By Akash Ghai, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Development Three (D3)
If you are starting an NGO establishing a strong founding board is crucial. The board will assist in identifying the NGOs values, vision and missions. They can tap into their extensive networks to build connections and improve your outreach. The founding board should support you with preparing initial funding proposals, give pointers on who to contact for partnerships, assess your project concepts and help with organisational development.
However, to fulfil this, founding boards must have extensive knowledge of governance practices so that they are positioned to make your NGO transparent, accountable, ethical and legitimate. They should be enthusiastic about your cause but also be able to challenge what you and your NGO are doing. It is a delicate relationship as, ultimately, they cannot afford to put their credibility on the line and want surety that their time and effort is valued. Since these members have oversight of your NGO’s operations, some key attributes are a logical thought process and head over heart. The ultimate focus should be the NGO and its beneficiaries above all else.
Having a clear vetting process with specific tangible and intangible criteria is important. If you need a marketing specialist, source someone who does this for a living. Get a feel for what they can contribute and match that off against your requirements. You must get an idea of the character and nature of members. Especially since you will be working with them over a prolonged period of time and building a solid NGO-Board dynamic is important. This dynamic, the delicate relationship we mentioned earlier, will fail if there is a lack in communication and unbalanced “power shifts” – be sure to enlist members who focus on initiating the NGO and have the intangibles to prevent this from happening.
It is essential that members demonstrate that they have a long-term involvement in the NGO. Their level of involvement should not wane as your NGO grows, moreover they will be relied upon to contribute a lot more. They cannot just attend meetings and rely on their previous contributions to get along.
As your NGO grows, you will be relying on your board to help prevent Mission Drifting. It may be intimidating to have a group of people who are unlikely to have deep involvement in the day-to-day operations of your NGO critically assess what you’re doing. But you must maintain in the back of your mind that they are in place for a reason, they’re there to support you and your cause. They are in place to ensure that you are on the right track. Once you get your head around this you can then work with them to produce solutions to issues that they as the overseer believe should be addressed.
We will discuss issues like conflicts of interest, NGO-Board dynamics, Board communication, evaluating membership and Board conflict in future posts. Please share your thoughts on what you feel is important when selecting founding members in the comments section below.