Where is Your Governing Board in Its Life Cycle?

All organizations go through different life cycles.  Where does your organization fall in the life cycles described below?

Stage One: The Organizing Board

LEANOrganizing boards tend to be one of two types, boards that follow a leader/founder and boards that lead or control an organization. Leading boards tend to be small, are often slow to hire staff, and reluctant to give up their immediate involvement in the organization. The transition stages for the organizing board are often marked by:

  • financial problems
  • board/staff struggles
  • new board members with differing expectations and
  • motivations
  • less passivity to the founder/leader’s agenda
  • less personal identification with the organization and its mission

Stage Two: The Governing Board

In this stage, the board assumes greater responsibility for the organization’s well-being and longevity through planning, oversight and general accountability for the performance of the organization. Board/staff relations are better balanced, and committees are used to organize the board’s work. The transition stages for the governing board are often marked by:

  • a greater dependence on the board for fund raising
  • a desire to use the board to build greater representation in the community and more influence
  • an increase in board size to accommodate these goals
  • committees become more independent of the full board

Stage Three: The Institutional Board

Institutional boards tend to be very large, and while diverse, include more people with the capacity to give or to provide access to funders or donors. Board membership is often more prestigious and involves movers and shakers within the community. Because of the size of the board, the governance responsibilities are generally delegated to an executive committee with greater authority for policy making. Staff sizes are generally large, well-trained and capable of conducting most organizational activities with little oversight from the board or executive committee.

Transform Consulting Group has experience in developing tools that will help your organization’s board of directors work together to meet your goals.  If you have questions about the life cycle of a board of directors or for more resources on organizational development, please Contact us.

The three stages discussed here are reprinted from the National Center for Nonprofit Boards, where it was adapted from an article by Karl Mathiasen, III titled “Board Passages: Three Key Stages in a Nonprofit Board’s Life Cycle.”



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