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It is important for any non-profit association to have a strategic plan in place to help the organization achieve its mission. The staff and board should work together and commit to working toward measurable goals, implementing new strategies, and revisiting their strategic plan on a regular basis as the organization’s environment changes. Unfortunately, research suggests that many board members do not have clarity and shared agreement on what their role should be. Therefore, they tend to create their own agenda and veer off course. In order to prevent this type of confusion and keep the board focused on the strategic direction of the organization, certain actions need to take place.

Provide Training Opportunities for Board Presidents

One of the reasons so many board members struggle to agree on shared goals is that they do not have Board Presidents that are properly trained and prepared to guide them. Research has shown that a high percentage of Presidents have never engaged in proper training or coaching to help them adapt to their new leadership position. It is up to the organization to provide ample training, mentoring, and coaching opportunities specifically for these board members to increase their effectiveness. One way to do this is by having the President-Elect work alongside the current Board President to help them transition into their new role. Furthermore, the Immediate Past President should stay involved to provide mentorship and better prepare them for what’s ahead.

Organizations can also provide continuing education opportunities and workshops for Board Presidents and Executive Directors to help them improve facilitation skills, team development skills, and learn how to provide vision and direction.

Define Board and Staff Roles and Responsibilities

It is important for the volunteer leaders of your association to understand their role and how they fit into the organization’s structure. This can be achieved by defining board positions, staff roles and responsibilities, and by providing an organizational chart and decision-making framework. A board orientation at the beginning of each year is a great way for board members to learn about their fiduciary and other responsibilities and create shared expectations for working together. A well-planned board orientation can also go a long way in developing trusting and productive relationships among board and staff members.

Include Strategic Initiatives in Every Board Meeting

Another great way to keep your board engaged is to include the organization’s strategic initiatives on the agenda for each board meeting. This is an opportunity to include ongoing discussion about your non-profit’s strategic direction in every board meeting. This is also a good time to revisit each initiative and decide whether or not it is still relevant and if so, how the work is progressing.

It is important for Board Presidents and Executive Directors to lead their members in a way that will keep the Board on track to accomplish the strategic goals of the organization. Looking ahead and planning for the future is an important part of any non-profit association and is an ongoing process. It is important to provide ample opportunity for board members to grow as leaders in the association, develop trusting relationships, and revisit strategic priorities on a regular basis in order to make real progress.

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