Through our work with dozens of nonprofits across the country, we have had the chance to work with numerous boards of directors and trustees. From Fortune 500 corporations to universities, we’ve seen (and worked with) them all. As the third party hired to address a specific communications need, our work often requires the buy-in of a board. With success often hinging on the approval of a board, we have gained valuable insight into successful partnerships and the importance of having an effective and engaged board.
- Define your Board
While legal guidelines require many organizations and institutions to have a board, this doesn’t mean the development of your board is completely out of your control. Whether a board is forming for the first time or your board is facilitating member turnover, boards need to be defined. Leadership roles, committee structures, term limits, meeting frequency, etc. all need to be clearly identified. Boards that can clearly define themselves are more successful in recruiting new members and sustaining long-term effectiveness.
- Develop your Board
You have a board and you meet regularly…now what? Many times, organizations fall into a set routine and rarely take the time to readjust or reevaluate. Without continuous self-reflection and professional development, boards grow stale. In order to get the most out of your board you must invest in them and keep members engaged. Board retreats, social engagements and active calls for participation outside of regularly established meetings are all ways to get more from your board.
- Communicate with your Board
To foster ownership and engagement, boards must be in constant communication with leadership. Boards who are not looped in or communicating directly with the organization’s leadership team fail to take ownership of the mission and lack accountability. Keeping your board members informed of all major decisions and ahead of public announcements will foster trust and a sense of inclusion. Without established communication channels boards grow distant, members become isolated and cohesive teamwork is lost.
- Cast your Board Correctly
Boards come in all shapes and sizes. While there is no one-size-fits-all profile for a board, finding the correct personnel is universally important. All too often boards are comprised of people of similar talents, resources and social circles, leaving organizations with glaring talent gaps and needs. Boards are successful when roles and skills are diversified. By establishing a clear board profile with defined needs you can avoid forming a team of like-minded people who share a limited skill set.
Your board can be your organization’s best weapon—your “x factor.” Dedicating the time to develop a well-rounded board is complex and time consuming, but it will always pay off in the long run.