Monday, March 14, 2011

Civic Reach and the Nonprofit Board

Each issue of Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) brings insight and at least one useful idea. Paul Vendeventer, President of Community Partners, discusses civic reach as a fundamental nonprofit board criteria, along with fundraising and governance skill. Civic reach brings the ability to provide a seat for the weakest among us in the most powerful places, as Vendeventer says: civic reach provides the commercial sector’s profit-driven muscle and the public-driven power to mandate by law and levy taxes. Civic reach consists of three components -- prestige both personal and professional, knowledge of the landscape in which work needs to be accomplished, and strategic relationships that can be delivered on behalf of mission-based work. Prestige. Knowledge. Connect-ability.

Vendeventer opines that people with civic reach exhibit other qualities, as well: shrewd environmental sensing; the ability to advance and defend a nonprofit mission; the ability to reach a broader public by conferring indisputable authenticity and legitimacy; and providing inside access to power. Inside access to power presupposes that the board member can install people at the necessary tables where the deals are done.

So, the three legs to the 21st Century stool of nonprofit sustainability and really great boards: good governance, a culture of philanthropy, and highly attenuated civic reach.

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