Jul 102013

I’ve been involved with a few boards in the past 6 years, and had the opportunity to watch the Phoenix Niagara board up close and see the difficulties it faced. I’m going to offer a few suggestions, which I think the new BKS board could benefit from. These are based on the pitfalls that I’ve seen other groups deal with.

  1. Keep your board small. The larger the board, the longer it will take to arrive at decisions, and the more likely that there will be splintering down the road when there are disagreements. I’ve seen a few boards (including Phoenix Niagara) decide to expand their board (in the case of PN from 3 to 6) either because the board wanted to share work between more members, or because they wanted to appear to give more representation. More representation is a good idea, but meetings quickly become bogged down, and the longer each meeting takes and the more disagreement you have to deal with, the less effective your board will become. Board members lose steam, and suddenly your entire board is floating dead in the water.
  2. Make use of advisors. Find experienced and level-headed people that can make suggestions to the board. When you don’t have a clear answer, ask those advisors what they would do. The choice is still the boards, but you’ll have a more informed decision. It’s also best that these people not be invested in the group so that they are as unbiased as possible.
  3. Appoint a spokesperson. This person is in charge of writing FL postings, which should be okayed by the rest of the board prior to posting. Knowing that it is one person talking through an account, and that the person has the backing of the board is important for your members and shows stability.
  4. Members don’t need to know EVERYTHING. Beyond a quarterly or annual update, members don’t need to be made aware of every decision, unless it requires them to do something differently. This is important, unless the board likes to be challenged on every decision it makes. Board members are supposed to be elected based on their ability to make decisions in the best interest of the group for a set term. Allow them to do that, and if you don’t like it, vote against them at the next election.
  5. Appoint an ombudsman. Again, this person should be removed from the group if at all possible. They are there to handle members complaints against the board, and to participate in any appeals to the boards decisions. They keep the board accountable. At least one board I can think of could have benefited greatly from this when one member made unilateral decisions (but since he was the spokesman for the group it was assumed it was a unified decision), and could have helped remove this person when it was alleged that he was also pocketing group finances.
  6. Share the work. If you need help, develop committees. Committee members must follow the boards decisions, or be removed from their post. Committee members do no get a board vote.
  7. Value your volunteers. Events can’t run without the support of your members, and without their active participation.
  8. Enforce the rules. This was Phoenix Niagara’s biggest pitfall a few years back. The Chief DM and board didn’t enforce them equally, and as a result people didn’t feel safe at the PN parties. It wasn’t long before the group went from 80 regular attendees to 25.

Written by and shared with permission of MasterMatt84. Thank you.

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