Greenleaf writes: The most important qualification for trustees should be that they care for institution, which means that they care for all of the people the institution touches, and that they are determined to make their caring count.

I was first invited to become a member of a board for a not-for-profit organization in 1984.  I remember being interviewed by the Chair of the Board and two board members.  Their first question was the most significant: Why this organization?  That organization served children and I have a passion when it comes to serving children in ways that promote their safety and development.

I learned from these three people that the first requirement for all board members was that each of them have a ‘passion’ for the institution, it purpose, its vision and its mission.  They believed that without this passion that the board member could not – in fact, would not – care for the institution (think: for all of those they serve).

Since 1984 I have found that Boards that have this as their first requirement tend to function at a higher level than those who do not.  In fact, I am now thinking of a not-for-profit that was begun after our Civil War (1865) and evolved so that in the mid-1990s it was still an organization that served children in wonder-full ways.  Then, in the late 1990s a shift began to occur.  The ‘old guard’ had left the board and the new members did not have the passion for the organization that was required.  In fact, many of them were there to ‘build up their resumes.’

By 2000 the organization had ceased to exist – the need it served did not cease, however.  Sadly, I know of too many organizations that began to compromise this first question.  The result has been uniformly the same – the organization ceased to ‘be’ the organization it was founded ‘to be.’

What happens?  The primary goal of caring for all of the people the institution touches is compromised.  And, the board is no longer determined to make their caring count.  The consequence: the organization dies in many ways and, eventually, the organization itself dies.

How often do boards actually invest the time and energy into an evaluation process that focuses not only on their ‘performance’ but also focuses on the ‘passion’ for the organization’s purpose, vision and mission and to what extent their ‘caring’ touches all and to what extent their ‘caring counts’?

The Board truly ‘holds in trust’ for all stakeholders.  How many organizations engage in an evaluation process that confirms or disconfirms this ‘holding in trust for all’?  Sadly, especially when it comes to ‘all volunteer’ boards where the board members are not willing to give the time and energy to an in-depth evaluation process – one that is all encompassing and one that begins with the question of ‘passion for…’.

Gentle Reader, what is your experience?


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