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

Little Red Bus icon

The Founder

The Little Red Bus ran very well and always reached its destination on time, thanks to Carl. Carl was the very first passenger to ever board the bus and he took it upon himself to always be the one who was responsible for its operation.

Because Carl was so in "in charge," the other passengers came to rely upon Carl for all of the answers and they "went along for the ride," oftentimes half-asleep.

One day Carl didn't show up for the bus trip. Everyone panicked. How could the bus possibly operate without Carl's presence and direction? No one else had the answer to important questions that kept the bus operational. The bus was suddenly paralyzed because all of the information and ownership had rested so completely with Carl.

How does this translate into the experiences of a governing board? Founders with a passion for a cause are essential for most nonprofits in their early development; however, if founders are unable to share the organization with others and utilize their input, the organization runs a genuine risk of dying when the founder is no longer around. If the mission of the organization is important, it is essential that the mission is shared among numerous key stakeholders. Founders must be able to share ownership for the sake of the future health of the organization.

Questions for consideration:

  • Are all board members appropriately engaged so that loss of a single board member doesn't disrupt and jeopardize the work of the organization?
  • Is there shared ownership and shared decision-making among board members that ensures that decision-making takes full advantage of the knowledge and insights of each board member?
  • Do founders understand the need to share to ensure the continued growth and well-being of the organization when they are no longer present?
  • Is there a plan in place to assist in this organizational life stage transition?

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.