Anyone who has read my blog for any period of time or has been a nonprofit grad student of mine knows how I feel about nonprofit boards. Most are just deplorable – wasting precious staff energies and bringing nothing to the board table.
We need a “Jack Kevorkian” for nonprofit boards – cutting the oxygen and giving a merciful death since beheading is so “old world”.
While Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) has minimal requirements for nonprofits, the fact is that most organizations have no agreed upon metric for evaluating board performance.
I do like the Junior League’s motto, “give, get, or get off.” Whitman-Walker Clinic, Metropolitan Washington DC’s AIDS-service organization, requires an annual $10,000 donation from each of its board members whether through a personal gift, an arranged contribution of money or services, or a combination of both.
But a board’s responsibility doesn’t even start – let alone stop – with financial support. In principle, nonprofit boards are the “eyes and ears” of the community. They’re there to make certain that the organization is true to its stated mission.
In a recent email from the Nonprofit Times, there is a blurb about a few board groundrules stated as questions:
- Does the adoption of good governance practices lead to the desired outcome? What is that outcome? How is performance measured?
- If you assume a practice is a “best practice,” how do you deal with offenders? How do you establish those practices across a diverse nonprofit sector that includes grantmakers, such as private foundations, social service organizations, educational organizations, hospitals and others? How can you establish the predictive ability of “best practices?”
- Does a nonprofit with high marks provide any assurance that the nonprofit is, in fact, a good organization?
- Will good governance practices, over time, assure superior performance based on operating measures or other characteristics?
The email states that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tells us “a well-governed charity is more likely to obey tax laws, safeguard charitable assets, and serve charitable interests.” This reminds me of the opening line made by an IRS auditor to a minority business owner: “I’m from the IRS and I’m here to help you.”
What do you think?