Having the right leadership is crucial. Active engagement, creative problem solving and a commitment to the organization and its cause are necessary ingredients for building an effective team. Board service is serious business. Individually, the members of a board are recognized by the local, state and federal governments as the individuals responsible for the legal, financial, ethical oversight and management of your organization. For this reason, it is important that board members understand what is expected of them.
Being a smart, skilled, generous and conscientious makes an individual a great candidate for nonprofit board service, but those qualities do not guarantee that the individual is automatically knowledgeable of the laws, professional practice and responsibilities related to board service. The skills and experience necessary to be a board member are specific. Although they may be learned in a variety of ways, each person serving on a nonprofit board should receive a basic education in general boardsmanship that goes beyond their professional training and the mission of the specific nonprofit on whose board he or she serves. Specifically, each board should be comprised of members who are collectively able to:
- Adapt and respond to changing community needs;
- Establish plans and goals for meeting the community’s needs within the framework of the organization’s mission;
- Secure the resources (financial, human and community) needed to fulfill the organization’s mission and initiatives; and
- Set and manage appropriate budgets (both income and expense) in order to sustain the organization.
Further, to develop and maintain effective leadership, we encourage each nonprofit board to conduct the following basic activities:
- Ensure that each board member receives a minimum of four hours of proper boardsmanship training within 120 days of joining a board.
- A board should be aware of whether or not each of its members has ever been trained in nonprofit boardsmanship, and if so, when and how.
- A board should also have a plan for how it will ensure that this training takes place. Boardsmanship training should not be the same as an orientation about an individual nonprofit.
- Conduct boardsmanship training for the entire board on a regular basis (every three years) to ensure that every member is fully aware of all the board responsibilities and how those responsibilities relate to a particular nonprofit’s work.
- Ensure that all board members understand the board’s role in fundraising, financial management, future board nomination and human resources (including board and executive director relations).
Ensuring that board members are trained is not the executive director’s job. As the subordinate of the board, there is no way for the executive director to enforce requirements for board training.
Each board should consider forming a board development or board leadership committee that will decide how training will be conducted, and then this committee should track the progress of the board members receiving training. Some boards assign the task to the vice chairman, as it may help to prepare that individual to manage the board. Whatever a board chooses, it is essential that preparation and continuing education are not neglected. With a community filled with highly-trained board members, Waco will be positioned to sustain our vital nonprofits in the difficult environment we are facing as a community and a nation in the future.
Board assessments are a great way for gauging where your nonprofit excels, as well as determining where and what needs tightening, overhauling. To find out more about a free online board assessment, click here.