This piece on Leadership Lessons from Great Family Businesses caught my attention on Twitter last week. I saved it to Pocket and read it yesterday. Key parts:

Only 30% of family businesses last into the second generation; 12% are viable into the third… And yet family-owned or -controlled businesses play a key role in the global economy. They account for an estimated 80% of companies worldwide and are the largest source of long-term employment in most countries. In the United States they employ 60% of workers and create 78% of new jobs.

The piece describes “great family businesses” as having four key traits:

They found that top family-led companies do four key things: establish a baseline of good governance, preserve “family gravity,” identify future leaders from within and outside the family, and bring discipline to their CEO succession.

As I was reading this I instinctively adapted these four traits in my mind to the nonprofit space. I’d adapt them roughly as follows to describe the role of a “great nonprofit boards:”

  1. create baseline for good governance, with emphasize on term limited service to encourage impact
  2. continually restate the culture and ethos of the organization
  3. identity future leaders from within the board’s social and professional network, occasionally going farther afield for the right candidates
  4. encourage staff discipline in terms of attention to mission, or in cases of volunteer-led nonprofits, focus board committees on operationalizing mission execution