Practical tools for building and maintaining effective boards.
“When I came back from a year’s sabbatical, I couldn’t believe it was the same organization. The mission and the values are the same, but the board is completely new—and ten times more productive.”
Great boards don't happen by accident: they are carefully selected, thoroughly oriented to the nonprofit they have chosen to offer their time, and kept current on practices in the field of governance. Some may feel awkward suggesting that a board improve its performance (particularly the CEO who reports to that board); however, assessing the board's performance and making recommendations for more effective, satisfying board service are contributions to the nonprofit's success.
The foundation of successful nonprofit boards is a clear, shared understanding of what is expected of board members. The first step in developing that understanding is education about the obligations and duties of nonprofit boards. A frequent second step is negotiation among members of the board about the expectations within their nonprofit.
Sample topics for board development include:
The role and responsibilities of the board
The role and responsibilities of officers and committees
The importance of the nominating process, and how to achieve best results
Fund raising and the board
Managing board/board and board/staff relationships
Assisting the board in confidential self-assessment of its own performance
Boards respond well to having an expert they can question regarding differences of opinion about appropriate procedure and practices in the field. We have seen them make great strides as a result of having an independent professional help them gain greater understanding of their role.
In-depth board development often takes place in a retreat setting, where participants are given extended opportunities to explore and refine their understanding of best practices. Some nonprofits prefer to integrate board development into their ongoing work; it can be as simple as a single event addressing a single topic or series of sessions that are part of board meetings.
Oliver Tessier & Associates can also help your organization design an orientation for new board members.