Letting Them In

on in Fundraising

How much does your board have to know about your program?

Of course, they have to be able to talk compellingly about your impact, to understand why what you do matters, and to whom.

But do they need to know what’s happening with the young people in the neighborhood and their families, first-hand?  Do they need to know the issues of aging housing stock, competing educational theory, how gender politics plays out in 2013?

How much do they have to “get” the ins and outs of your theory of change?

Ah, the blurring boundaries of board and staff.

It’s a tricky question. On the one hand, you want board members who know the field, who understand the priorities and can help staff navigate the changing environment in which the organization operates.

On the other hand – they’re not in it day-to-day.  They aren’t expected to know as much as staff who’ve dedicated their lives to the field.

Board members, most of them, have day jobs.

our_board.jpgAnd, in fact, for those whose day jobs are in related fields (like professors of education on the board of an after-school college-prep program) – the adage “A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing” can ring very true.  Dropping in with a piece of the picture is sometimes more destructive than simply learning the issues from scratch.

And the key is learning.

Board education – why you do what you do, the concepts the work is built on, the effects on the recipient end of a theory of change – is how you move from a board with varying bits of expertise in your organization’s programs, to a board that is fully enthusiastic about and capable of carrying the mission.

This also holds true for program participants – they may know their experience in the program, but that may only be a small piece of the pie. Board education – on-boarding – can help participants to distinguish the personal from the full gamut of the organizational.

To know…or not to know… is not the question.

To care, and to understand, is the necessary equation.

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