While it seems commonsensical that a cohesive board is more effective than a board that is not, the term is both misunderstood and not given the weight warranted in the nonprofit sector.

Cohesion is often mischaracterized as unified in perspective, with thoughts in lock step. Conversely, the healthiest board discussions are ones in which the viewpoints of diverse board members are heard and understood.

What are some characteristics of healthy cohesion?

  • Unified in mission attainment—everyone not only understands the mission, but keeps it foremost in every board meeting and with every action on behalf of the organization;
  • All board members see fundraising as a personal responsibility, whether making a direct ask, or providing contact information of decision-makers/gatekeepers;
  • Absence of misgivings among board members about the leadership of the board or administration;
  • Mutual respect of other board members and willingness to consider their perspectives;
  • After board decisions have been made, messages to the public are on the same page.

Another aspect of cohesion is greatly affected by the executive director. Research says that a key to effective organizations is the working relationship between the chief executive and the board Especially effectual executives display certain behaviors, such as facilitating interaction in board relationships, showing consideration and regard of board members, envisioning change and innovation for the organization with the board, providing useful and helpful information to the board, and promoting board accomplishments and productivity.

Human nature dictates that people find a little more time in weekly schedules for gratifying activities. Serving on an exceptional board is highly rewarding because of an environment that encourages trust, collaboration, and respect in pursuit of mission accomplishment. A board assessment—whether done internally or facilitated by a consultant, followed by action plans, can usher a new level of cohesion.