Four Ingredients for Powerful Boards

September 30, 2015

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Written By: Mike

By Mike Bussey

Years ago, I attended one of my first YMCA training events, held at the Calhoun Beach Hotel in Minneapolis. The day’s featured presentation on board development was of very little interest to me.

The presenter was John Kessler, the President of the Minneapolis YMCA (later the President of George Williams College), and I would have much preferred to attend a program-related session. However, John was also my aunt’s next-door neighbor. There was no way I could avoid attending his session. It turned out to be one of the most significant training events I have ever attended.

John Kessler raised the bar for financial development in the Twin Cities and throughout the YMCA movement. Capital campaigns that had been modest in scope and size were now achieving what staff and volunteer leadership never thought possible.

He opened his presentation by stating that the one factor that determines the success of a capital campaign is the strength of a board of directors, and that the only way to assure a strong board is to have what he defined as a “gutsy” nominating committee. He went on to emphasize that it is essential that a gutsy nominating committee identify and recruit the absolute top community leadership to serve on the Board of Directors.

John defined top community leaders as men and women who have the following four W’s:

  • Wealth – The capacity to give generously and enthusiastically to the organization.
  • Wisdom – The ability to offer wise counsel to the organization’s leadership.
  • Work – The willingness to provide volunteer service to the organization, focused on the organization’s highest priorities.
  • Wallop – The unique ability, through relationships and a persistent personality, to to get things done.

Over the past 40+ years, I have found that John’s instruction on board development has proven to be universally true. There is no way to successfully raise the philanthropic support required to fully fund the critically important mission of your institution without a strong board, and the only way to get there is with a gutsy nominating committee recruiting board leadership through the filter of the four W’s.

Need some assistance in putting together a gutsy nominating committee? We’d love to be a part of the conversation.

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