Most every governance speaker, webinar, and conference discusses the roles of a nonprofit board member. In some form or fashion, each speaker gets around to typecast your board members into one of three roles:
And they are correct – I frequently discuss these roles when I facilitate board retreats. Yet the question remains: how do you really help a board member connect to his/her role?
I am a huge fan of the superhero genre since I can remember. And while it was fun to imagine myself as Superman or Batman, the most vivid and joyful memories occurred when I hung out with my friends and played Avengers, the collection of superheroes such as Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, etc. What kid did not want to be part of that team!
You as a nonprofit executive get to play a role similar to that of Nick Fury (or Samuel L. Jackson in the two Avengers movies). You help assemble a team of diverse people who share a common interest (a passion for your cause), you create an environment to get the team’s creativity and energy flowing (setting the strategy and determining fund development priorities), and you provide opportunities for this team to introduce your cause to their key networks.
Who on your board might fit the role of Thor – ruler of his own realm, but nurtures those who need a hand; or Iron Man – he has it all: money, fame, but knows without helping others, it is all in vain. You get the idea.
Each board member has incredible strengths and skills. By themselves, they can accomplish only so much. Together, they form a powerful team for your nonprofit! Your challenge is to figure out the right setting to unleash the combined talents of a board. It is not easy, but defeating Loki and Ultron were no simple feats either. (HINT: for anyone who has not seen either Avengers movie, Loki and Ultron were the primary villains in the 2012 and 2015 respective releases).