Wednesday, September 9, 2020

LESSON 36 - Watch Out for Boards Asleep at the Wheel

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. Steve Altick is our guest blogger this week for the first of five lessons in "Part 10: Building a 24/7 Board Culture.” And during this COVID-19 era, the role of the board becomes even more critical. We pray that your board will have God-honoring wisdom as you spiritually discern next steps.

LESSON 36 OF 40: Watch Out for Boards Asleep at the Wheel
Golden opportunities are missed when a board’s eyes are wide shut.

THE BIG IDEA FROM THE BOOK: Boards have routines for meetings and board members develop expectations of what the meeting will be like. If meetings do not involve and engage board members, they will succumb to drowsiness and lose motivation to engage in the agenda. So examine your board meeting routines.

Board organization and responsibilities need to be understood and involve all members. If board members are not all on the right page, they may fall asleep. The board leadership is responsible for involving and challenging board members—inspiring them to stay mission-focused, and to stay within the established board policies.

MY FAVORITE INSIGHTS from Lesson 36, pages 194-197:
• It all starts with recruiting the right board members who understand their role and the policies and procedures that govern the board.
• Board members must learn to focus on the big picture, be insightful and ask for information.
• Boards must understand the difference between operations and oversight, the biblical example of the “hireling” and the shepherd (John 10). Ownership of the ministry is the key to staying awake. 

When I was flying fighter aircraft, your life literally depended on using the checklist. If you were asleep or not focused, it could be serious. One day I missed taking the safety pins out of the ejection seat, which meant if I had needed to eject in an emergency—the seat would not have worked. So after the mission, when I went to put the safety pins in the seat, I realized they had never been removed—a lesson learned!

I recall an organization that recruited new board members from the business community. They had resources needed by the ministry. But with no training and expectations regarding their board roles—they were inattentive to much of the board’s business. Eyes wide shut!

Finally, each board member brings unique gifts and insights to the board team. As a board member, it’s important to understand these unique differences—and to support and participate in whatever the board is discussing. That’s the key to success and staying awake! 


STEVE ALTICK served as the CEO at Camp Berachah Ministries (now Black Diamond Camps) for 33 years. He also served in leadership with Christian Camp & Conference Association as sectional president, regional director, and board chair.  He is a Vietnam Veteran with 23 years of service. He remains associated with Black Diamond Camp and is active as a consultant with camps and nonprofits. Steve and his wife, Kathy, reside in Yakima, Wash.

• Have your board do a self-evaluation on their actual experience versus their expectations when they first joined the board.
Review past minutes and agendas to evaluate the allocation of “board time” invested in your various agenda items. Are you investing your time appropriately?
Visit the ECFA Knowledge Center and read and share the short chapter, Lesson 36, “Watch Out for Boards Asleep at the Wheel.”

Sept. 16, 2020, watch for the commentary by Brian Heerwagen on Lesson 37, “How Many Board Members Are Present in Your Boardroom? It’s more than just answering the roll call.”

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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