We hear from nonprofits all the time who are looking for board member recruitment best practices. Naturally, having great board candidates goes a long way toward building a productive board. What we’ve discovered from talking to lots of board veterans is that a great board member experience is a self-perpetuating phenomenon. A great board experience attracts exceptional board members, which in turn improves the nonprofit’s reputation and future recruiting. With that in mind, let’s look at the pillars of a great board member experience.
Nothing kills morale faster at work, home, or the nonprofit boardroom table than feeling that what you’re doing is pointless. Unlike work or home, nonprofit boards are extra-curricular activities that require an extra amount of fulfillment to keep board members connected. If they don’t feel they’re able to do what they need to get done, eventually they will simply leave. How can you emphasize that the work matters and is making a difference? Great nonprofit boards make a special effort to show board members what their time and effort accomplishes. Here are just a few ways to do that:
A responsible use of time is perhaps one of the most important factors in board member experience. The most obvious example of this is during the actual meeting. Scheduling a ninety minute board meeting that runs for two hours is incredibly disrespectful. Start by respecting the board members’ time with a tightly planned meeting agenda. Provide a “parking lot” for ideas and discussions that could take place in a committee meeting or after the main meeting. Allot a certain amount of time for each agenda item and set the expectation that it will be enforced.
Just as important as the meeting itself, it is important to respect board members’ time outside of the boardroom. The simplest example of this is to streamline communication. Minutes and hours spent searching for documents or sorting through emails is just as careless as a two-hour board meeting. Be mindful of who needs to receive what information, and how to best facilitate that.
Finally, let’s combine efficient meetings and effective communication for superior accountability and preparation. As a board chair, board member, or executive director, this might be the most difficult to accomplish. To some degree, you are relying on others to be prepared for the meeting and respect each other’s time and effort. Again, this comes down to making preparation and follow-through as simple as possible. Track meeting tasks assigned in a central location where everyone can see what is done, and what tasks are outstanding.
Finally, let’s talk about the most human aspect of board membership. At the end of the day, the most organized meeting agenda and communication become supercharged when the board members also have rapport. Note, this doesn’t even mean they need to like each other (though obviously that would be ideal). They need to trust each other to act in the best interest of the nonprofit, support each other ethically and practically, as well as have common cause with the goals of the organization.
Rapport can be built in a number of ways that we have outlined previously in the blog. A few ideas include building in some social time outside of the business of the meeting, establishing a board member mentorship program, and planning an annual board retreat.
With some attention to detail and advanced planning, you can go a long way toward improving the board member experience. Once your board has a reputation as being an effective, respectful, and efficient place to be, you will be able to attract the kind of board members that will help propel your nonprofit to new heights.
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 place. Click below to schedule a demo with a member of our Boardable team.