10 Points That Embody the Staff's Role in Nonprofit Board Development
In my current roles as an executive director of development, consultant and author, I make every attempt to stay current on topics important to those in the philanthropic world. In recent days, I have attended Association of Fundraising Professionals luncheons, hosted one-on-one meetings with family foundation leaders, participated in webinar development programs, played a staff leadership role at a board meeting and prepared to speak at a national conference on volunteerism using best-of-class examples.
Many tell me that the topic of board development is very hot these days. Many volunteers and those engaged with boards are in need of training and engagement. Speaking of engagement, I was invited to speak to a number of my peers two weeks ago in Philadelphia at the second annual FundRaising Success Engage Conference. My topic was, as you might guess, board development. For the purpose of today's blog, let's look at board member support from the perspective of staff roles and responsibilities.
If you are in an administrative leadership role with direct responsibility for working with a board of volunteers, you have choices to make with respect to staff involvement. Do you invite any staff members to attend board meetings? If they do attend, what roles should they play? My management style is to invite key staff members to attend board meetings if they have direct accountability to me and the board for organizational success.
I want my staff to shine and participate with these volunteers. The board needs to get to know my key staff members personally for a variety of reasons. Both board members and staff members need to take ownership in the success of the organization. My role as administrative leader is to determine how best to maximize this relationship for ultimate institutional success. You must make sure the board accepts this culture and embraces staff as important board support pieces. Both parties need each other, and if each understands its role in this partnership, the more effective the board and staff will be for ultimate organizational success.
In my opinion, staff support for board members is embodied in 10 points:
- Pay attention to details of meetings, the needs of board members and inform board members in a timely fashion.
- Provide adequate preparation for meetings in which board members play a leadership role.
- Provide complex, concise and accurate information as requested.
- Assist board members in personal solicitations when encouraged.
- Use board members' time judiciously.
- Meet agreed upon deadlines, and notify board members promptly if deadlines cannot be met.
- Provide prompt response to requests for information.
- Demonstrate candor, respect and transparency in relationships.
- Provide opportunities for board members to be exposed to institutional activities and programs.
- Seek advice, test for feedback, support fully and know how your volunteers can bring their expertise to the table.
Constantly survey each board member to see if he or she is engaged and own the process. Be proactive and prepared for individual and group board meetings. Anticipate what the board needs, and exceed expectations. Take nothing for granted, and strive to make the board experience one to remember.
Do not fear or play down your opportunity to work with these volunteers. Think constantly about how staff and board members can seek "win-win" scenarios. Understand the role of the board in your organization. When possible, provide training and keep members totally informed of the past, present activities and future opportunities. Make your volunteers feel special and that they are insiders in the organization by the fact they serve on the board.
From a staff perspective, board relationships can be totally rewarding or extremely frustrating. Make sure members have a written job description and are fully briefed as to their roles and responsibilities. Determine if staff members have the chops to work directly with board members. Make sure board members know where the organization is heading and how they can most effectively contribute time, talent and treasure to advance the cause. Encourage board members to open doors for staff to engage with others in the volunteers orbit. Understand which board members are future leaders, and get to know their philosophies and styles.
In summary, realize that staff can help or hinder board development in your organization, and make the board dynamic and not static in scope. The success of your organization depends upon the triangle of administration, staff and board volunteers working as a team. Make board development a constant priority of your organization. You will see the results via organizational success.
F. Duke Haddad, EdD, CFRE, is currently associate director of development, director of capital campaigns and director of corporate development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. In addition, he is also president of Duke Haddad and Associates, LLC, and freelance instructor for Nonprofit Web Advisor.
He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the past 13 years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis on education administration, master’s degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor’s degree from West Virginia University in business administration, with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also done post graduate work at the University of Louisville.