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