I've reported to boards, I've worked with boards, and I've been a board member. In all of these capacities, I've made the same observation. When it comes to the sustainability of a non-profit, you need three types of volunteers:
This is no more true than when it comes to Board Members, some of your most active and influential volunteers...or at least they should be.
There are Boards that are Planning Boards. They help the organization move towards greater efficiency and positive outcomes. They help the organization think and act strategically. They give a lot of their time and expertise.
Then there are Fundraising Boards. Their primary responsibility is to bring more financial resources to the organization, either through personal donations, cultivating the donations of others and/or through fundraising events. They give a lot of their money (or their money generating abilities).
And then there are Boards that are a combination of the two.
When recruiting and training your boards and providing them with the resources they need to do their jobs as board members, organizations must determine what kind of board you want them to be and articulate this. Few things are more frustrating than being on what you thought was a planning board and realizing all the organization really wanted was for you to be a rainmaker. Likewise, if you love throwing parties and creating events for a good cause and just the thought of your sitting through a strategic planning retreat gives you a headache, yet that is exactly what is expected of you, that's not good either.
If you have a combination board, one of the best things you can do is have sub committees who can focus on those aspects of board roles and responsibilities that align with your board members areas or expertise and interests. Having a one size fits all organizational structure for the board and its activities, where everyone has the same level of responsibility and participation may seem better in theory, but in practice you end up with more dysfunction and lack of commitment.
What has been your experience? Do you completely disagree with me or have you seen examples of board members with more time than money being expected to contribute financially? Or what are the consequences when board members who just wanted to "cut a check" are asked to be more involved in planning? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.