So you’ve done the work and hand-selected a full board’s worth of individuals who fully support your organization and the unique way in which it will work to impact your community. Great! But that was the easy part!
Next, you’re tasked with productively engaging your board members throughout their tenure. In other words, now that you have them, how will you keep them? The answer – The same way you support your family and friends!
Here are a few easy ways that will make a big impact on board relationships and success!
1. Design a Process to Welcome New Members
As new members are welcomed to the board, ensure that two things are clear: 1) your board and organizational culture, and 2) what is expected of them. They are the who, but you need to cover the what and how. What duties do you need them to complete? How often? Give new members parameters in which to work and be supported by sharing the philosophy and values that your organization uses to guide member behavior.
When faced with a challenge or conflict, having a written, agreed upon set of expectations to refer back to can also definitely be an advantage. You may choose to be sufficiently flexible if necessary, making alterations to the baseline according to the needs of the organization and those you serve.
2. Do Your Part
Both the board and the Executive Director have fundamental roles in executing the organization’s mission. As the board offers strategic guidance, it is the Executive Director’s responsibility to ensure that activities are carried out in support of the identified organization goals. Defining roles and responsibilities for individual board members, the board as a whole, committees, the Executive Director, and staff is key, and each board member should be making specific commitments (time, talent, or treasure) aimed to advance the organization’s mission.
3. Keep Them in The Loop
Support your board by ensuring they always have the information they need to continue providing appropriate high-level governance, and ultimately, to help your organization succeed. Give constant, timely updates on the progress being made by staff and volunteers in strategic areas pre-identified by your organization. Similarly, keep them up-to-date on changes in your industry and/or service area.
4. Create Traditions
Optimize your board by creating processes for meetings, decision-making, and strategy creation. Start by determining a manageable number of times to meet per year. Once you’ve narrowed that down, decide how you want meetings to flow. How will you create the agenda for each meeting? Who’s responsibility is it to put that together, or run the meeting itself? Solidify these processes and include them within your organization’s by-laws or constitution.
5. Relationships Matter
Managing the board typically falls under the Executive Director’s responsibilities. In addition to keeping your board members in the loop and creating traditions and processes, remember that your board is made up of a group of individuals that 1) give your organization money (usually) and 2) volunteer to help your organization succeed! Give them the same respect and accolades you use to engage your other donors and volunteers. Even more importantly, make time to engage with them, both one-on-one and with the board as a whole.
6. Continuously Improve
Allowing (and encouraging!) regular time for individual and collective reflection on the quality of work being produced is a great way to maintain high-performance among your board. This gives each board member the opportunity to receive feedback, and creates a safe and productive space for the overall health of the board to be assessed. Following a valid and predetermined rubric for this process with greatly impact your results. Additionally, don’t be afraid to be tactfully honest while giving your board members the opportunity to do the same. Facilitating open and honest dialogue will set a great example for the board while encouraging productivity.
And don’t skimp on board development! (Clevelanders, check out Soul@Work for a one-of-a-kind team-building experience!) Social outings, educational experiences, and shared learning are all great ways to nurture and grow relationships while also positively influencing your organization’s impact.
7. Say Goodbye When The Time is Right
We already know how important the onboarding process is to welcoming new board members, but the way you handle a member’s transition out of their role is just as crucial. Predetermined succession plans (for planned and emergency transitions) help to reduce the chaos, while maintaining clear communication around progress will lesson stakeholder anxiety. This doesn’t have to be awkward! Recognize (and even celebrate!) the exiting board member for their positive contributions to the organization, and don’t forget to thank them for their service!
Ultimately what this boils down to is providing your board members with an environment where they feel included, appreciated, heard, and are treated with respect. Nurture your relationships with your board members the same way you do your family and friends. Plus, since their success is your success, it’s a win-win for everyone!
For more step-by-step details on how to best engage and support your nonprofit board in each of these areas, take a look at Network for Good’s guide here, or schedule a free 30-minute consultation and let’s talk it through.