How to Create Excellence Through Your High-Impact Board: A Further Examination
All nonprofit professionals should aspire to work with a high-quality, high-impact board of directors. The demands on organizations in today’s world place increasing pressure on quality boards to help leadership in a complex society.
HR Exchange Network provides tips for creating a culture of excellence that can be applied to a board context. These tips as it relates to board members are to be prepared to work outside your job description, work to solve board issues immediately, work together as a board by managing expectations, strive to build character within the board, engage your board like you would with your employees and seek leadership by example with every board member.
flevyblog shares a guide to engaging your board and achieving board excellence. It is important that a board is functional rather than dysfunctional. Board engagement is key to maximizing the productivity of a board of directors. Five areas to improve the nature of engagement between board members themselves and their administration of organizations are seeking engagement between board meetings, engagement in strategy formulation, engagement for talent development, engagement in organizational operations and engagement on tough decisions. The changing business environment has raised the need for enhanced performance and effectiveness by boards. Excellent boards must strive to be better engaged and take a more active part in the organizations they serve over time.
flevyblog also notes that a changing environment is pushing many boards to face increasing challenges. Boards are faced with two main challenges that need to be addressed to improve board excellence: the compressed time commitment board members have during a year and a board member expertise gap that limits their full capacity to provide total support to the organizations they serve. Many board members have limited time available for organizational strategy development. A high-impact board of directors provides greater time than average to see that strategy is implemented plus provides expertise on strategy and evaluates organizational strategic results.
Nonprofit Quarterly explains that many nonprofit professionals feel they do not have a great board. To build excellent boards, nonprofit executive directors must do the following:
- Recruit good people who are willing to work.
- Make sure you have terms and term limits.
- Welcome and orient new board members.
- Help board members get to know each other.
- Make meetings fun.
- Provide board members with quality information.
- Affirm, affirm, affirm their boards.
- Share the good work the board does.
- Help those who cannot participate transition from the board.
- Seek ways to engage and promote your board members.
- Be thankful for constructive criticism.
- Turn challenges into opportunities.
- Acknowledge that most board problems are your fault.
Note that the executive director of the organization is responsible for their board either being just good or great through a variety of actions taken or not taken with boards and their board members.
Facilitation & Process provided an effective checklist for determining the effectiveness of a board and what steps are needed to make a board excellent. If you want to create excellence through your high-impact board, you must organize your board around the organizational mission and vision. The board members must focus on strategic elements, such as strategic planning and resource development planning. Board members must establish depth of purpose by not only attending meetings but events and programs. They must fully observe how their organization operates.
The board chair and executive director must also have a close and productive working relationship. Board members must understand how their nonprofit works in the context of the industry they exist. Boards can have the highest impact when they establish external networks outside of the board for advice, counsel and guidance. Every board position must represent a strategic addition to expand the capacity of the board. The board must have effective operations and an annual evaluation process. The board needs to annually monitor a set of predetermined metrics and shares performance data with donors and the community. The board, for greatest impact, needs to foster a community culture where resources are shared and the board interfaces with the communities the organizations serve.
GuideStar states that there are four things a nonprofit board of directors should do to embrace best practices. These are review and update your bylaws to describe standing committees and positions plus communications that are current with the times. Review each written position description for board members and officers to make sure the description is what is needed to advance the organizational mission. Make sure each board member has annually reviewed and signed a board approved conflict of interest statement that follows a standard for excellence code. Observe and monitor the performance of your current board members and board. This process is an excellent way to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the current board.
The Arts Consulting Group believes the primary ingredient in a superb board is having disciplined and strategically directed leadership. These boards have a board chair who understands the need for board momentum and energy. Impactful boards have an identified mission, core vision and institutional values. Superb boards know their organization and community, their board, their governance structure, roles, clear communication channels and provide a culture of opportunity and active self-assessment. When a board, CEO, staff and all parties are on the same page aspiring excellence, the organization truly wins.
Strive to create excellence through having a high-impact board. Creating and maintaining this board will not be easy. Once established and with an excellent reputation, others in the community will want to serve on your board. I was executive director for a hospital system foundation. It took me 10 years to build what I thought was a truly outstanding board. As each member left, I took steps to recruit the best replacement available. Having a board with complete elements of time, talent and treasure made my job much easier and alleviated the status of the hospital and its foundation in the community. Always aspire to create excellence in whatever you do, and do not accept anything less.
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.