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Community Action Agency Board Members Toolkit in a Nutshell
There are three interrelated problems experienced by some boards.
Problem # 1. They spend all their time
* on the past,
Problem # 2. Their primary role is that of a volunteer compliance officer for funders.The amount of time they spend on community issues is very small.
Problem # 3. The board members do nothing but attend board meetings; staff are expected to do everything else.Board members are not active in the community as representatives of the CAA or in helping to implement strategies.Board members do not act as agents for change.
Here are four tools that can be used to address one or more of these problems.
Take control of the amount of agenda time focused on community issues and
the amount of time focused on internal operational issues.
Does your sponsor or program create social policy in your community? Are the funded programs tools for you to use to accomplish big goals? The increasing professionalization of programs and the increasing bureaucratization by funders who specify all aspects of program operations leaves Board members with fewer roles to play that was the case twenty or even ten years ago. But even when programs operated by the Federal rule book, there were still local issues that you can work on in addition to managing the grant!
Many board members say that their primary reason for joining the Board is to work on community issues. Look at your last few Board meeting Agendas. What is the percentage of time spent focused on issues OUTSIDE the agency and what is the percentage focused INSIDE.Most boards are surprised to discover that they spend about 99% of their time on operational issues INSIDE the agency. This section provides ideas for issue-oriented planning.
Adopt a policy that 1/4th or 1/3rd or
EACH MEETING will be focused on community issues on which the Board Members
themselves will play an active role in implementing the strategy related to that
II.Develop an understanding among all parties about what is the Board’s role and what is the staff role.
The Executive staff decides what the staff will do, individually and
collectively. Staff generally
HOWEVER, the Board does not just decide ends then delegate all work to staff. There are some implementation functions that are far better performed by Board members. Many of these are related to management of external relations, including public relations, advocacy for institutional change and resource mobilization. Board members have the connections, legitimacy, and personal commitment and empowerment from their Board to advocate for a better community. Board members have flexibility to act in all social and political arenas -- more than staff who are covered by restrictions on public funds. The Boards should set their own social objectives. They pick issues or projects in which they have a major role -- and go for them.
Some funders like for Board members to act as their local volunteer compliance officers, doing reviews with a microscope of what staff did to determine if staff are carrying out all the rules in the rule-book programs. You can't see the big picture through a microscope. You get bogged down in detail, and lay Board members rarely have the time or training to become experts on all the technical aspects of the programs. The Board member can't keep up, feels inadequate to the task, and quits. THE SOLUTION. Stop micro)reviews. Create a guideline on the amount of meeting time that will be devoted to issues that are OUTSIDE the organization (community issues) and the amount of time that will be spent focused INSIDE the organization.
E.g., “We now spend 95% of our time on internal operations and reviewing reports of past activity. We want to spend no more than 65% of our time on those activities and we want to spend 35% of our time on community issues.”
Limit the amount of time spent on routine approvals of required reports.
The Board can review all existing information that now flows through them. The Board decides what it will review and how much time it will spend on each TYPE of item. You have the opportunity to re-prioritize all items.
IV. Focus more Board attention on community issues by using the following six steps for Board-driven social change.
Put a BMN (board member name) in each box. Maybe two or three people are involved in the activity, but one person must be the lead person who makes sure it happens.
Identify specific institutional changes needed.
5.Resource mobilization. Go
after the resources you need to achieve each vision.
members must do most of the persuading of other individuals, agencies and groups
to support the desired ENDS.
Problem # 1. They spend all their time focused:
* on the past,
* on what staff have done,
* on the inner workings of the agency.
* on reports and other paperwork.
Problem # 2.
Their primary role is that
of a volunteer compliance officer for funders.The amount of time they spend on community issues is very small.
Problem # 3. The board members do nothing but attend board meetings; staff are
expected to do everything else.
|2.||Are there other issues or problems your board should address?
control of the amount of agenda time spent
on community issues and the amount of time
spent on internal operational issues.
an understanding among all parties about the
the amount of time spent on routine
approvals of required reports.
more attention on community issues. Use the 6-step
approach for Board-driven social change.
Center for Community Futures. www.cencomfut.com
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