.
Let’s start by discussing boards. There are a number of types of boards - advisory boards, governing boards, working boards, policy boards, and more. For PW, we define a board simply as a group of qualified, dedicated people working in partnership with the leaders of the organization. A board guides, challenges, and supports the LCI, holding true to the LCI’s mission and vision, and works together with the leaders of the LCI towards the continued success of the organization.
Board creation is about leveraging and creating relationships with people already in your network that could be valuable to your organization’s mission, and to whom the organization’s mission is of interest. We recommend boards be as local as possible, and have vested interest in the success of the organization. However, a successful board should NOT consist of your friends and family serving as mere figureheads so you can legally operate and say “I have a board.” If your board serve primarily as “yes men,” you have gone awry. A great board will propel your work forward, utilizing their unique experiences and areas of expertise to advance the mission of the organization.
Boards should meet regularly as a group with the LCI leader(s) to discuss and implement solutions to any issues within the LCI. Be wary of mixing LCI staff and board members, as it is good to have systems of ‘checks and balances’ in place.
Beyond boards, we also strongly recommend, if not require, that all LCIs be legally registered entities, in good standing with the local government. If your LCI is not formally registered, work with your local PW staff representative to begin that process. Along this same track, we encourage LCIs to have a business bank account, their own Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws, and other necessary legal documents for the LCI to be legally operable and potentially “bank-able.”
Where there is no guidance the people fall, But in abundance of counselors there is victory.
- Proverbs 11:14
Just getting started?
- Check out PW’s 10 Tips for Creating Effective Organizational Boards
- Quick overview of several Different Types of Boards, and how they differ. This may help you identify which type of board is right for your LCI.
- Here’s a very good overview from policygovernanceconsulting.com titled What is the Board’s Role? It outlines the nine basic responsibilities of a board with a brief description of each.
- Our friend Matthew Downey from the Johnson Center for Philanthropy is one of the leading experts on board development and board/staff relationships. Here’s a brief article he’s written on The Working Board.
- Another insightful article on Finding the Right Board Members
Want to go deeper?
- Once you’ve identified and recruited board members, Board Orientation is an important yet often neglected step. Here’s a great resource from councilofnonprofits.org on Board Orientation. More resources contained within the link at the bottom of the page.
- From 501c3.org, here’s a helpful article on Avoiding Conflict of Interest on a Board of Directors
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.