5 Christian Nonprofit Board Governance Trends

The Q1 issue of Focus on Accountability, a publication of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), included an article entitled Five Board Governance Trends that looked, as the name suggests, at some trends in Christian nonprofit board governance. Here is their list…

  • Trend 1 – Boards are focusing on God-honoring results
  • Trend 2 – Board are being strategic about strategy
  • Trend 3 – Boards are conducting annual CEO assessments
  • Trend 4 – Boards are evaluating their own governance effectiveness
  • Trend 5 – Prospective board members are becoming more diligent and cautious

Great list. Each of those could be an in depth discussion of their own. But no line in the article stuck out to me like this paragraph…

“There is a new breed of board prospects. They often limit board service to just one board at a time. They expect every board member to be a generous donor. They are accepting the fiduciary and spiritual responsibilities of nonprofit ministry board service, but only if the CEO and the other board members are crystal clear about roles and responsibilities. They want the board to have its act together. They expect high integrity – especially for those tough calls, like firing a CEO (emphasis added).

Serving on the board of a nonprofit is a great privilege. It is also a high calling and carries with it tremendous responsibility. There are stewardship responsibilities. There are governance responsibilities. There are strategic responsibilities. And, for Christian organizations, there are spiritual responsibilities. Unfortunately, for all the responsibilities that accompany such a position, the accompanying authority is often found lacking. Maybe there is a founding pastor or leader whose influence is so deeply ingrained into the culture of the ministry, that challenging his authority is unacceptable. Maybe the board has never determined how the ministry’s staff and board will co-exist, answering the most basic question of “Who does what?”

Regardless of how the organization has operated in the past, its future must be governed by a board that takes seriously its call to lead. The staff reports to the board – even the pastor, CEO or president of the ministry – reports to the board. That means policy governing the direction and ethical conduct of the ministry must be overseen by the board. That means the board must conduct annual performance reviews of the ministry leader. And it means that board must have the authority to, if necessary, remove that leader from his/her position.

The great opportunity of a board of directors is the power of plurality – when the board speaks as one to lead the ministry. And as boards speak as one, and with authority, the ministry will benefit and God will be honored.

Interact: What forces fight against board members truly having the authority to carry out the responsibilities of the board?

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