Nonprofit Boards and Bad News

Some chief executives use board sessions to do a lot of cheerleading and pointing to all the accomplishments they’ve presided over at their nonprofit. Since the chief executive serves at the pleasure of the board, it’s understandable that they want to remind the board of their successes. But there’s a problem when a board meeting agenda is seventy-five percent about a discussion of good news, and then a quick run-through of issues in play or challenges that they’re working on.

In my opinion, board meetings should be focused on bad news. The executives responsible for a subject under discussion should make a presentation with just a single slide listing two or three conclusions and two or three recommendations. That would be followed with a more detailed presentation. And then ask for the board’s thoughts.

The combined wisdom of your board and its experiences in difficult situations can help you solve problems.

Boards want to contribute. Bad news is good news if you do something about it!

  • Do you use board meetings mostly to share good news?
  • How can your board help you address the challenges your organization faces?
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