Shaping the Conversation

on in Fundraising

How much do you share?

And when?

In the interests of full transparency and no surprises, many of us want to impart all the down-and-dirty details to board members as situations unfurl.

And of course, nothing should be withheld.

But how much detail is obfuscation, and how much contributes to a coherent narrative?

Put in other words: How much communication helps board members make sense of a situation and follow along with staff’s reasoning (nay, perhaps even be a partner in thinking through a complex set of decisions); and how much is filling people’s head with the leaves so they can’t, quite frankly, see the trees?

As a conscious intention…or unconscious effect?

 One of the deepest questions I’ve heard board members ask is also one of the most open-ended: What do you want us to focus on here?

What a great question!

prioritize-conversation.jpgThat query pushes staff leaders to step back before a board meeting to organize the onslaught of information and daily decisions. To sort through what the point is – and what thought partnership is needed from the board.

When that lens informs the construction of the board agenda, board members can be given the details they need ahead of time in order to provide thoughtful and strategic insight on a topic (or a series of topics).

Leading the group to a lively conversation that can propel an agency to a series of decisions, or scenarios, that might actually be different than what the executive director had assumed, walking into the board meeting.

But when that’s not done, boards are often provided with a flurry of data that, quite frankly, overwhelms them. The message they take home? “This is technical stuff that’s way too complex for me to understand. I’d better leave this to the staff.

And then it’s only a hop, skip and jump to leaving the entire agency’s direction to the staff.

A perfect recipe for a disengaged board.

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