Boards Aren’t Always Wrong

Boards Aren’t Always Wrong

February 25th, 2010

by Ernie Vargo

A good portion of my work with non-profits, especially education clients are working with the board of trustees to ensure they are doing all they can to support the mission and vision of the organization.  There is a tendency by staff and even us consultants, to blame the board for issues the organization is facing.  I am certainly guilty of this myself.  And there are times when the board has not served their role adequately, but this isn’t always the case.

The other day I was sitting in a board meeting and listening to a similar discussion.  It dealt with fundraising and the role of the board.  Bottom line: the board was not pulling their weight in fundraising according to the report.  It got me thinking about why this board was perceived as failing and my experiences with other boards.  The following are some things to consider when evaluating the work of your board:

  • Do they understand their role?  Many times we invite people to serve on the board, but we are not realistic about the amount of time or financial expectations.  It is inappropriate to say “give whatever you can” and then be disappointed that they aren’t making gifts that you anticipated.  Have you oriented the board properly and effectively to enable them to be successful?


  • Are they being adequately supported by staff?  Volunteers are not thinking about your organization in the same way as a staff member.  They rely on staff to do the homework, provide the support and follow up, and then use their skills and gifts to enhance your organization.


  • Not having faith in staff?  Volunteers should be advocates for your organization.  They should be a member of the board because they believe in your organization and want to make it a better place for the future.  It can become incredibly frustrating for volunteers if staff is not meeting their expectations. 

Granted, there are many times board is not acting properly or supporting the organization as it should.  However, all organizations need to take a hard look at the staff. 

Is your board meeting your expectations and are you meeting theirs?  Let us know your thoughts in the JGA comments sections below. 

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