Board of Directors Best Practices: An In-Depth Guide to Better Collaboration

Andrew Vaeth / September 20, 2018 / Board of Directors, Nonprofit Tech

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What is a Board of Directors?

According to Foundation Group, a board of directors is the governing body of a nonprofit organization. Members meet periodically to discuss and vote on the organization’s affairs and make other necessary decisions.

Who Makes Up the Board of Directors?

Members of a board of directors often possess the following qualities. Members of the board of directors are typically:

Generous Donors
Individuals with community contacts
People with a strong influence on the Executive Director’s (ED) longevity at the organization

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The Importance of Maintaining a Productive Working Relationship

The success of a nonprofit in realizing its mission is dependent on collaboration between the Board of Directors and ED or CEO.

With this complex dynamic in mind, it’s up to the ED or CEO to make working with a Board of Directors a successful experience. Board meetings and the time between them are opportunities to foster a collaborative and positive relationship while moving initiatives forward for the organization.

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Board of Directors Best Practices: 7 Key Guidelines

Above all, EDs should always be respectful of the Board’s time. Board members are volunteers, and they’re busy with their own day jobs. These individuals deserve an organized, thoughtful approach to involving them in the organization. But where should you start with this approach? And how can your organization apply it in the workplace?

Keep reading as we break down 7 key Board of Directors best practices.

1. Define roles and responsibilities.

Each board member should know exactly what his or her role is, and each meeting should conclude with complete clarity about everyone’s responsibilities, action items and next steps. This eliminates duplicative efforts, confusion, and the chance of important tasks slipping through the cracks.

2. Set expectations.

At all times, each board member should know what’s expected of them and of the Board as a whole. To achieve this, each meeting should start with a status report of open projects. At the conclusion of each meeting, have a discussion about what needs to be accomplished in the coming month and quarter. Additionally, the ED should communicate updates between meetings, keeping everyone updated on new developments.

3. Stay focused on the mission.

With many brilliant minds in one room, it can be difficult for the Board to stay focused. People may have differing ideas about what the organization’s direction should be. So, how does the ED keep people focused? Decisions, activities, and plans should all point back to the mission. Use the mission as a thermometer to measure if certain activities are worth the time. If it doesn’t positively impact the mission, the activity shouldn’t be a priority.

4. Be transparent.

EDs should share information openly and often, especially ahead of board meetings. Important information should always be easily accessible in a shared server or other centralized area. Board members don’t usually like surprises, and a consistent flow of information helps to avoid unforeseen events.

5. Hold board members accountable.

In asking for and getting commitments on action items, be firm but appreciative. Log the action item in a task management system that allows you to assign and monitor responsibilities. When board members know that the ED is tracking action items and their fellow board members can view the status, they are more likely to follow through on their commitments. This approach creates an expectation of accountability over time, through which things work better in the long run.

6. Make board meetings engaging.

Too many board meetings involve members sitting around a table staring at the meeting minutes on a piece of paper while the group discusses each point. It’s boring, and it’s easy to see why some board members may become disengaged. Instead, use a visually compelling slide deck to move things along an organized path. Human interest is critical. Include pictures of people— use a slide to introduce a new employee, show clients being served, or share pictures of a recent fundraising event. Consider asking a client, employee, donor, or partner to give a brief talk about their experience in working with the organization or about their ideas for your mission. With this approach, the board feels more connected to the organization overall.

7. Use the right software.

The way you conduct your meetings is crucial, but it’s only half the battle. You also need the right software to help you execute better communication and more efficient meetings. Too often, traditional board portals can be expensive, over-designed and difficult to navigate.

With Cureo, you can do just that. Our board portal alternative allows you to:

  • – Navigate and contribute without having to install or learn software.
  • – Easily organize documents and data in a clear and concise manner.
  • – Monitor activities and projects assigned to each person and group.
  • – Engage all Board Members effectively and efficiently.
  • – Apply Board of Directors best practices and, ultimately, succeed.

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