Building a Dynamic Nonprofit Board: A Further Examination
In last week’s blog post, I talked about the basic responsibilities of nonprofit boards. I looked at attributes of effective board members and discussed the importance of having a dynamic board. The article also looked at what elements were needed to make a board consistently successful over time.
In this article, we continue the review of a board’s function, examine elements of weak boards to avoid, determine ways to recruit and retain great board members, plus understand the role of organizational mission. We will also verify what a dynamic board should be and provide a template for great nonprofit board members. Building a dynamic nonprofit board should be your aspiration. That functioning entity can enhance the quality and quantity of your professional career. There are many elements and interfaces that a nonprofit professional will have to engage over time. An especially important one on your radar screen must be your nonprofit board.
The nonprofit board of directors serves as the governing body, fulfills the organizational vision and mission plus provides insight, direction and oversight, according to Diligent Insights. Nonprofit boards typically have three or four officers: chairman, vice chairman, secretary and treasurer. Depending on the type of board, board officers do not get paid for their service but accept liability because of their organizational roles. Serving as a nonprofit board director is a rewarding experience with much responsibility. If board members take their roles seriously and give 100% commitment, the organization will greatly benefit.
If board members serve on a dysfunctional board, according to Chron, the organization will suffer greatly. Ways in which board members can damage organizations include leaking confidential information, having personal agendas, meetings that lack order, having disrespect for fellow board members, hostile environment, secret meetings, political agendas, lack of trust, dominating members and nonparticipants.
If board members are recruited poorly without rigor, negative results could occur. A dysfunctional board is the opposite of a dynamic board. You must understand both positive and negative attributes of potential board members and boards as you develop the most positive scenario of board recruitment possible.
If you desire to have the best nonprofit board of directors possible, Amy Einstein notes that you should create a list of your ideal board members that identifies the talents these individuals must possess. Establish a committee to recruit and vet new board members through a nominations process. Design a written board member job description that includes a variety of elements, including board expectations. Develop a thorough orientation process that involves total organizational immersion. Retain great board members by giving them meaningful work, having stimulating board meetings, allowing ongoing training opportunities and continually thanking them for their service.
According to a Nonprofit World article, an organizational board is the heart, soul and mind of the organization they serve. The board provides planning and policy direction. Board members turn your mission into action and reach out to others for external support. To energize a board, the board’s role must be defined. The board structure must be organized for maximum effectiveness. The board and board members must have agreed upon expectations.
Some of these expectations include attendance at meetings and special events. Board members were encouraged to develop fundraising plans to give and get others to contribute. They were asked to use personal connections for outreach to broaden organizational visibility. Board members were also encouraged to create a nomination bank of potential candidates. Activities were introduced so board members could better engage with each other and communicate constantly with organizational representatives.
McKinsey & Company indicates that most dynamic boards provide professional expertise, represent the interests of their nonprofits to community leaders, recruit new talent to the organization and provide more rigorous management oversight that funders increasingly demand. These boards also focus on organizational vision and mission. They provide a continual review of what talents where needed on their boards and determine what members to add and thank for service rendered.
These boards also challenge the organization with upgrading training and orientation programs. Board leadership needs to meet with executives of the nonprofit, discuss board evaluations and individual board performance, plus introduce board goals and objectives. A dynamic board process must include performance management analysis that can be evaluated over time. This type of excellent board must have self-assessment tools in place. Organizational demands and changing society needs have spotlighted the higher standard that nonprofit boards need to embrace.
BoardEffect shares the idea that anyone can be recruited to serve on a nonprofit board of directors. Many board members stumble onto a board and develop into viable board members. Other highly skilled and talented board members who are recruited fail to deliver on their volunteer assignments due to poor training or lack of interest over time.
To be a great board member, you must have excellent character qualities, a strong commitment to the cause, the gift of time, are innovative and forward thinking, plus have a personal willingness to use resources to advance the organizational mission. Excellent board members will experience a transformation of growth through their board experience. They will also make regular gifts to the institution and enhance relationships. They will take their fiduciary duties seriously. A great board of directors will help organizations aspire to greatness.
Having a dynamic, progressive board is critical to the organization’s long-term success. Potential funders and individuals of influence constantly review the names of organizational board members. They want to know if the board represents those with outstanding time, talent and treasure. If influential people are serving on your board, others will take notice. They will believe your organization is worthy of greater investment.
Your job as a nonprofit professional will be to recruit and maintain the highest level board of directors. This will take a great deal of time and careful attention. Once you get the first upper tier board member to join and eventually lead the board, others will follow. Make building a dynamic board a top priority for you, your administration and organization. The payoff over time will be great.
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.