The Ten Things Board Members Should Do to Help Nonprofits

The Ten Things Board Members Should Do to Help Nonprofits

co-authored by Dania Miwa & Jim Toscano

We’ve written often about boards, board members and relationships in previous posts. See Ten Things Every Board Member Should Know and How Many Board Members Does it Take to Change a Lightbulb?

Here’s the list to put up on the refrigerator when you accept a board membership.

1.   Show Up, Follow Up. Lending a name to the Board list alone doesn’t work. Policy, budgets, plans and everything else are made by those who attend meetings regularly. Also remember that much of the thoughtful work happens between meetings. Showing up is part of it, but follow through is also vitally important for success.

2.   Speak Up. You were picked to be on the board for a reason, so contribute to discussions, add your ideas or suggestions, and participate in decision making at Board and Committee meetings.

3.   Use your expertise. Because you were picked for the contribution you could especially make, use your expertise to assist the agency and ask for opportunities to stretch your skills or learn some new ones. Service on a board must always be mutually beneficial for organization and individual.

4.   Give to the nonprofit. Board members must lead in many ways, including contributions of time, talent and treasure. All three. The financial gift should be among the top three given charitably in any year. Support includes serving in many other ways. Consider leaving a legacy. Board terms end but participation should continue in congenial ways.

5.   Find others to support the nonprofit. Leadership involves bringing others to the agency for meetings, point of entry, benefits, challenges, tournaments—all forms of participation: time, talent, treasure of others applies here as well.

6.   Recruit Board members/Committee members. Create a matrix of the needed qualities for successful Board and Committee operations, then help recruit the people with the requisite time, talent and treasure to serve. A self-perpetuating board is more than electing new board members; it is a tool for continuous quality improvement.

7.    Serve on committees, campaign cabinets. Nonprofits rely on volunteer talent for many needed functions. From policy recommendations to audits and many things in-between, board committees are vital to the continuing health of the organization. Active service on development and capital and endowment campaign committees is especially rewarding and especially critical in these revenue-scarce times.

8.   Help review the existing Executive Director or in some cases recruit a new Executive Director. Annual board review of the ED is an important element of responsible governance, benefitting the ED as well as the agency. Removal is a hard task that also falls to the Board. Board self-evaluation is another of the requisites for transparency and accountability. Make sure the Board reviews its own performance each year as well.

9.   Represent the Organization in the community. The nonprofit needs “buzz,” and the board member is a major contributing voice in positive news about activities. Boards need to lead community opinion about the agency and counter criticism in positive ways. Board members are also in an excellent place to represent the community to the nonprofit. Board members need to be the thought leaders and advocates in the community, which all nonprofits need.

10.   Stick with them in times of trouble. Strong, forceful leadership is needed in periods of uncertainly, major difficulty, financial stress, and other debilitating events that try the resolution of board, staff and others. This is the time to actively pursue solutions, always with the firm focus on the group’s mission and on the cause to which the organization is dedicated.

  1. Love the simplicity and brevity. Well said!

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