But I’m a board member! Avoiding governance confusion in associations and NFP’s

20121021-133406.jpgMany association and NFP boards that I’ve interacted with have a degree of confusion around their governance. In this post, I’d like to address just one of the causes of confusion (we’ll talk about others later) which is the significant blurring that occurs when organisations rely on their board to be governors as well as an expert functional workforce. You can’t afford to be a muppet in today’s governance environment.

This phenomenon is more pronounced in small associations but I’ve seen and heard examples of it in larger organisations as well. It occurs more frequently in associations as the members have skills and knowledge that are invaluable to the association, and we get great outcomes when we work together. The problem is that the board are often the most accessible, willing and engaged members so they will frequently agree to do things on the fly. This includes functional tasks like:
– providing copy for consumer promotions
– writing guidelines and manuals
– chairing conferences and events
– chairing ad hoc working committees (as distinct from oversight committees)

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Association founder trap

20121019-210659.jpgThe principle of “founder trap” is alive and well, but not only in the small to medium size enterprise (SME) which is the area traditionally thought of when talking about founder trap, but it is alive and well in our not for profit (NFP) space.

When we talk about founder trap, typically we are talking about a trap that many entrepreneurs fall into. It describes the phenomenon where people with good craft skills are successful in growing their enterprise to a point where it requires professional management. The trap that many fall into is assuming that they are equipped to manage such a business despite the lack of education and training in management. This phenomenon is well documented in the literature related to SME’s.

The area where it is not well understood is in the not for profit (NFP) space. Continue reading