Every time I do a training program-for a big nonprofit like Big Brothers Big Sisters or a small one like the arts center in Purcellville, VA I start with this statement: “the best non profits have the best boards…period.” And then I spend much of the time in the training program trying to convince the leadership, volunteer and staff, that if they spent their time building their board they would solve every problem they have especially the fund raising problem.
And in the ka6consulting way, simplify, simplify, simplify, here are a couple of steps you can take to begin the process of strengthening your board and recruiting new members:
1. You must have a job description that clearly delineates what you expect of board members (“how can they do what you expect them to do if you don’t tell them what that is?”) and this job description should be shared with people before they join the board.
2. Your job description really need only have four things on it:
–you must give and or get a certain amount of money. Only you can determine what that amount is but you MUST have an amount in here that says we expect you to either write us a check and or raise this amount. The best boards ALWAYS have a give/get
–you must attend a minimum of 3/4 of our meetings (see below)
–you must advocate for us (duh) and attend our events
–you must make us one of two top nonprofit boards that you serve on (this is the tough one that people push back on; believe me it is key–make them commit to you).
3. Meet only four times a year…yup, you ‘heard’ me-four times a year. Want to know why you can’t attract the busiest and most successful people to your board? Because you meet too much. Just think, if you meet every month you are asking them to attend a minimum of 12 meetings a year and then add a committee and its 24. Wonder why people don’t join your board? Tell them you only meet four times a year and watch their eyes light up…(the other thing that happens with boards that meet too much is that board people begin to mess around with your operation, they become an ‘operational board.’ Remember boards-board and staffs-staff and never the twain should meet. Your board should do the legal and fiduciary stuff not the operations stuff. Meet too much and they get their fingers in the operations pie…and when they do that nothing follows but headaches.
4. Manage board meetings efficiently and make sure every meeting has ‘debate, deliberate, decide.’ People don’t want to come here staff tell them how perfect everything is. They want to be put to work. Make sure your board meetings have simple agendas (timed) with reports that don’t need discussion sent ahead of time. Then also make sure every board meeting has some meat to it, something the board has to wrestle with. That will leave them walking out the door saying ‘that was worth my time.’
In future posts we will dive into each of these aspects of board management. As for now? You can change your entire organization by following these SIMPLE four steps to better boards.
And remember the best nonprofits have the best boards-period!