Nonprofit boards depend on collaboration to function effectively. They collaborate with committee members and staff to carry out the nonprofit’s mission. Sometimes, however, the board’s own dynamics can either encourage or inhibit their collaborative potential.
A nonprofit CEO spoke to me about a board plagued by mistrust and conflicting interests, as well as conflict. The executive director of the board hired a consultant who helped get the group back on course. The consultant asked the chair of the board to have frank discussions with the team. The chair reluctantly agreed.
The consultant found that the chair was in close contact with certain members of the team and was a fanatic. She also observed the chair’s inability to communicate effectively, and her lack of understanding about how to build trust in the group.
Boards can foster a collaboration culture if they make sure that both current and new members are prepared for it. When introducing new members ensure that they are prepared to work in a cooperative environment by introducing them to other board members and giving them the opportunity to work with the organizational staff in small groups before the first board meeting. This will allow them to become familiar with the organization and its leaders and build important contacts. Provide resources that facilitate collaboration between members, for example an online portal for board members. This allows board members to communicate with each other during meetings. Organising a retreat for the board, or other gatherings, can be a great way to build the bonds of camaraderie.