The folks at BoardSource (or their spinoffs) have a hopefully tested nine-step approach to building a functional nonprofit board. These steps were presented in the following agrinews.com publication. I would pose that while nine steps appear pretty basic, there are multiple complications that challenge implementation. The complications are where board chairs and execs must give attention.
For instance, there's an assumption that a strategic plan exists or that there is even the notion of what results should occur 3-5 years out particularly in light of the internal and external realities. And, in my opinion, beginning with a board-developed theory of change, the plan must be owned by those who will ensure its implementation.
Recruitment, which I might argue is actually Steps 2 & 3 can be a very challenging task again given the local environment. For sure, I believe that the one critical ingredient for a prime recruit: passion for mission.
Engagement (step 5) is a challenge for boards equal to recruitment. While passion for mission is a driver, have the "right" work proves to be work in itself. Committees may be an answer although I believe short-term, clearly defined fiduciary, strategic, generative or advocacy projects keep the attention of members better and when time-limited, provide a feeling of contribution and level of satisfaction. These areas though are not just the domain of committees, they belong to the whole board and nothing, again in my opinion, drives interest and commitment like stories that highlight successful implementation of mission.
Finally, evaluation is not a simple nor un-painful exercise. Hence a governance committee - one of the two most important standing committees.
For sure, what these steps speak to, is that great attention must be given to the "care and feeding" of an engaged and productive board. The lack of thoughtful care and feeding: an unproductive and un-engaged board.
Here's the Agriinstitute article.
To help volunteers to lead their organizations, AgrIInstitute hosted a board of directors training session. Board members from agricultural and non-ag groups alike attended.
Dave Sternberg, partner at Loring, Sternberg and Associates and senior governance associate at Board Source, was the keynote speaker.
“It’s important to get people engaged.”
Education also is crucial for board members, Sternberg said. Topics for education include fundraising, current trends in the sector and impacts of federal legislation.
“What they need to know and understand in order to be an effective board member is what you want to educate them about,” Sternberg said. “Some of these things are ten minute drops of education before a board meeting starts.”
Sternberg shared nine steps to build a successful board of directors.
Building A Board
Step 1: Identify board needs, such as skills, knowledge and connections needed to implement a strategic plan. Find out who has the needed characteristics.
Step 2: Cultivate potential board members. Get them interested in your organization and keep them informed.
Step 3: Recruit prospects. Describe why a prospective member is wanted and needed. Explain expectations and responsibilities of board members, and don’t minimize requirements. Invite questions and elicit their interest.
Step 4: Orient new board members to the organization. Explain program history, bylaws, pressing issues, finances, facilities and other issues. To the board, provide recent minutes, committee lists, board member responsibilities, and a list of board members and key staff.
Step 5: Engage all board members. Discover their interests and availability. Involve them in committees or task forces. Solicit feedback. Hold everyone accountable, and show appreciation for a job well done.
Step 7: Rotate board members. Establish and use term limits.
Step 8: Evaluate the board and individuals. Engage the board in assessing its own performance. Identify ways to improve, and encourage self-assessments.
Step 9: Celebrate by recognizing victories and progress. Appreciate individual contributions to the board, organization and community
AgrIInstitute is a leadership development program that includes a two-year leadership certificate program.
“We want to advance leadership in the agriculture industry, but not everyone can do the two-year program,” said Beth Archer, executive director of the institute. “The Thought Leader program and board of director training are ways to reach new people and organizations.
“We can being in experts like Dave, and they get an opportunity to network. At the end of the day, everyone learns something new.”
Learn more at www.agriinstitute.org.