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

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Committees

The 17 passengers on the Little Red Bus met with Jennifer, the driver of the bus, to discuss items related to the operation of the bus — its cost, its maintenance and Jennifer's schedule and salary, to name but a few of the agenda items.

Over time, there became so many agenda items on a number of diverse subjects that the usual hour-long meeting had to be extended to two hours. There was even talk of adding a second meeting each month to properly address all of the key issues.

What to do? At the suggestion of Arnold, a passenger on the bus, it was decided that committees should be established to address specific issues. These committees would then report their findings and recommendations at the regular meeting of the full group. What committees? Looking through several board development documents, it was decided that several committees were necessary — seven to be exact, ranging from personnel, to finance, to program to fundraising.

Some of the passengers realized that they were facing a real dilemma. In creating all of these committees, there was a tendency to deal only in specifics with each committee. Yet, it was apparent that the life of the organization depended upon the inter-relationship of the agendas of each committee. Furthermore, to achieve this maximum integration among the committees, someone — Jennifer, the driver — had to staff each of them, a heavy workload in addition to driving the bus.

How does this translate into the life of a nonprofit organization? Too often, committees are created not on the basis of need but upon the opinion of someone writing the latest board development book. Furthermore, committees, while standing alone, must be coordinated. It makes no sense for the Capital Committee, for example, to recommend a new major funding initiative when the Resource Development Committee is dealing with a decline in overall support of the organization. The Program Committee may want to hire more staff for programs. However, the Personnel Committee is dealing with the overall need for retrenchment and limitation of benefits for those currently employed.

Questions for consideration:

  • In the next 12 months, what are the two or three biggest issues/challenges that the organization will face?
  • What committees might not be necessary or receive very little attention in the next year?
  • How can committees be established and coordinated to address these major challenges?
  • Who is responsible for staffing each of these committees to insure a maximum targeted coordinated work plan?

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.