Autocrat, Figurehead, Volunteer, Partner

Last week I attended an orphan care conference on behalf of my church and Bethesda Outreach Ministries where Daryl and I both serve on the board. It was my first time at this conference or at anything with this much breadth and depth related to orphan care. It was almost all new to me. I loved it!

Mikel with other leaders from church and Bethesda at CAFO 2019

One of my favorite sessions was one that intersected multiple areas of interest for me. The panel was called Sustainable Social Enterprise. There were about 8 business owners on the panel. Some have a business where the profits are donated to needs in orphan care. Some have a business that provides training and vocational opportunities for orphans directly. As each panelist spoke, they all talked about the challenges of small businesses that we all are so familiar with.

One panelist’s message I really appreciate was Ryan Berg. Ryan is founder of Aruna Project. He highlighted the characteristics and activities of a good board member. He proposes that the best board member is a true partner. They are able to balance their efforts on one hand of being an advisor and on the other hand being a worker. If a board member only advises, they become an autocrat. If they only work, then they are merely a volunteer. If they do neither, then they are a figurehead.

A board member that can balance those activities will have the following five traits: character, competency, capacity, commitment, and compatibility. If you’ve found someone that aligns with you on those five traits then you’ve found a good potential board member. From the board member’s perspective, I think this is also a helpful filter to know where to spend my time and efforts. I hope I always have good character but if I’m honest there are a lot of areas where I’m just not competent. I might have the competency but not the capacity to take on the workload that the organization needs. I might have the capacity but not the commitment level. So I’ll always put other things in front of the organization on my todo list and calendar. Finally, even if all those tings are true I’m might not just be compatible with the leaders or other board members. That doesn’t make either side wrong or bad. It’s about having that right fit that helps make both sides better.

I left the session and the conversation with Ryan encouraged and challenged to be a better board member regardless if that’s in a non-profit, volunteer setting or it’s in a for-profit, paid business owned by LEV. I love it when my worlds collide.

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