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Exceptional Board Member Basics

It goes without saying: to achieve success, a nonprofit needs a strong board of directors. Strength, in nonprofit terms, is a combination of integrity, passion, and practicality. To achieve that requires a truly exceptional board member.

what makes an exceptional nonprofit board member

Well-meaning board members are plentiful, but specific strengths are not always easy to find. Consider that:

  • An exceptional board member can translate the long-range mission of the entity into practical planning and everyday action.
  • An outstanding board member knows the supporters, volunteers, collaborators, and communities, connects with them, and makes them feel appreciated.
  • An effective group of board members can articulate their role and what’s expected of them.

Materials for the Aware Board Member

But how, exactly, does the aware board member know what’s expected? This answer is practical, not abstract. An aware board member knows just how to find the nonprofit’s mission statement, founding documents, bylaws, and the Handbook for Charitable Nonprofit Organizations, published by the state’s Attorney General. Past minutes and spreadsheets for planning fundraisers and events are readily available. The board member knows how to access historical and updated versions of these documents.

Optimally, all board members have access to copies from a shared electronic file. Nonprofit leadership can make sure this happens by selecting the right tools for the job.

How Exceptional Board Members Stay Engaged with Their Commitments, and Each Other

New ways of conducting board management with online platforms and remote collaboration possibilities bring nonprofits to the next level. Although “remote” working might once have conjured up visions that only a hermit could love, today’s innovators have turned to their tech-savvy members to teach boards new skills, and the take communication and engagement to new heights.

Specific examples include:

Cloud computing. No one’s file or computer is the sole repository for any piece of key information today. Boards now enjoy collective access to the minutes, the next agenda, the directory of speakers and vendors, this month’s checklist, and the longer-term budget and goals.

The online forum and the virtual meeting room. These complement and do not substitute for in-person meetings. Yet they do enable decision-making and task assignments in real time.

Fundraising, campaign and committee work all need continuous follow-through between board meetings, not just in the days leading up to a meeting. Tech innovations facilitate it in ways the previous generation of nonprofits could have hardly imagined.

Exceeding Expectations: How Nonprofits Are Rewarding Stellar Board Members

To keep expectations high, effective nonprofits reward those who consistently exceed them. Advocacy, brand ambassadorship, and general enthusiasm for sharing the value of the nonprofit’s activities should be celebrated.

Not every board member is a natural advocate. Some are knowledgeable and talented at design, law, or number-crunching. And yet networking is a joy to the exceptional board member.

Exceptional board members are personally invested in the success of the nonprofit. They treat its mission as their own. They intuitively respond to the needs of their community. These are the people who would found the group if it didn’t already exist.

Never take the exceptional board member for granted. Even the most altruistic among us needs to feel appreciated. Each token of gratitude or thank-you note recognizes and celebrates giving. Each reaffirms the recipient’s commitment to contribute more to a great cause.

The exceptional board member follows the “tone at the top” and comes up with creative, memorable ways to appreciate supporters.

Four Takeaway Tips

Four “musts” to attract and retain exceptional board members:

  • Select trustworthy people.
  • Trust them.
  • Equip them to be effective decision-makers.
  • Thank them.

Follow these four guideposts, and your exceptional board members can flourish. What’s more, they will inspire exceptional successor board members to step up to the cause.


Want to know how your nonprofit board of directors and staff can be more productive and efficient through the use of technology? With Boardable’s board software, you can centralize board information and communications, where everything (and everyone) is just a couple of clicks away. Click below to get started with Boardable.

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