The Gospel of Good Governance

The association executive said, “Please share the gospel of good governance with my board.” He was requesting the annual orientation of his board of directors.

I had to think about the context. The definition of “gospel” is something regarded as true and implicitly believed or a doctrine regarded as of prime importance.

I summarized the doctrine for good governance in 12 principles.

  1. Board Size – Size matters; it should allow for meaningful conversations. Studies indicate the larger the board the more disengaged the directors. The average is 15.
  2. Directors – Good boards include persons with the competencies to serve as trustees. Be cognizant of the impact of guests and ex-officio members at meetings.
  3. Frequency – Convene meetings as needed; postpone unnecessary meetings. Craft an agenda that works, not just reports and updates. (Boards can be a powerful force when called upon for visioning and solving problems.)
  4. Room Set-Up – Meeting rooms should be free of distractions and conducive to achieving results. Keep the mission and strategic plan on
    the table.
  5. Mission Driven – Nearly every discussion and decision will be influenced by the mission statement.
  6. GPS – The board’s GPS is a strategic plan. Directors work to advance a multi-year plan, not to build legacies or push
    personal agendas.
  7. Trust – Little is accomplished without a culture of trust, accountability, transparency, respect and integrity. Avoid risky behaviors.
  8. Staff – It takes a partnership of board (governance) and professional staff (management). Micromanagement is
    not governance.
  9. Duties – Directors have prescribed responsibilities including the fiduciary duties of loyalty, care and obedience. An orientation develops board confidence and skills.
  10. Documents – Most questions can be answered by reading the bylaws, policies, strategic plan and budget.
  11. Committees – Committees supplement the work of board and staff. They should produce results, engage members and identify future leaders. Poorly managed committees repel volunteers.
  12. Brevity – Brief is better for nearly everything. Volunteers seldom have time to read protracted reports.

Good governance requires nurturing. A two-page guide is free at (Search “Guide for Better Governance”.) 

Author Bob Harris, CAE, provides free governance tips and templates at
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