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Les dirigeants d’entreprises privées font-ils de bons administrateurs d’OBNL ?

22 avril 2014

Est-ce que les hauts dirigeants, reconnus pour leurs habiletés de gestionnaires, font de bons administrateurs d’organisations à buts non lucratifs (OBNL) ?

La thèse de William G. Bowen* (1994) est à l’effet que beaucoup de représentants du monde des affaires, siégeant sur des conseils d’administration d’OBNL, le font pour une multitude de raisons n’ayant pas toujours de relations avec les intérêts de l’organisation, mais servent plutôt à faire avancer leurs intérêts personnels !

Eugene H. Fram**, expert en gouvernance des OBNL et auteur du billet publié sur le blogue Nonprofit Management, croit qu’il faut peindre un portrait plus nuancé en 2014. Selon lui, les comités de gouvernance et de mise en nomination ne devraient cependant jamais prendre pour acquis que l’efficacité d’un gestionnaire dans une entreprise privée sera garante d’une valeur ajoutée pour l’OBNL.

Les perceptions de ceux-ci sont trop souvent à l’effet que les OBNL sont plus permissives, moins exigeantes, moins sérieuses …  La réalité est tout autre et les dirigeants devraient y penser à deux fois avant de s’engager sur un C.A. d’OBNL ! Plusieurs témoigneront que les réunions de ces conseils sont très souvent complexes, sensitives, moins structurées et, souvent, éprouvantes pour des « gestionnaires chevronnés »…

On a ici un beau sujet d’étude (de recherche) car le modèle d’affaires des OBNL suppose toujours une contribution remarquable des gens d’affaires !

Pensez-vous que la situation a beaucoup évoluée depuis l’affirmation de Bowen, il y a 20 ans ? La gouvernance des OBNL a-t-elle changée au point de modifier les perceptions des gens d’affaires ?

Vos commentaires sont les bienvenus. Bonne lecture !

 

Do Today’s Business Leaders Make Effective Nonprofit Directors?

The names of the new board nominees have been announced. They include several outstanding recruits from the business community. Will these new formidable directors perform well in the nonprofit environment? William G. Bowen, a veteran director in both the for-profit and nonprofit environments, raised the following questions about such beginnings in a 1994 article:* Is it true that well-regarded representatives of the business world are often surprisingly ineffective as members of nonprofit boards? Do they seem to have checked their analytical skills and their “toughness” at the door? If this is true in some considerable number of cases, what is the explanation?

An example of the U.S. Nonprofit Organization ...

An example of the U.S. Nonprofit Organization postage meter marking made with a Pitney Bowes mailstream system. Letter. 2007. Русский: Пример штампа франкировальной машины системы Pitney Bowes, имеющего тариф « Nonprofit Organization » (США, 2007). Письмо. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Are Bowen’s observations about directors’ questionable motivations for accepting director positions still applicable in the 21st century? He noted that some nonprofit directors accept board positions because they are dedicated to the organization’s mission, vision and values. But he also hypothesized that business leaders are sometimes motivated to join nonprofit boards for a variety of other reasons. They may regard board membership as a “vacation from the bottom line … or the enjoyment of a membership in a new ‘club’.” Also they perhaps join nonprofit boards to “soften” community perceptions that, as tough bottom-line executives, they also may care as much about human issues as they care about shareholder returns. (It would probably be costly or impossible to obtain objective data of this observation.) Press reports through the years, since 1994, have indicated that such attitudes still hold leadership sway in nonprofit organizations. (See: Nonprofit Board Crisis.com)

In today’s nonprofit environment, there may remain senior business leaders or groups who are less serious about the responsibilities incumbent upon board members, as noted by Bowen. If this is the situation, a high level of board permissiveness, allowed by business-oriented directors and others, is still causing a level of board dysfunction business leaders would never allow on their own boards.

____________________________________

21st Century Reflections on Bowen’s Observations

Since Bowen’s 1994 observations, there have been some improvements. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act has driven some of the changes in audit committee’s procedures, overviews of internal controls, whistle-blower requirement, CEO’s & CFOs signatures attesting to financial statement accuracy, etc. Although not required by law, some larger nonprofits have adhered to all the provisions of the Act. I also feel business leaders now think more deeply about joining a nonprofit board, especially after the Penn State scandal and the reputation embarrassment the board encountered.

But do these changes indicate substantial change reducing the permissiveness in the nonprofit environment Bowen described? Anecdotally, here is a typical comment that I continue to hear, this one from the board chair large nonprofit with 300 employees. “We don’t expect the same standards of management performance that the business organization has.”

However, I am optimistic about the future. As nonprofit boards select more professional type CEO’s to lead their organizations, whether they are hired internally or externally, more change will take place. Hopefully, if boards want to retain these people, this movement should place some subtle pressures on board nomination committees to seek more candidates whose motivation is to focus on mission, vision and values, along with balanced budgets. A new breed should readily understand that this focus has the same meaning to nonprofit stakeholders, as a profit focus does to business stakeholders.

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* William G. Bowen (1994), “When a Business Leader Joins a Nonprofit Board,” Harvard Business Review, September-October. Bowen currently is president emeritus of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and former president of Princeton University in Princeton. He has served as an outside director for a wide variety of for-profit and nonprofit organizations.

**Eugene H. Fram PRACTITIONER AND PROFESSOR OF MARKETING AND MANAGEMENT, AUTHOR & CONSULTANT. ALSO SIGNIFICANT EXPERTISE WITH BUSINESS & NONPROFIT BOARDS OF DIRECTORS.

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