Galvin and Associates

Problem: Board is too large



Some organizations have over 50 people serving on their board. At some point in the history of each of these organizations, somebody thought the board needed to add more members. The reasons for this vary. It could have been for broader representation. It could have been a result of inviting potential major donors on the board. But large boards tend to make governance less effective because it makes intelligent conversation and group decision-making more difficult.

As a workaround, many organizations form committees with an executive committee determining which issues are handled by them and which go to the full board. But this structure can unintentionally make people feel like the executive committee is flying in business class while the rest of the board is back in the economy section.

Some form a governance committee to care for board policies and recruit new board members. But these committees often fall into microgoverning mode or allow the full board to move into status quo governance mode. Other committees, such as HR, tend to get too involved in management issues.

One solution is to change the bylaws to reduce the number of members on the board. This can be done through attrition as board members term out, or by asking several board members to resign. For those institutions that use board membership as a cultivation tool for major donors, they might do better by creating a separate, affinity group or branded society that more effectively cultivates potential donors.

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