Expectations for Boards of Directors

There are many different designations of non-profit organizations. Because of the non-profit designation, the organization will have bylaws and articles of incorporation, and a board of directors. The bylaws are what you operate under and those bylaws determine the structure of our organization. Bylaws can be changed, and are changed quite frequently to benefit the organization as you operate - things do change. The organization will have a board of directors, as do most non-profit organizations. In fact, many for-profit corporations have a board of directors, those people who advise and determine the direction of your organization and your board. A core group of committed individuals with diverse backgrounds and opinions should gather every month, and determine the direction of our organization and the way we should go.

Every board of directors should get together and plan every year. A board of directors should do a retreat every year and go off someplace and spend some time looking at what the direction of the organization should be.

During those retreats, you can struggle with decisions, you can look at decisions and you can have dissension among the ranks. But when you come out of your board meeting, when you come out of those types of meetings for determining direction and for making decisions for your board and for your organization, you should have a condition of consensus.

On the condition of consensus, there should be three questions to which all members should be able to answer "yes." You want to have a board of directors that is going to support the organization, work for the organization, and move that organization forward. In the condition of consensus, you need to answer "yes" to the following three questions:

1. Do you understand the question or the issue at hand? If you don't understand it,ask more questions until you are very comfortable with understanding the decision that you have to make.

2. Are you willing to live with the decision even though it's not your favorite option? Everybody doesn't agree. We don't want a bunch of "yes" people on a board. We want people who have different opinions and different directions that the board can go and that organization can go. But number two is "are you willing to live with that option, even if it isn't your favorite option?" You have to be willing to live with that option.

3. The third and probably the most important one is: Are you willing to walk out of the room and pledge to support the decision both publicly and privately? If you are on a board of directors and the board comes together with a majority decision and the majority says "this is the way we go," all members have to come out of that room and support the organization, no matter if you like the decision or not. Whatever the majority of the board says and the direction that that organization goes, can you, and are you willing, to walk out of the room and pledge to support the decision both publicly and privately?

A lot of organizations have hit rock bottom, and have gone different directions, and maybe even disincorporate because board members were not willing to support the organization both publicly and privately.

It's okay to have differences of opinions and it's okay to dialogue through those opinions and to move the board and your organization in the direction you want that organization to go. But once a decision is made, all board members must support that organization decision. That's an important element if you are on a board of directors, or if you are in any organization - do you support it? If not, maybe the organization and you had better part company.