Training plays a vital role for board members as a growing number
of nonprofit boards are feeling an urgency to understand the
importance of their governance responsibilities.
Though Sarbanes-Oxley was directed toward for-profit boards of
directors following corporate governance issues with companies like
Enron, the same accountability is having an impact on boards of
directors, said Carol Wilkinson Troy, president and CEO of the
Center for Nonprofits. There is a bigger need than ever before for
nonprofit boards to understand that they have the ultimate
responsibility for the professional ethical standards and
accountability of the nonprofit businesses they oversee.
Craig Knutson, vice president of research and convening for
United Way of Central Oklahoma, agrees training is critical in order
to have the proper oversight of nonprofits.
All one has to do is look at the level of questionable,
unethical, and illegal behavior we've witnessed over the past two to
four years. While the CEO and his immediate 'soldiers' have most
often been the ones indicted and or imprisoned, much of this problem
has to do with poor oversight on the part of their directors,
Knutson said. With proper training (of bylaws, understanding profit
and loss statements and other critical budgetary issues and reports)
and staying true to the mission of the organization/company, most of
these activities could have been averted or minimized.
Training is absolutely critical for directors to have; they need
to understand and hold the CEO accountable for his and his
employees' actions; without that basic foundation/understanding,
accurate oversight cannot occur, he said.
Board members can gain training from a variety of consulting
sources aimed at strengthening the capabilities of nonprofit
organizations. Earlier this week, the Center for Nonprofits, Junior
League Oklahoma City, Junior League Tulsa, Leadership Oklahoma City,
Leadership Tulsa and the Volunteer Center of Tulsa teamed up with
Oklahoma City Community College and Tulsa Community College to
present the Dynamic Boards: Emerging Trends and Promising Practices
conference. The goal of the conference was to provide a learning
opportunity for board members and volunteers wanting to enhance
their leadership skills.
Attributes of a quality board
Nonprofit organizations should make sure their board membership
is reflective of the community in which it operates, according to
Knutson. Diversity on the board - including race, geography and
industry - is vital, he said.
Having at least one person with legal expertise, accounting
expertise, and marketing expertise would be ideal, Knutson said.
Nonprofit boards need to be operated like for-profit companies as
much as possible - know who your customers are, develop a strong
marketing strategy, and have strong oversight of ethical and
budgetary matters. Having involved members who are knowledgeable and
who are willing to ask the tough questions make for a quality board.
In his strategic model of governance, Mark Light suggests that
rather than giving the right answers, the strategic board asks the
right questions; with four main questions providing the framework of
an overall governance plan for the strategic board. …