Effective governance by the Board of Directors is fundamental to the success of any nonprofit association. Effective governance greatly assists the organization, is efficient, allows for a respectful conflict of ideas, is focused, and leads to good outcomes. The primary role of the board is to establish policies, make significant and strategic decisions, and steward the health of the organization. Here are a few tips that will ensure that the organization’s board fulfills these governance responsibilities.
- Make Sure Responsibilities are Clearly Defined
Research suggests that more than half of board chairs are not aware of what their responsibilities are within the organization. How, then, can the board successfully fulfill their responsibilities? The first step in building effective governance is to clarify the role of the chair in relationship to the full board and come to a shared agreement on what the chair’s role and responsibilities should be.
- Provide Training and Coaching Opportunities for Board Chairs
A large percentage of board chairs have no previous experience in a similar role and have never engaged in proper training for their new position. It is highly unlikely that the board can successfully fulfill their responsibilities without proper training. To help board members with governance, associations need to invest in training, peer networking, mentoring, workshops, and other educational opportunities to help board members develop the skills necessary to carry out their responsibilities.
- Develop Competent Board Members
Over 80% of board members frequently held roles serving on a committee prior to becoming a board member. This would suggest that more attention needs to be given to preparing committee members for future leadership positions on the board. This preparation could include mentoring and skills-based training to help committee members learn how to design effective agendas, facilitate meetings, and develop strategic initiatives. Intentional succession planning also plays an important role. The organization should identify potential board leaders about a year in advance of their assuming chair positions and provide them with the training and tools necessary to be successful in their roles.
- Develop a Strategic Plan
Together, with the Executive Director and other board members, the board chair needs to be made aware of the organization’s strategic plan. This plan should include measurable goals and strategic initiatives that help the organization achieve its mission. Once the organization has a strategic plan in place, the board chair can make it a part of the agenda for each board meeting and work toward accomplishing those goals.
- Establish Policies
The board cannot fulfill their governance responsibilities without establishing policies. Policies define the focus and differentiate responsibilities among board members and staff. Well-written and established policies lead to more efficient board functioning.
- Continuously Revisit Policies and Strategic Plans
Boards are most effective at accomplishing goals when they make it a priority to continuously revisit strategic initiatives and policies. As the internal and external environment changes, the organization might need to adjust these policies and plans to keep them current and relevant.