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

Little Red Bus icon

Insufficient Resources

The red light on the dashboard was on and the fuel gauge indicator on the Little Red Bus showed empty — time for some gasoline! Mary drove the bus into the nearest gas station and was about to fill the tank when she realized that she had neither money nor credit cards in hand.

Time to ask the passengers on the bus to chip in so she could buy the needed gasoline.

The responses from the passengers on the bus ranged from, "Why didn't you tell me before the trip that I would need to pay for the gas?" to, "If I pay more than others do, I should have the best seat on the bus."

Frustrated by the lack of support from the passengers, Mary was forced to turn to others at the gas station to ask for their help. Their responses were very predictable. "If the passengers can't help pay for the gas, why should I?"

As a result, the bus sat and was ultimately abandoned.

How does this translate into the experiences of a governing board? Raising money is a key role for board members of nonprofit organizations. It is, however, not a skill or interest which many board members bring to their positions. They may need to learn how to do it and become comfortable with the role. Addressing the questions identified below can assist board members in their fundraising roles.

Questions for consideration:

  • Is there a comprehensive fundraising plan in place and implemented prior to the "crisis for money"?
  • Do board members understand their role in raising money and do they have a clear understanding of this role prior to joining the board?
  • Upon reaching out for financial support from others, can organization spokespersons point out that all board members make a financial contribution to the organization?
  • Is all board member input considered equally important or do some board members enjoy inappropriate status because they can "buy it"?

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.