Getting the Board “on board”

The Board Member Assessment Worksheet might also reveal that you have great Board members with a diverse set of skills and demographics. But, why does it feel like they are not acting like the great Board they should be?

It may be time to train your Board on… how to be a Board.

First, clarify Board member role and responsibilities. Often there is a copy outlining these details in the Board manual, but when was the last time you or the Board members looked at it?

Here is a short description of the Board’s role and responsibilities: The Board of Directors is responsible to govern the entire organization. The Board is responsible to oversee the organization’s fiscal, legal and ethical integrity as well as establish the strategic direction for the organization. As the governing entity of the organization, the Board is responsible to hire, fire and evaluate the chief staff member, the Executive Director. The Board is responsible to be committed to the organization’s mission, become familiar with the organization’s programs, exhibits, and outreach, and become an annual member. Each member is asked to serve on the Board of Directors for a two-year term and be actively involved on a Board Committee. Each member must be willing to make a personal financial commitment of (specific amount) annually and support organizational activities by personally attending and bringing guests. Board members are asked to positively represent the organization within the community and within respective circles of influence.

Take time at the next Board meeting to go over the role and responsibilities of the Board or if necessary schedule a special training session.

Next, provide opportunities for each Board member to engage in their role. It may be an opportunity for you to sit down one-on-one with each member to define his/her specific role on the Board.

Make sure that each member serves and actively participates on a Board Committee. Continually offer opportunities for members to get involved – whether it is confirming auction items for the upcoming gala, recruiting a foursome for the golf tournament, mentoring a new Board member or making an introduction to a prominent community member. At each Board meeting, there should be a list of upcoming events and activities with ways that each Board member can engage.

Empower your Board in roles of leadership. Allow Board members to champion specific projects or committees and really flex their leadership skills. Provide a guideline for their leadership role and then let them loose. The more involved a Board member is, the more invested they will become in the organization.

The Board that parties together, stays together. Create social settings for your Board members to engage with each other as well as each other’s families. Social gatherings should not be combined with Board meetings as this will be disruptive. A Board gathering allows members to get to know each other on a personal level which helps when debating hot topics in the Board room – although they may disagree on an issue, it is important that each Board member respect each other. Also, when spouses or significant others are introduced to the organization, it is an opportunity for them to get involved or at the very least support their significant other’s commitment that will often make them absent one or two nights a month.

Last, hold the Board accountable for their responsibilities. I like to do this with a Board Report Card (see attached). The Report Card itemizes the Board members time and financial commitment. Items on the Board Report card can include: Board and Committee meetings attended, Fundraising Events attended, Event Ticket purchases (both individual and referrals), and cash and in-kind donations. I would suggest that the Director of Development be in charge of keeping the Board report cards updated as they have access to the donor files and tend to work closely with the Board members on fundraising activities. Individual reports should be given out quarterly at Board meetings so that Board members are aware of their progress in meeting their commitments.

The Board Development blog series will continue with a fresh blog out on Monday: I spy a new Board member: How to identify and recruit new Board members.

Board Member Giving Report Card

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