Above Board: Ditch the Board Matrix?

Think about how you use a board matrix template…do you diligently try to fill each and every one of the suggested skills with someone from your community, and then discover that the attorney is too busy to even make it to meetings? or the corporate CFO doesn’t have a sense of what’s a nonprofit’s ‘bottom line’?

Maybe it’s time to stop using it?

Jan Masaoka, author of Board Cafe, Hands-On Solutions for Nonprofit Boards Second Edition (a practical compilation of short articles for nonprofit boards), says “that [the book] unfortunately includes a board composition matrix that you should ignore. She wants to know why “Grumpy” or “Contrarian” never seem to be one of the desirable demographic characteristics on board composition matrices”.

In her June 11, 2012 post, on Blue Avocado, Jan talks about the Three traps of the board composition matrix.

Here’s an abbreviated look at the three failures of board matrix approaches:

1. The skills trap: By identifying skills such as “legal” or “finance,” we often end up with the wrong kind of legal or financial professional on the board.

2. The demographic trap: Nearly all boards feel weighed down by demographic diversity imperatives. Whether it’s a mostly white board thinking, “we need someone who’s black,” or an all Asian board thinking, “we don’t have anyone from India,” too often we end up with someone who lets us check the demographic box but never becomes engaged.

3. The connections trap: Too often we recruit board members because they are wealthy and know other wealthy people, or because they work for a corporation that we hope will make a corporate grant to us. But we don’t feel comfortable bringing up the issue of major donations during the recruitment process.

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