Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 10 seconds

How can you make sure your board member expertise is put to use, without overloading each individual? Nonprofit board committees make it easy. Committees allow the work that needs to be done to be distributed evenly throughout your board. Clearly, committees can be highly beneficial to a nonprofit board. However, that’s just the beginning of our committee journey. Because they operate somewhat independently from the main board, committees are especially vulnerable to the “5 Dysfunctions of a Team,” as written about by Patrick Lencioni in his book by the same name. Here are the dysfunctions and what your committees should NOT include.

Lack of Trust

Trust is the foundation of any relationship, and team members must have a certain level of trust with each other to be able to work towards strategic goals and initiatives. It’s this trust that allows board members to get in constructive debates with each other or hold each other accountable. Committees need to feel comfortable presenting difficult information to the main board, as well.


Nonprofit committees are in place to help make strategic decisions and support a nonprofit as it grows and succeeds. This means that sometimes hard conversations and decisions must be made. Board and committee members need to feel safe enough that they can engage in occasionally heated communications with their peers, or else they won’t speak up at all. This is a big reason why some members become disengaged. They simply would rather passively agree than engage in debate.

Lack of Commitment

A lack of commitment from committee members often results from one of two causes. First, it could be that the commitments were not clearly outlined and that members simply don’t realize what their input should be. On the other hand, the stakes of being involved just aren’t high enough. If there is no personal “skin in the game,” it can cause board members to become ambivalent and simply not care about the decisions that are being made.

Not Enough Accountability

The accountability factor comes down to showing up and taking responsibility for moving a nonprofit forward. Committee members should be able to trust each other to get things done, follow up on conversations, and do what they said they would do. This is what turns a nonprofit committee into a team: when people hold each other accountable and call it out respectfully if something doesn’t get done.

Insufficient Results

In my years working with nonprofits, I’ve seen this last dysfunction come up more often than you can imagine. Many times there is a single dominant committee member who takes over a conversation and turns what should be a dialogue into more of a dissertation. Board members become more focused on personal success and what their position on a board can do for them professionally than the results of the nonprofit itself.

By safeguarding your committees from these dysfunctions, you ensure a healthy and productive environment. Keep communication open and trust strong, and your organization will continue to thrive.

About Kim Donahue:

Kim Donahue is the resident governance resource at Boardable. Kim has over 30 years of experience as a nonprofit employee, volunteer, and board member. Over her long career in the nonprofit sector, Kim has facilitated more than 1,000 workshops and planning sessions for nonprofit organizations. In December 2017, Kim was named one of the “100 Community Heroes” in celebration of United Way of Central Indiana’s 100th Anniversary. Kim received nominations from 43 nonprofit leaders for her work with dozens of agencies.

About Boardable:

Boardable is an online board management portal that centralizes communication, document storage, meeting planning, and everything else that goes into running a board of directors. Founded in 2017 by nonprofit leaders and founders, Boardable has a mission to improve board engagement for nonprofits. Boardable is based in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Last modified on Monday, 16 September 2019
Read 1194 times
Rate this item
(0 votes)

Visit other PMG Sites:

PMG360 is committed to protecting the privacy of the personal data we collect from our subscribers/agents/customers/exhibitors and sponsors. On May 25th, the European's GDPR policy will be enforced. Nothing is changing about your current settings or how your information is processed, however, we have made a few changes. We have updated our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy to make it easier for you to understand what information we collect, how and why we collect it.
Ok Decline