Ensure a Successful Start

First of the series:
8 Strategies for Empowering your Nonprofit Board

Board members agree to join an organization because they want to be a part of delivering on its mission and purpose. When service expectations are clearly described to the board candidate, he or she will be empowered to provide greater scope of impact and influence on the institution’s mission and vision.

To maximize the impact of its organization, a good board sets appropriate expectations before a member begins his or her service as part of its communications strategy (see Empowering Board Members – Communicate). Before inviting new members to your board, or as a part of the invitation, share your expectations on

  • Meeting attendance
  • Giving
  • Service (such as on committees, community engagement, leadership)
  • Participation outside of board meetings
  • Term limits

This written description of the governing rules helps those who join understand the details of their service expectations. As a result, it is more likely they will honor the obligations of their commitment. Sharing governing rules at this time also makes it easier to hold a friendly accountability conversation should it become necessary.

One executive director shared that his organization holds lunchtime 90-minute sessions for potential board members where several board leaders lay out expectations of members. Only after this session are attendees asked if they want to join… or not. As a result, this organization has a highly effective board.

Your organization should follow a prescribed process for “on-boarding new members” that gives an overview of service expectations through new member orientation. Ideally, a training session, customized for the organization, should be mandatory for each new board member. The best organizations have a buddy system and/or mentors to help new members feel welcomed and a part of the team.  

The issues of meeting attendance and giving are two areas where clear expectations are important.

All nonprofit boards have giving expectations. Setting a minimum amount is counterproductive. Asking all members to make a thoughtful gift is better. Another suggestion is to set an expectation that each board member makes the organization one of their top three giving priorities while they serve on the board.

Best practice continues to encourage physical attendance at board meetings whenever possible. To maximize attendance options, you may need to provide ways to virtually attend when it is not physically possible to attend. Teleconference or videoconference technology today is easy to access from mobile phone or computer, often free or very affordable, and allows those unable to attend otherwise to participate. Using technology is another way to help achieve board diversity (see Empowering Board Members – Embrace Diversity).

Make a successful start for your board members a part of your organization’s strategic plan. Contact us to learn how.

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