One of my favorite parts of working as a consultant is supporting boards. I’ve never met a nonprofit board that didn’t have a deep wealth of knowledge and a group of people committed to the vision.
Unfortunately, despite the best of intentions and talent, many of these boards are ineffective. They rehash the same issues for months and years. They spend the whole meeting on committee updates, questioning everything. Often, their most connected and knowledgeable members leave because they don’t feel the board is a good use of their time.
I’ve done enough work with nonprofit boards to get a good understanding of what effective boards do to make the most of vision and strategy. They have impactful meetings and they move forward on the strategic plan swiftly.
Effective boards are all about the committees. If all of the big work is happening at the board meeting, your organization has some work to do. Committees with autonomy and strong leadership are the path to effective boards.
- Clearly defined objectives that are aligned with the mission and specific to the strategic plan.
- 2-5 members, depending on type of work and timelines.
- People who agree to sit on a committee show up consistently for meetings and votes.
- Dedicated regular meeting time and location.
- Detailed meeting notes are kept & stored in a shared repository.
- Chair has a prepared update for every board meeting.
- Committee prepares recommendations for the board to vote on regarding their specific objectives.
- Committee works directly with administrative staff member with applicable role without having to go through the ED. Staff member attends most meetings.
- Other board members trust the committee to do their work without second guessing them and the committee meetings are not re-hashed at board meetings.
Staff on Committees
The most effective boards have staff involved in each committee. This keeps the lines of communication open between staff and the board, which prevents big problems from going unnoticed. It also ensures that the board doesn’t make inaccurate assumptions about the ground truth in the organization.
Here’s an example of how a school might organize staff members to sit on board committees:
It doesn’t matter what kind of service an organization offers, effective boards have annual retreats. Taking the time to move from tasks to vision and strategy is a smart investment. When we do the visionary work, we ensure the task work is a good use of time and resources.
A few weeks ago when I facilitated a retreat for a nonprofit Montessori program, a board member piped up and said, “We should do this TWICE a year!” He got it, the work we did in that retreat was going to generate tangible results for the organization. He had a taste of victory and he wanted more!
There is no better way to ensure that your board and administration are aligned in both vision and strategy than to have an outside facilitator lead you through a retreat.
Does this sound like just the thing your board needs? Check out Results Retreats, my signature offering for nonprofits and school leadership teams. I will lead your organization through an intensive process sure to make your community stronger.
Effective boards know that annual retreats make their organizations better. Strong leaders know to seek out support from experts. I’m here for you. Click here to learn more about Results Retreats can help your organization do your best work.
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