Board members are volunteers who contribute time, money, talents, connections, and even the occasional shoulder to cry on during challenging moments. Without the awesome folks on my board, the two organizations that I was ED of would not have been nearly as successful. I am also currently serving on two boards of organizations I love. I know how hard boards and board members work, and we owe a lot to the brilliant board members out there who are helping us make the world better every day.

However, we need to admit that boards in general are seriously problematic. I have a Rule of One-Thirds when it comes to boards: 1/3 of them are helpful, 1/3 are useless, and 1/3 are actually harmful. This means that 2/3 of nonprofit boards are useless or harmful. For every good-board story, there are countless tales of crappy boards. Those who micromanage the staff. Those who get buried in operations, wasting their time scrutinizing font selections and toilet paper purchases. Those who prevent progress, like the boards who refuse to allow their organizations to publicly support Black Lives Matter, thinking it’s too “political.” Even among the boards I’ve worked with, I’ve dealt with my fair share of crappiness, like the time my board blocked a paid family leave policy that the staff all supported and the entire sector is moving toward.

But how could boards not be crappy? We are talking about a structure where groups of volunteers who barely know one another, see one percent of the work, often don’t reflect the communities we serve, and who may have little to no experience running nonprofits, being given vast power to supervise leadership and determine values, policies, and practices. Why did we think this weird structure would work?

Read the full article about new nonprofit board models by Vu le at Nonprofit AF.