The health and sustainability of any nonprofit organization depends greatly on the effectiveness of its board of directors. Here at Boardable, we are often asked by our customers what various best practices we recommend nonprofit boards follow. While not exhaustive, we’ve compiled the following list of five nonprofit board best practices.
Nonprofit boards might use these principles as a starting point for board development or to serve as inspiration for board governance assessment and change.
Nonprofit boards can benefit from regular self-assessment sessions. The environment needs to be conducive so that each board member is comfortable enough to provide their honest feedback. Some suggestions for self-assessment areas that can lead to better board management include getting feedback regarding how the board is working together in terms of the frequency of meetings, the facilitation of those meetings, and the agenda for each one. Solicit communication from board members regarding the skills of the board members and whether expectations are clear.
Onboarding new board members with a few techniques can help acclimate them to their new roles. Try pairing a veteran board member with a new one in mentor-type of relationship. The veteran could sit beside the new member and/or reach out to communicate before and after the meeting. Create a board member manual that includes items such as the organization’s vision and mission statements, marketing materials, annual reports, and more.
Head off any questions about the duties of being a board member while making it easy for them to deliver on those expectations by creating clear board member job descriptions. Include subjects like committee participation, community outreach, meeting attendance, support of other members, and financial giving. Transparency is the key to successfully setting expectations for the board and the way it works together.
Providing outreach to the community to raise awareness and participation is a key element of being a nonprofit board member. While most have the desire to be a strong advocate for the nonprofit’s mission, many board members lack the tools to effectively and succinctly get that message across. Start by having each board member write a short, one-minute elevator pitch. While these will likely be vastly different from one another, they can be used as jumping off points as you work with each member to craft a concise elevator pitch.
Financial expectations are especially important to nonprofit organizations because they tend to be cash-poor. While some organizations establish a standard financial contribution across the board, others offer a more flexible approach that allows each member to contribute according to their ability. Regardless of which approach is adopted, the expectations need to be clearly defined for all involved.
While this list is but a snapshot of nonprofit board best practices we’ve gleaned from talking to our nonprofit customers, we hope it offers a starting point for determining how your board might become more effective. Like any good organization, an effective nonprofit board relies on clear and frequent communication. Whether it’s an update to the board manual or a change in the financial giving expectations, communicating the above best practice expectations lays the groundwork for a cohesive board that works well together.
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