Tuesday, April 27, 2010

How Many Board Treasurer’s Do You Need?

I really appreciated a presentation by Aaron Hurst at last November’s BoardSource Conference. Aaron Hurst is the founder and CEO of an organization called Taproot Foundation. Taproot Foundation has re-invented pro bono services by creating ways for teams of selected professionals to volunteer together to complete high value projects for nonprofit client organizations.

I resonated with Aaron’s premise that the Board Treasurer and Finance Committee tend to be the most consistently functioning board members on many nonprofit boards. Aaron suggests the Treasurer role is best performed because it is the best understood, reporting requirements are clear-cut, and the position is very specifically recruited – we know we need a person with particular skill and expertise. The Treasurer is the steward of the organization’s Financial Capital or Assets. They can take hold of the role of ‘owning’, protecting, and maximizing those assets.

What if you applied this stewardship concept to the other key assets of the organization and recruited people who were highly qualified to leverage them?

Treasurer of Human Capital – How do we recruit, hire, and train the best people? How do we attract and retain the best volunteers? How do we best leverage the skills of our staff and volunteers? What are the metrics that define progress and performance in this area?

Treasurer of Social Capital – “The Boss of Buzz” – Establishing and protecting our ‘brand’. Identifying and building key relationships. Coordinating and integrating fund raising, marketing, PR, and communications. What are the metrics that define progress and performance in this area?

Treasurer of Information Capital or Treasurer of Impact – How do we get information and how do we use it? How do we manage and access the knowledge we have developed? How do we show we are making a difference? What are the metrics that define progress and performance in this area?

Aaron suggests this model is best applied in mid-sized nonprofits that have staff infrastructure in each functional area but are not large enough to have highly experienced senior executives in areas like HR, marketing, and finance.

Pro Bono versus Traditional Volunteer - With a Pro Bono volunteer, you respect their professional skills and engage with them almost like a client and consultant relationship. With a traditional volunteer, you treat all the same and assign to low skill roles where volunteers are essentially interchangeable. Mr. Hurst also asserts that these Treasurer roles are very high leverage - many of us may have experienced this through the financial downturn as we had board members step up to show us how we should be forecasting and managing cash or restructuring debt. An “A”-level, high-expertise and high-performing board member can have 10x the impact of a board member who brings less energy or expertise. Who will be your second treasurer and what will they be stewarding?