Monday, February 03, 2014

BookPastor >> "Called to Serve" (Max De Pree)

TITLE: Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board
AUTHOR: Max De Pree
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2001, (100 pages).

Have you ever wondered what a Board of Directors, a volunteer or non-profit organization do? How can they be more effective in their altruistic goals? What makes a successful nonprofit board? These questions are ably dealt with by one of the most respected names in the leadership arena: Max dePree. Known for his classic work entitled, "Leadership is an Art," DePree applies his knowledge and years of wisdom from the for-profit enterprise to the nonprofit organizations such as churches, charities, and other social causes. As money continues to pour into nonprofits, it is critical that there be increasing quality of management and leadership in them as well.

Written as personal letters to his friend, Verley, DePree talks about the eleven marks of an effective board as:

  1. Having a mission statement;
  2. Nurturing strong relationships with board members;
  3. Maintaining an understanding of the surrounding world;
  4. Planning well;
  5. Enabling competent and inspirational leadership;
  6. Cultivating growth in members of the organization;
  7. Giving wisdom, wealth, work, and witness;
  8. Maintaining intimacy with their responsibilities;
  9. Measuring and doing what it says it will do;
  10. Reflecting;
  11. Thanking.
A good board has a clear agenda. It needs to have a future orientation. It also has specific present responsibilities for each member. It needs to evaluate senior leadership in the organization so as to improve leadership performances. The Board's role needs to be strategic and reflective, based on the administrative information provided them. Board meetings need to engage all members. 

DePree talks about the design of the Board. Structures must be thought of not in terms of work to be done but what the organization wants to become. They need to be primarily concerned with people, followed by financial prudence and managing of both hard and soft assets. The chairperson mainly chairs the meeting. Unfortunately, many places tend to see the chairperson as President or Chief Executive. That will be wrong. The authority of the chairperson resides in the running of the meeting, keeping time, sensing members' moods, and so on.  The single most important thing any chairperson can do is to cultivate trust. This is done through two ways. The first is to express gratitude frequently. The second is to uphold accountability levels of all members. So important is the role of the chairperson that DePree allocates two chapters on it. He calls the act of chairing a prime example of servant leadership. Other roles of the chairperson include:

  • Building community
  • Designing agenda
  • Using a "bell curve" to know when is the optimum time for members' attention and discussion of important issues;
  • Communicating well;
  • Be Hospitable
  • Be an accountability leader.
Having said that, there is also a list of duties for members to remember for themselves; such as statement of expectations; enabling trust to the other leaders; giving space; providing care; and others. He ends with a personal story about his brother at Herman Miller, where he reminds us that when we implement things affecting any one particular group, always consult the people who will be most affected by any change. Let me close with this powerful quote about volunteering.

"There's a lesson here for all of us engaged in volunteer activities. Be careful not to give people too many reasons for reconsidering their calling. Consider deeply and meticulously why it is that so many people are called to serve others as volunteers. Never forget that non-profit work, like no other endeavour, engages our choice, our hearts, and our spirits." (91)

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


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