The Changing Role and Responsibilities of the Board

ontario.coop
3 min readDec 10, 2021

Submitted by Jordan Moat, Regional Manager Libro Credit Union, OCA Board Chair

We are all coping with change, including co-operatives and the people who drive them. But how have the last few years of change — before and during the global pandemic — had an impact on Boards and their members?

Over the last decade, those and responsibilities have seen change accelerated by the pandemic, when many board members found themselves making judgement calls around situations they were unprepared and ill-suited for. Here, I would like to touch on some of those changes and how to control the risk to organizations and their Boards.

For most of us, you join a board for various personal reasons where you felt you could benefit an organization and that organization could benefit you.

  • You have a specific cause that is important to you, and you want to be active in supporting it.
  • You have specific skills that could help an organization stay or become more viable.
  • You want to “give back” and do your civic duty.
  • You are concerned about your community and want to have a say in its future.
  • You are building your career and being a board member would allow you to learn new skills or practice current ones.
  • You think non-profit board experience would be considered a plus on your resume or in your academic credentials.
  • You want the opportunity to network with like-minded or otherwise interesting people.

In many cases, the will was enough to supersede the skill in a successful board member. However, increasingly, the ask has become greater around the expertise of each board director to create a competent and successful board.

Increased Regulation — This is where we have seen the largest impact on all industries and where the expertise of a board can be challenged. Remember, within the board’s mandate is to develop, implement and monitor policies that will allow the organization to carry out its work. The combination of specific knowledge of the business and the required oversight needed can be daunting.

With Increased Regulation comes Increased Reporting — The ability to monitor the success of an organization has also increased in complexity. Expertise is needed to cut through the reporting to understand both successes and gaps, and the ability to communicate the positives or negatives to the rest of the board team.

Technology — The ability to connect remotely has been a fundamental part of life these past two years, and it is hard pressed to see that convenience reversing course, especially for boards that may stretch extensive geographic areas. The challenge this brings is when committing time and focus to strategic planning and priorities. The dreaded “dead air” is often a reality of deep thought, but it can be difficult for board Chairs to let a topic “breathe” enough for it to be thoroughly fleshed out.

How does a Board navigate these challenges?
There are two solutions, both of which should be executed by any board looking to be successful into the future:

  1. Board Training — A successful board should invest in its directors to “skill up” in board specific requirements. Topics such as financial reporting, governance, compensation & succession planning, crisis management, strategic planning, etc. can all be valuable assets to increase a director’s ability to govern properly.
  2. Board Recruitment — The development of a board recruitment committee that is active not only when vacancies arise, but that are constantly planning for the future, is key to a board’s success. The committee should undergo skills assessments of existing board members, gap analysis, and should be proactively creating an evergreen list for future directors.

Being a part of a Board of Directors is a challenge that is far outweighed by the reward that it brings. The Scout motto “Be Prepared” rings true today on how the board and its directors should approach the task at hand.

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