Little Red Bus — Your Vehicle for Building a Stronger Governing Board

Little Red Bus icon

The Check Up

All of the passengers on the Little Red Bus were excited as the bus left for its week-long journey. All had been involved in the planning process for the trip and all had agreed upon the itinerary for the trip.

Unfortunately, passenger excitement began to fade and turn into frustration when the bus began to experience a number of mechanical problems — the battery died, the engine overheated, and at one point the brakes began to fail.

What's going on here? Unfortunately, while the passengers had focused their attention on the trip itself, they had failed to conduct the necessary "check up" on the bus itself to see that it was in good operating condition. They knew where they wanted to go; however, they had not adequately assessed the operating condition of the bus itself.

How does this translate into the role of a governing board of an organization? Clearly, the governing board must work with organizational leadership to identify the vision for the future of the organization — the strategic plan; however, the board must also periodically assess the operating system of the organization itself — the self-assessment. Both are important.

For a more specific understanding of important elements of the self-assessment, one source of information is the Minnesota Charities Review Council. Its website spells out key areas for self-assessment. Other assessment tools are also acceptable.

Questions for consideration:

  • Do board members understand the difference between a self-assessment and a planning process?
  • Is each of the processes addressed on an ongoing basis?
  • Does the self-assessment lead the board to identify and prioritize areas in need of growth/attention?
  • Is appropriate action taken to address organizational needs?

Need help with board development?
Contact Jim Storm at jstormcod1@aol.com or 612-616-0256.

Little Red Bus — Your Vehicle for Building a Stronger Governing Board

Little Red Bus icon

Al Capone, Jr

The 36 passengers on the Little Red Bus (LRB) found it increasingly cumbersome and very time consuming to make group decisions and monitor the business of operating the LRB. As a result, they incorporated and created a governing board of eight that would take on those responsibilities. Prospective board members were told that their job would be an easy one as the driver of the LRB was very competent and needed very minimal oversight.

Unfortunately, once selected, the new board members rarely monitored the business operation of the LRB and oftentimes failed to show up for meetings. All felt that the driver, Al Capone, Jr., although stuck with a very poor name, would handle things well. At meetings, they would listen to Al's operating and financial reports while occasionally nodding off. After all, Al was the expert.

It came as a great surprise when the president of the board received a phone call from the bank indicating that the LRB had no money in the bank and was, in fact, overdrawn.

Board members were further shocked to learn that good old Al had been using business funds for his personal use. To make matters even worse, the board members learned that they were personally responsible for the debt incurred.

A key function of a governing board is financial oversight. How is the money being generated and how is it being spent? A failure to attend board meetings and to carefully review the financial standing of the organization are ultimately failures of the Board with individual board members bearing personal responsibility. Pay up!

Questions for consideration:

  • Do all board members understand their legal responsibility of financial oversight?
  • Do all board members understand the importance of their showing up in some manner at board meetings and reviewing the financial information?
  • Do all board members understand that it is the executive director's responsibility to provide them with accurate up-to-date financial information?
  • Are all board members willing to see their names in public should a financial scandal arise in the organization?

Need help with board development?
Contact Jim Storm at jstormcod1@aol.com or 612-616-0256.