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Super Charging Your Not-for-Profit Board for Peak Performance - Part 2

“I cannot believe our board…” Have you had a similar conversation with senior leadership colleagues lately? If your board is surprising, you in all the wrong ways, I’d like to offer these tips to help ensure top performance of your board. I hope you had an opportunity to read the first part of this Perspectives article. If not, please check it out. Now, on to more ways to super charge your Board!

When we consider board members, you certainly want those who bring value to the conversation. Value comes from the four forms of capital that people bring: intellectual, meaning we pool our collective mindset, which expands our thinking and decision-making. The more perspectives we have, the better the Board’s effectiveness. People of color or other marginalized individuals bring a vastly distinct perspective than the more white, traditional individual. Consider, for example, rather than “culture fit,” seeking someone who would be a “culture add.” Another form of value is reputational, something that is intangible, yet can convert to a real value for your Board and organization. Then, political value is how members can influence or leverage power in a greater community that is valuable for our organizations. Finally, social value meaning the network that one brings.

Governance as Leadership (Chait, Ryan, and Taylor) offers this great perspective on the values of your Board members:

While trustees act responsible in terms of fiduciaries, trustees also endeavor to conserve and enhance the organization’s tangible assets like finance, facilities, endowment, and personnel; in a strategic mode, trustees convert these same assets along with intangibles like organizational tradition, ethos, and image---all to their advantage for the organization. Value, to be sure, can be denoted in more than currencies and financial capital.

Now that you have a profile of potential candidates, what is your strategy for cultivating, recruiting, on-boarding, and developing your board? Begin the process as soon as you can and build a portfolio of potential candidates. Get to know them, invite them to programs, to attend a meeting, join a committee, or task force. Your goal to get to know as much as you about potential Board members. Conversely, you want these individuals to know as much as they can about your organization prior to joining the Board. Terms are often three years, and we certainly cannot wait 2 ½ years before these individuals are contributing members. It’s important to have a yearly plan in place.

This also leads to board assessments - individually as well as collectively. How are individuals engaged; what are areas of participation; how are they expanding the conversations; how are they interacting with others? These are just several examples of the questions you should include in an annual assessment or evaluation.

Have each member, on an annual basis, evaluate themselves as well as the Board as a group. Do they have a “report card” that provides their level of engagement? The Governance Committee is responsible to ensure an evaluation process is in place. Use the information you gather to continue, change, and add to your on-going board development program.

Members will have ideas and opinions, so listen. What are they asking? Another key aspect of assessments will be to consider an annual retreat where you and your Board can review the progress of your strategic plan. Is implementation on track? Any unanticipated developments that warrant reconsideration of your plan? What about trends---externally and internally – that are impacting your organization. And obviously a time for socializing and celebration. You might also consider Board meeting evaluations for timely feedback and opportunities to make your Board meetings effective and meaningful.

Finally, celebration is vital. You must celebrate traditions along with individual, group, and board member successes. Define what you want to celebrate? Are your celebrations both scheduled and spontaneous? Are you celebrating as a board and as a team that includes staff? It’s important to recognize achievements and celebrate – both achievements within your organization as well as in the larger community. For example, recognize a board member who received an award from another community organization or from a professional association.

The key to effective boards must also include a foundation of critical engagement strategies and opportunities for building relationships among the board in our organizations.

When it’s all said and done, integrity, ethics, and values are among the most important assets of a Board to ensure for the success and achievements for those we serve.




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