What is the Right Board Size?

Robert-Vowler-Board-Size

Robert-Vowler-Board-Size

I’ve often been asked the question, “What is the appropriate size of a board?”

The answer, of course, depends on the type of organization.

With a non-profit board, fund raising is an important responsibility for board members. Therefore, they tend to have large boards, perhaps 20 or more members. And since board members are expected to help raise funds, more members makes sense.

In the corporate world, boards tend to be much smaller, typically 8 to 12 members.

At the Hershey Trust, during my 10 years as CFO and 12 more as CEO, we had a board that ranged from a low of 7 members to a high of 22. The fact that the board of the Hershey Trust also ran a non-profit school, explained earlier in one of my blogs, added to this.

In my experience as CEO, working with a board of 22 members is nearly impossible. In Hershey’s case there was no fund raising responsibilities. Trying to get consensus on a wide range of issues with so many people was impossible – board meeting week became hell week. I would walk out of meetings frustrated that I hadn’t gotten answers to issues that were before the board. Factions among board members emerged and people left board meetings angry.

So with that, my answer to the question is that smaller is better, 8 to 10 is ideal in my view. Particularly, if the 8 to 10 had a business background with substantial responsibility in their own organizations.

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