What Makes an Excellent Board Member?
Being a great nonprofit board member goes well beyond hard work or having plenty of expertise in a certain area. If you want to see constant success on your board, you need board members who will take your board to the next level. The finest board members who have the right “intangibles” can do more for your organization than a skilled director who doesn’t have the necessary traits. Let’s explore how you can encourage every member of your team to be the best they can be.
What Are the Characteristics of an Outstanding Board Member?
Though hard work and expertise are undoubtedly important traits, there are plenty of additional qualities you should look for in your members that will boost your board to victory. On your search for top-notch board members, consider these characteristics.
Dedication to the cause. Most skills can be learned, but passion comes from the heart. It’s only found in those who are truly dedicated to your organization’s mission and work. You’re sure to benefit from enthusiastic board members who are willing to take your board a step further by fueling the group’s excitement for the mission.
Hunger for participation. Your board needs someone with the desire to contribute frequently and commit to your board’s mission. Seek an individual willing to jump in and make the commitment to actively engage and collaborate on a regular basis. Bonus points go to those who can set additional time aside for fundraising initiatives.
Readiness for events. You’ll find that someone who thoroughly reviews meeting agendas, important documents and reports, and comes to meetings prepared to engage is a vital board member. Additionally, the ideal board member should also be prepared for more than just the formal events. Taking on tasks to support events, like reviewing contact lists for potential outreach, can be a great help in launching your board to success.
Contributions to committees. Great board members are constantly searching for ways to contribute to committee conversations. Extraordinary board members seek out areas in which they can add value and are thrilled to assist in progressing a committee’s work.
Expression of ideas. Offering information and answering questions is expected of any board member, but the most engaged members will bring new thoughts, ideas and solutions to the table without hesitation. When your board is built on a culture of listening and collaboration, even the most anxious member of your board will feel comfortable pitching ideas that will benefit the entire team.
Constant desire for gaining knowledge. Naturally, board members perform well at their regular jobs. Because of this, they’re used to being leaders. This is certainly useful to your team, but those who can listen and learn from others will perform better than those who aren’t willing. When you find someone who listens to others and forms new ideas, you open your board to new possibilities. Sometimes, keeping an open mind is one of the greatest qualities any board member can have.
Humility. Someone truly dedicated to your organization’s mission will set their own ego aside for the sake of the nonprofit. A great board member can always be trusted to do the right thing, and will always search for new ways to help the organization grow. This might look like volunteering additional hours or encouraging other board members to voice their own thoughts and opinions.
Creativity. The best board members bring fresh, new and exciting ideas to the table. Creative individuals help improve your board’s brand and have the skills needed to quickly solve problems with unique and innovative ideas. Being innovative requires having the bravery to take risks and think outside the box. Find an individual who is both innovative and creative to come up with original ideas that will lead your board to success.
Excellent communication skills. A little communication goes a very long way. Find someone who communicates well, both verbally and in written forms like email. As boards become more hybrid and geographically diverse, the importance of staying in touch with your board members should not be overlooked. Great communicators move through conflicts with ease and positivity.
Support Your Board Members Who Demonstrate These Qualities
Board members need structure to continuously provide value to your board. Ensure your members have everything they need to be successful by providing necessary materials like agendas and other relevant documents ahead of meetings.
Specific tools can help you and your board members stay organized and efficient. Find a scheduling tool to plan meetings, or a platform that stores all your documents in one secure and convenient place.
You should also reward good behavior when you see it. Inspire your board members with thank you notes, words of encouragement and annual recognition awards, especially to those who go above and beyond.
Many of the best qualities of a great nonprofit board member can be taught, though some things like passion for your mission are only found in the most exceptional individuals. In addition to recruiting board members for their skills and experience, use the traits listed above to ensure you are bringing talent that is the best fit for your team. Following these guidelines sets up your nonprofit for success.
Krista Martin, vice president of product and growth, has been with Boardable since 2017, starting as a product and marketing manager. During her time with the company as vice president of growth, Martin had a proven track record of scaling product usage from 100 users to over 90,000 users and assisting Boardable's growth from 18 customers to 2,000. Leveraging over a decade of experience in product management, Martin leads Boardable's product and growth teams to focus on driving customer and revenue growth.