Is your board Governing with Soul?

Marjorie Sharpe’s new book about compassion, caring – and, yes, soul – as a factor in how boards work brings a new vocabulary and an interesting new perspective to the topic of good governance.

It is a deeply felt, values and vision based approach. Her emphasis on respect, fulfillment, compassion and shared values will feel familiar to anyone who has experienced George Thorn and Nello McDaniels’ workshop on Leading Arts Boards.

Marjorie’s book is based on interviews with Chairs and Executive Directors of 33 mid-size charities and foundations in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K – and I’m proud to say that Creative Trust was included in that group, which she describes as having attained outstanding success in achieving their missions.

Marjorie was one of the first supporters of Creative Trust, as President and CEO of the Toronto Community Foundation when we were first exploring the feasibility of creating a collaborative “sustainability” program for mid-size performing arts organizations. At the time, this was an unusual take on the traditional arts stabilization idea, which tended to focus on the financial health of large institutions. Marjorie’s enthusiasm and understanding of what we were trying to achieve was hugely encouraging – and a $10,000 feasibility grant from the Foundation helped get us started.

When she uses the word soul when talking about boards, Marjorie is talking of an approach to governing charities in which board members and staff share a feeling of purpose and commitment to making a social impact through their work. This is certainly true in Toronto’s most successful companies.

But the book is also a very practical guide to things like recruitment and orientation of board members (she uses the term “casting”), conscious leadership, clarifying expectations and maintaining a focus on mission and values. She points to the need for respectful dialogue, accountability and transparency, innovation and creativity, and talks about the importance of a strong board chair and CEO relationship and a culture of caring.

She believes that fundraising is a process that enriches the soul as well as the charity – I wish more board members were as clear about that as she is.

Altogether, Governing with Soul is a fascinating combination of what’s effective with what’s right, and its lessons are wise and useful.

Governing with Soul: How Joy, Courage and Compassion Are Taking Charities to the Next Level, published December 2010 by Civil Sector Press; on the Globe and Mail’s “Books for Business” Top Ten list, and recommended by Charity Village as one of five books to read in “Reading to Revitalize Your Organization in 2011.”  To order Marjorie’s book visit the Civil Sector Press website.

We have copies of  George Thorn and Nello McDaniels’ Leading Arts Boards at the Creative Trust office or you can order directly from them on their website.

Also we’ve got a copy of Marjorie book to give away!  Comment here or on our Facebook page and we’ll use the famous “random number generator” to pick a winner.

Jini Stolk

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