Selecting your Board of Directors, Part 2
Board selection is essentially a two-step process. It starts by structuring the board’s focus and what is expected and needed from each member. Then there is the process of selecting that individuals who will serve. First in order to be able to maximize your boards effectiveness give clear and precise guidelines for members to follow. Here are a few simple steps in structuring your board for effective participation.
• Always prepare a description that details the roles for individual board members.
• Because your members come from various walks of life and have personal and work related commitments and schedules develop an annual schedule of meetings, determined a year in advance.
• Make available clearly understood information materials, especially an agenda well in advance of upcoming meeting, determine the amount of advance notice needed.
• Maintain complete and accurate minutes of all meetings.
• Keeping meetings brief and well focused will be a challenge but by preparing an agenda in advance will it will stimulate the broadest possible participation by members and help everyone stay on point.
• Suggest or require that each board member serve on at least one board committee or task force. (For new members, one committee assignment is sufficient.
• People want to know that their efforts are appreciated so acknowledge members’ accomplishments and contributions in a variety of ways in the organization’s newsletter, at meetings, and in the minutes.
Committees are a key part of any board. They consist of various sub-committees that are formed to address specific functions, i.e., finances’, governance, outreach, executive, marketing, even the selection process itself is a board member activity. Although the role of a board member is not necessarily considered a job, it should be treated as one in that the expectations are the same and they are responsible for key organizational functions. In order to assist in these areas of key functions and to encourage smooth functioning committees, follow these additional steps:
• Always prepare well written statements of the committee and task force responsibilities, guidelines and goals. These organizational documents, which should be approved by the board chair, should be reviewed every one to two years and revised if necessary.
• Make work assignments according to the background, expertise, and schedule of each member. But at the same time allow for a member to work on committees outside of their background because that will add to their skill set-it brings a fresh view and allows for personal growth.
• Distribute tasks among members so that everyone participates but no one is overloaded or underutilized.
• Feedback and debriefing should always be a part of the process by creating a system of checks and balances to monitor committee members’ work and assure that tasks are completed effectively and on schedule. This helps everyone to see the progress of their efforts and to be able to learn ways of improving future tasks and outcomes.
Other areas that will have to be determined is the size of your board, how long will each member serve, one year or longer. Those decisions should be in your by-laws which will be dealt with next. But for now depending on the size or your organization and the complexity of your organizations business or services, it would be wise to consider that continuity and follow through is important. Example, your organization has been working on acquiring a large grant that will cover five years of projected activity to complete a project, you will need to retain members who are familiar with the project and able to sustain relationships with its stakeholders. So make sure you are able to either keep those key board members active and that there is a consistent transfer of knowledge that supports transparency amongst all members.
It has been my experience as a member of several boards that board members are as responsible for the success of the organization as that of the staff running the day to day operations.In many ways members of a board need to be held even more accountable. Being able to draw from your knowledge and also inspire individuals within your circle of influence is one of the most important reasons an individual is chosen to serve on a board.
Keep in mind that every board is fundamentally accountable for self-governance and management of all organizations activities. When done correctly, the organization grows and its constituents reap the benefits of sound decision making.
http://beginnersinvest.about.com/cs/a/aa2203a.htm -Board Members, Responsibilities
www.mncn.org/info/basic_gov.htm – Board Governance
http://garberconsulting.com/governance%20models%20what%27s%20right.htm -Governance Models-What’s Right for You?
non-profit-governance.suite101.com/article.cfm/nonprofit_board_responsibilities -Nonprofit Board Responsibilities