If you’ve read the last two weekly posts in this column, you’d have to agree that the two nonprofit organizations that I’ve written about could hardly be more different. Isn’t it amazing how dramatically different these two agencies are?  Not just in size, in visibility in the community, but in the culture, structure and effectiveness of the board. What would it take, you might ask, for the first agency to adopt some of the methods of the second one?

True confession: they are the same agency, before and after a multi-year board transition. The first agency became the second, and in the process grew revenues significantly in a steep recession with social service funding cuts and potential donor exhaustion at nearly every turn. How did they make all that happen?

There are three key elements to this amazing board transition:

  • Enhanced governance best practices
  • Transition in board membership
  • Removal of legal/operational roadblocks

A few words with powerful implications. Each has multiple parts and required tackling various issues and challenges, the greatest of which was the simple resistance of a well-meaning board whose members knew what the old way looked like and didn’t trust that change was necessarily a good thing. Thus we had to convince board members, or at least a majority of them, that they could be more successful in fulfilling their mission if they were open to stepping outside their comfort zone.

My final post in this series will outline the tactics that accompanied each of the strategies above, and made this striking transition a success. Tune in for next week’s wrap.

And as always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

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