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History & Landmarks Foundation explores shrinking board

| Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012, 12:02 a.m.

The Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation is considering shrinking its board by about 50 members so trustees can take a more active role in governing operations, foundation officials said.

Foundation President Arthur Ziegler Jr. said the organization is updating its internal structure to conform with the latest national standards for nonprofits. Recommendations included cutting the board to about 25 members from 75, and possibly setting term limits for members, he said after a meeting on Wednesday. The foundation also is considering establishing an advisory board to represent community interests.

“The idea is that we will work out a way to reduce the size of the board,” Ziegler said. “If the board itself is smaller, it would be stronger in governing the operations, as it should be, and we would have the advisory board represent all aspects of the community.”

The hard part is figuring out which trustees leave, Ziegler said. Members of the foundation's governing and nominating committees will offer recommendations, and the board will vote early next year, he said.

The foundation works with government agencies and others to identify, preserve and redevelop historic buildings and areas.

Scott Leff, associate director of the Robert Morris University Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management, said the national trend over the past decade is for nonprofits to have smaller boards. He described PHLF's board as unusually large and said nonprofits often change board numbers over time.

Many larger boards often include donors to the organization.

“Nonprofits go through ... stages of development, and board roles and board sizes tend to evolve with them,” he said. “The smaller boards are where you see more board activity on the governance side.”

Ziegler said the foundation, which he cofounded in 1964, grew over the years, and the board grew with it to provide as much community input as possible.

Trustees, who debated the issue Wednesday, described the process as civil despite differences over the reduction process.

“This was not a meeting where criticism was being leveled at anyone,” said trustee Merrill Stabile. “Nothing was even decided today other than to think about ways to get down to 25 members.”

Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or bbauder@tribweb.com.

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