More and more, BC not-for-profit organizations are looking to make a greater impact through their boards. Some groups want to go beyond the typical governance practices - such as monthly meetings, Robert’s Rules of Order, and the implied expectation that directors are fiscal managers. Recently, a group reached out to Vantage Point to ask how they could support and reflect Indigenous cultural practices at the board level. There is also a rising awareness to support and reflect the diversity of our communities in our boards.
At Vantage Point, we believe good board governance goes beyond basic fiduciary responsibilities. But to take things to the next level, we also emphasize the importance of board leadership (best described in the Governance as Leadership framework). This approach pushes boards towards strategic discussions and a more visionary perspective – beyond fiduciary oversight.
We held a discussion session within our community to explore this topic. What would governance look like that empowers communities? How can organizations that exist to support specific populations include diverse communities in a meaningful way? What are the cultural means of governing not-for-profit societies? In the discussion, we quickly realized we had more questions than answers.
Here are some key questions that we’re going to explore:
How can we understand governance as responsibility to community¸ rather than (or in addition to!) fiduciary responsibility?
How do we equip different population groups to participate on boards?
How can we bring different perspectives to the board, rather than different representatives? (an important distinction!)
How do we ensure cultural safety, humility, and an ability to make mistakes at the board level?
What does love and emotion look like in the board room?
We also took inspiration from Hildy Gottlieb’s article Governing for What Matters (Community-Driven Governance) to focus in on what really matters when it comes to board governance. This inspired a conversation about what governance is fundamentally all about. These two items were added to our list:
Boards exist to share power
Boards exist to make decisions
We’ve got a lot to explore going forward, but we agreed that it is more important to be willing to take some first steps before all the answers are in place.
What is your board’s governance meant to achieve? What could governance look like in your organization, if it focused on what really matters?
Mark Friesen is the Director of Capacity Development at Vantage Point, where he assists not-for-profit organizations throughout BC with strategic planning, governance, and capacity building. Mark excels at assessing governance structures and finding democratic solutions to organizational challenges...