When two boards are better than one
For healthcare organizations to thrive in an era of constant market and regulatory commotion, having a well-integrated charitable foundation arm is increasingly essential. But many institutions don’t have a dedicated foundation board of directors. They make do with a combined governance/foundation board. Other organizations with separate boards often run them in silos, missing the chance to maximize their fundraising potential.
Effective board integration starts with a CEO who’s fully supportive of their separation, but ensures that the foundation’s efforts are in sync with the hospital’s priorities. Several people can sit on both boards. They’re a minority, but they help keep the two groups on parallel tracks.
Foundation board recruitment has to be based on something beyond finding wealthy individuals to fill seats and attend galas. Serious recruitment focus- es on four core questions:
Will the candidate bring strategic relationships to the organization?
Can the board member open doors to new donors? In our organization’s history, it has been shown that when members introduce us to a new donor, we have a 70% success rate in securing a gift.
Is the candidate a role model for philanthropy? We require each of our board members to donate to the foundation.
Will the board member be an ambassador for the organization in the com- munity? Our board members speak passionately about our mission, telling memorable stories about our care and providers’ commitment to patients with an authenticity and flair that arises from firsthand engagement.
Organizations also can’t leave board recruitment and retention to chance. We strive to ensure our new board members understand our organization and their role, and feel welcome and energized from the first encounter. If we’re inviting the community’s most successful, busy people, we can’t waste their time. We set up one-on-one sessions for a smooth start, and after that each board meeting features not only business issues but carefully chosen, engaging people and topics from our hospitals and clinics.
There’s no question that having two boards, however well-integrated, creates more work for hospital executives than one. But a separate, high-performing foundation board is like a booster rocket driving the entire enterprise toward fulfillment of its mission.
Theresa Pesch, R.N., is president of the Children’s Health Care Foundation at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, Minneapolis.