Historically, not-for-profit organizations have been slow to change their structure. This includes the longstanding, hierarchical nature of governance.
Within our organizations, governance frames the responsibilities within which we operate. It also creates the accountabilities for leadership of the organization. It is responsible for policies, the organization’s sustainability, and the effectiveness of the mission.
Faced with a pandemic, staffing challenges, and community needs, nonprofit organizations have proven their flexibility in operations. These opportunities have created a more inclusive and shared leadership style of governance.
Don’t misunderstand: The board is still essential to the organization. However, with shared governance, collaboration is encouraged. Diversity of ideas, experiences, and cultures serves as the scaffold through which the organization grows and succeeds. Volunteer engagement increases.
It increases equity by embracing diversity. It also encourages collaborative solutions from outside the organization. Solutions are therefore more community focused and less on the interests or wants of the few. This, too, broadens the impact on and interest from key stakeholders. Member engagement increases.
Trust is important to the success of shared leadership. From open communications to following through on commitments, shared leadership also creates a better understanding of the organization’s strengths and opportunities. Volunteer leaders have a deeper understanding of the services and programs. Staff leadership better understands the role and interests of the community and volunteers.
In the end, everyone with an interest in the organization embraces the vision of the organization and contributes to its success. Shared leadership allows for a more agile organization built on trust, equity, and flexibility.
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