As a fast-growing nonprofit serving the global poor, One Acre Fund is proud to work with a governing board that has played an integral role at all stages of our existence.

As with many nonprofits, we have evolved the precise composition and function of our board alongside our organization’s changing needs and opportunities since we professionalized seven years ago. But our choices have rarely matched the conventional wisdom. And while we know not every institution operates in the same way, we wanted to share these (somewhat counter-intuitive) experiences in the hopes that nonprofit leaders, particularly at other social-change organizations, will take a harder look at how to build their boards for maximum impact.

We’ve found that other structures, such as advisory and fundraising boards, and regular expert conversations can realize these benefits without overcrowding our governing board. For instance, One Acre Fund’s leadership team regularly consults a variety of experts and networks in addition to our board structures.

But, you might ask further, what about the common practice of choosing an executive committee from within a large governing board to handle strategy and governance? Based on the experiences of peers we’ve consulted, this can be a recipe for doubling the time requirements of your most valuable board members and reducing the incentive for anyone to attend full board meetings, as they shift in purpose from problem-solving to informing and recognizing.  In sum, our governing board functions as one of our most valuable sources for strategic insight, precisely because the group is small and cohesive enough to have high-quality, generative discussions.

We are big believers that high-functioning boards can enable greater impact for social-change nonprofits.

Read the full article about nonprofit boards by Matthew Fiorti at Stanford Social Innovation Review.