Wednesday, March 25, 2020

LESSON 12 – Keeping the Boardroom Afloat

Welcome to More Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom Blog, a 40-week journey through the new book, More Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom, by Dan Busby and John Pearson. Each Wednesday, we're featuring a guest writer’s favorite snippet from the week's topic. Willie Nolte is our guest blogger this week for the fourth of four lessons in "Part 3: Nominees for the Board Member Hall of Fame.” And during this COVID-19 crisis, the role of the board becomes even more critical. We pray that your board will have God-honoring wisdom and spiritual discernment.

LESSON 12 OF 40 - Keeping the Boardroom Afloat
Are too many staff causing the boardroom to capsize?

THE BIG IDEA FROM THE BOOK: In a board meeting, the presence of too many staff members in attendance—or inappropriate staff-board interaction—can hinder the effective and productive governance functions of a board.

MY FAVORITE INSIGHTS from Lesson 12, pages 70-74:
 Boards need input from staff members. It takes discretion and wisdom to discern how many staff members are needed in the boardroom. 
Unsolicited input/responses from staff members may indicate a potential problem. It may indicate an imbalance when a staff person feels free to share unsolicited comments during a boardroom discussion—or when board members engage staff members directly in a board meeting.
Staff “speeches” are not appropriate. If staff use the board meeting to give speeches or argue a position not in harmony with the CEO’s position—there is definitely an issue.  

Hearing from staff is important and essential. My preference is to have staff reports submitted in writing for each board meeting. This accomplishes at least two things: 1) it informs the board of the ministry activities of the staff, and 2) it is a discipline for the staff to submit reports and to address measurable results.

Inappropriate staff involvement can drag the board out of governance and into management. It is an ongoing challenge for boards to resist trying to manage the ministry from the boardroom. If having too many staff present—and allowing engagement which gets “into the weeds”—is occurring, there is imbalance and the board has gotten off its primary role of governance.

Personal relationships are also important. Having staff present at board meetings gives the opportunity for the board to hear from—and to support—the staff person in a more significant manner than simply receiving a written report. A rotating schedule of staff attendance would allow this ongoing connection and relationship to be a significant part of the board meeting.  


WILLIAM NOLTE is the CEO/Mission Lead of Transformation Ministries. He joined the ministry in 2011. Transformation Ministries (TM) is a covenanting association of leaders and 200 churches in the United States and Northern Mexico committed to seeing more healthy churches. TM also owns and operates four camp/conference centers which serve over 40,000 people each year. All the activities and focus of the ministry align around: Developing Pastors as Spiritual Leaders, Church Health and Missional Vitality, and Planting Healthy Churches.

Before joining TM, Willie pastored in local congregations for 32 years in Illinois and California. He received an M.A. in Old Testament Studies from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, an M.Div. from American Baptist Seminary of the West, and a D.Min. from Western Seminary. Willie enjoys reminding church leaders that “No church or leader was ever meant to do ministry alone—so don’t!”  

• Do you have an effective way for staff to inform the board of their activities? If not decide the best method to do so.
• Discuss with your board chair and develop appropriate interactions and behaviors by staff and board members. Together you can begin to get to proper balance in the board room.
• Visit the ECFA Knowledge Center and read and share the short chapter, “Lesson 12: Keeping the Boardroom Afloat.”

April 1, 2020, watch for the commentary by Paul Anderson on Lesson 13, “Caution! Understand the Governance Pendulum Principle. You have limited time to act when the pendulum oscillates in a positive direction.”

BULK ORDERS: Click here. For more resources and to download the book's Table of Contents, visit the book's webpage.

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