A power grid according to Merriam-Webster is the following: “A network of electrical transmission lines connecting a multiplicity of generating stations to loads over a wide area.” There are multiple connecting points that come together for the sake of having a major impact on the end receivers. Nonprofit organizations must develop a power grid within its board structure for the sake of having a major impact on the benefactors of the organization. Whether a nonprofit is very tenured in its experience over many decades or a start-up nonprofit that is developing its very first board membership, a power grid must be put into place for the sake of maximum impact related to its underlying purpose for existence. A power grid board will produce maximum results while a mediocre board will have mediocre results.
When developing or re-developing this power grid, consider the purpose of the board itself. For some organizations, the board is a think-tank entity that is composed of individuals with various professional specialties, community make-up, and other factors. Some nonprofit boards provide a platform to further involve donors and/or prospective donors with the organization. Other nonprofit boards are comprised of previous founders and others that have a very deep loyalty to the organization that have a purpose to retain a generational lineage. Some nonprofit boards have a hybrid approach with multiple purposes for the board. To develop or re-develop a power grid among the board membership, leadership such as the CEO and/or the board itself must reflect upon the underlying purpose(s) of the board.
After the underlying purpose(s) is solidified, evaluate the diversity that needs to be on the board based upon those underlying purpose(s). Is geographic diversity important based upon the geographical area of constituents? Is having professional advisors with varying specialty levels important? Is it important to consider different types of donors with varying perspectives on how they give and/or why they give? Once the primary elements of diversity are decided, then the next step is potentially even more crucial. This element is often the difference between a power grid board and a mediocre board. Board member prospects need to be considered within the power circles of influence within the areas of the previously decided diversity.
Discover one of the top individuals within various circles of influence based upon the areas of needed diversity and seek them out for board membership. Realistically, nonprofit leadership such as the CEO will need to recruit the help of other existing board members or other close acquaintances who already have relationships or at least relational inroads with these top individuals. These top individuals of various circles of influence must be recruited.
An anonymous friend who was the CEO of one of the largest nonprofits in America told me that your board members should be individuals whom you can pick up the phone and ask them to accomplish something for the organization that it would take the CEO months or even years to accomplish. These individuals need to be a part of the power grid board. This type of powerful board will have a far-reaching and long-term impact for the sake of the organization's underlying purpose.
Jeffrey W. Steed is the Senior Director of Gift Planning at The University of Texas at Arlington. Previously, Steed was the Vice President of the Arkansas Baptist Foundation in Little Rock for over ten years. He has a Doctor of Ministry degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Texas in Arlington. Steed also has a Master of Divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He has authored several books and articles. To contact the writer, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.