have a legal role within organizations. That legal role varies from state to
state, province to province, country to country. But typically, that legal
board role has to do with some form of oversight.
Ensure dollars are not being
Ensure personnel are treated according to the law.
organization's myriad assets are being protected.
for a surprise?
United States and elsewhere in the world, there is no legal requirement that an
organization provide results to the community. Seriously. There are legal
requirements that boards protect the organization itself from harm, acting as
the organization's watchdog. But there is no legal requirement that boards
ensure the community is getting results.
Did You Join the Board Because You Love Balance
members join boards because they love the mission. They want to make a
difference. They are passionate about the cause.
while no one is saying boards should abrogate their legal responsibility, they
can certainly choose to go above and beyond that legal
addition to watching over the legal organizational issues, what if your board
raised its expectations for its own actions? What if your board expected to be
the watchdog over the results your organization provides to the community?
1: Know Your Legal Obligations
Before we can move our work above and
beyond the job of legal oversight, we first need to complete that job. So the
first step is to know what the board is legally obligated to oversee, and to
learn to do that.
are the things that are easy to learn. And once your board has learned them,
those watchdog portions of the board's work will be easy to do more quickly,
rather than taking up the whole of the board's energies.
effective use of reporting, dashboards and consent agendas can make the legal
oversight portion of a board's work become a smaller and smaller portion of the
agenda, while the board becomes more and more proficient at that oversight role
- truly a win-win.
2: Begin Talking About Expectations for the Community
What are your
board's expectations? What does your board expect the organization to
accomplish for the community? What difference do you expect the organization to
create in the community this year? How do you expect the community to be a
better place in 10 years, and in 20 years, because your organization
rarely talk about their expectations. They may talk about their hopes, their
dreams, their worries. But boards do not spend time establishing
all know from our own personal lives that we accomplish what we expect to
accomplish - what we aim at accomplishing. So what would happen if your board
expected more from itself than merely oversight? What would happen if you spent
time establishing high expectations, and then working with the staff to ensure
the organization's results meet those expectations?
Will your food bank continue
expecting to just give out more and more food boxes to those in need? Or do you
want to start expecting that your community will have fewer people needing food
boxes in 10 years?
Will your small theater company
continue expecting to just keep struggling to find an audience for its avant
garde plays? Or do you want to start expecting that you will have an ongoing
stream of attendees from a broad cross-section of the community, who love your
theater because they never know what they will
In the end, it's not about our
organizations, but about our communities. What difference do you expect to make
for the community you serve? And wouldn't it be downright fun to be the
watchdog over that?
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