Want a One-member Board?

How would you like it if your nonprofit had a one-member board?If you're an executive director that is struggling with your board then this may be a dream come true.The same may be true if you're a frustrated member of a large, slow-moving and fractious board.As it turns out, this isn't necessarily a fantasy. In several states all you need to legally incorporate as a nonprofit is just one board member. One!Now then, I've never actually come across a one-person board. And I definitely don't think it's a good idea in practice. Given that a board's core purpose is to provide governance and appropriate oversight, one person just isn't going to cut it.But that begs the question: how large should your board be?Although there are always exceptions, I think a small nonprofit's board should be five to nine members.A board of this size:

  • Is flexible and can respond rapidly.

  • Encourages strong board engagement and accountability.

  • Simplifies board communication.

  • Can focus on its oversight responsibilities and not get sidetracked into micromanaging the organization.

But, you may be wondering, what about all of the other ways that a board can assist: fundraising, program assistance, marketing, etc.?That's where a complementary advisory board (or council) comes in.In this structure the board of directors focuses on governance while the advisory board serves as a body of stakeholders that assist in all sorts of other ways.Done well, you get the best of both worlds in this structure: a fast-moving governance board and a deep set of stakeholders.Here are two links to organizations that have this type of structure: Games for Change and Vida Verde.

Further, here are a couple of links to articles that describe this structure in more detail:

What is an Advisory Board and Should We Have One?
Advisory Board v. Board of Directors -- A Distinction with a Difference

Hopefully these ideas and resources stimulate some ideas for you and your board.