Building a Fit-For-Purpose Association Board in the Turbulent Twenties

As part of the Association Insights series, in Old Town, this webinar discussed the title of this blog post.

The following are my notes from Jeff De Cagna's, Executive Advisor, Foresight First, LLC presentation.

He started with the comment of “we must do something different with our organizations and boards.  Association boards must become more!”


He asked a series of questions:

  • What will our successors say about us?
  • What will the next generation of leaders think of the work you did as a board and organization?
  • Why is it critical to build a fit-for-purpose board?

He talked about how this decade is going to get worse and the four forces we face:

  • The impact of AI/automation technologies on human beings;
  • The worsening climate crisis;
  • The surge in human inequality; and
  • The rise of ideological extremism.

He discussed what is normal.  And his answer, “nothing is normal.”  He states this as the most acute short-term threat organizations face.  He made the following statement, “boards must adapt to operating in the discontinuous next.”

He went on to talk about boards being risk adverse.  Where are we headed?  Boards need to think towards the future and don’t debate current events.  That’s tough to do!

What are the foundational beliefs of a fit-for-purpose association board?

  • Focus on where you are going and not where you have been;
  • Think about your successors and stand up for the future;
  • Let go of historical expectations;
  • Get away from orthodoxy assumptions; and
  • Embrace the responsibility of stewardship with other organizations on collaboration.

How can your organizations board become fit-for-purpose?  Being a board vs. becoming a board?  Think long-term and our boards must be more and not just checking the boxes of being a board (i.e. 990 review, annual budget review, etc.).

He suggested asking your board the following three questions:

  1. What positive-sum transformation can your board pursue?
  2. What sacrifices will your board make to benefit our successors?
  3. How will the directors and officers help each other to become a fit-for-purpose board?

He ended with circling back to “what will our successors say about us?” and a quote from Barbara Jordan, “For all of its uncertainty, we cannot flee the future.”

For more information on Jeff De Cagna and his work go to his website HERE.