Putting it simply, most big decisions influencing the operations of a nonprofit organization come under the power of the board of directors. Staff, volunteers, clients, and others rely on the board to make solid decisions in a timely manner so that the mission of the organization can be carried out. What can be problematic, however, is when a board of directors is NOT on top of the decision-making, or they take so long that they impede the ability of the organization to do its work. An uninformed, slow, or slacking board can inhibit progress, productivity and function.
Executive staff can promote quick decision-making by making sure that the board members are kept up to date on the issues and realities of the agency or organization. This means that board members can be given the correct numbers, budgets, and information and made aware that a decision is needed. This does not mean that the executive staff should make the decisions FOR the board. It should be clear which problems and decisions are for the board and which ones can be taken care of at a staff level. Staff CAN provide the necessary information and support, however, to encourage timely and useful decisions.
Board leadership is important as well'”a good board chair or president encourages attendance and knows what the board members will need to make a decision. He or she is not a bully'”forcing his or her opinions or ideas on other members, but instead serves as a facilitator for a functional group decision-making process. For boards that have trouble meeting regularly or getting a quorum, consider developing and adding to the board to get more possible members and/or shifting the culture of the board to more accountability.
Board members need to understand how their decision-making process is impacting the staff. Slow decisions can cause staff to miss grant proposal deadlines, miss out on opportunities to be involved or to best serve clients and community members.