You’ve volunteered your time and talents, made donations and helped in a variety of ways. As a result, the nonprofit you serve has rewarded you with the role of board chair. In this role, you’ll have the same responsibilities as any other member, with plenty of new additions. A board chair is responsible for a wide range of issues that have a lasting impact on only the way an organization works today, but the way it functions in the future as well. Taking a few breaths before you jump in can help you get comfortable in your new role quickly. These tips for a board chair will help you get started on the right foot.
“Everything” sounds broad, and it is. As a new board chair, there are likely some areas you are not yet familiar with, committees you have not been part of, and information you have not been privy to. Your departing chair will ideally leave you a tidy, easy-to-understand collection of documentation and in-progress projects. Take some time to review your governance details. Additionally, look at the specific responsibilities your organization demands from a chair. When you are fully informed, you’ll feel more confident and make better decisions.
It can be a single word, a phrase or an idea, but choosing what you want the organization to accomplish during your term gives you a broader goal to work toward. It can be as simple as “growth” and serving more people or more tangible like “modernize the way the organization tracks progress.” When you know what underlying focus you have, it will help you make better decisions and relay your needs and concerns.
Successful nonprofits differ in many ways, but all have a strong duo at the helm. When the executive director and the board chair work well together, a nonprofit can more readily accomplish its goals and run smoothly. Take some time to get to know your director by scheduling regular touchpoint calls or meetings. You’ll get to learn more about operations and the director will learn more about your preferences and style.
Not every board member is able to work and play well with others. Eventually you will need to play referee. For example, mediating conflicts during a meeting or in the time between. Perhaps the most important tip for a board chair is to enforce rules consistently and immediately. This ensures everyone is treated fairly and that every voice on your board is heard. Know that members will look to you if bad behavior occurs or a member wants to dominate a conversation, and be ready to act when needed. You build trust by being consistent and transparent.
You have valuable resources at your disposal, from your other board members to the staff of the organization. Become an active listener and learner and you’ll be able to gather the information you need to solve problems. Not only that, you will be able to identify resources and lead even a very diverse group towards success.
The first few weeks of any new role are intimidating and it may take some time to find your stride. Most new board chairs rally swiftly and become comfortable in the role after a few meetings. Give yourself time to adjust and enjoy your new role. Finally, pat yourself on the back too! Earning a board chair position is a lofty achievement and one that indicates just how well your board service is going. Use the tips for a board chair to get the new position off to a great start.
Interested in how to make your board of directors more productive through the effective use of technology? Boardable is a software platform that centralizes all communication between you and your board. Find the best meeting times, securely store all of your documents, archive discussion threads and more—all in one board portal. Click below to schedule a demo with a member of our Boardable team.