Imaginary Boards: The Secret to a Better World

Imagine the members of a nonprofit board being so committed to the mission that they put the board meetings in their calendars in advance and attended all meetings in person; made financial contributions and asked their company and friends to support the organization; always acted to advance the mission; and disclosed any potential conflicts of interests.

Imagine the board having a highly effective board chair and officers; with people from diverse backgrounds and perspectives having the experience, expertise, networks and relationships needed to advance the nonprofit; a clear set of board member expectations and a system of accountability; a sound board structure so that the board is logically organized to accomplish its work; agendas focused to help facilitate the board's work; and a leadership succession plan.

Imagine the board chair and the board working in collaboration with the CEO, a highly effective leader and advocate.

Imagine the board fulfilling its legal duties of care, loyalty, and obedience.

Imagine the board also fulfilling a fourth duty: the duty of imagination -- envisioning the greater potential of the organization to advance the community it serves. The board would do this by addressing the following question with the CEO: "Where will we take this organization in the next few years so that we can provide even greater value in achieving our mission?" For some organizations, that could mean expanding services, either within the community or beyond. For others, it might mean establishing strategic alliances and collaborations with other service providers.

Imagine if the board also understands that the vision is meaningless unless the board works with the CEO to build and achieve the revenue model for success.

When this vision becomes a reality, then nonprofit boards -- together with their nonprofit CEOs -- will lead the nation and the world in providing long-term, sustainable solutions to hunger and homelessness; ensuring education, health care, and justice for all; and preserving the environment.

Let's use our voices in the media, as donors, as volunteers, and as board members ourselves, to help and encourage nonprofit boards to be ambitious and effective. Imaginary boards have the power to build a better world.