Each nonprofit depends on its boards in a unique way. Some boards serve primarily in an advisory capacity, but rarely get actively involved with actual operations. Others are much more heavily involved not only in their management of the organization, but also in its fundraising strategy.
All Boards of Directors, however, must evolve with an organization if they are to remain effective and connected to the its current and anticipated needs. To stay relevant and impactful, boards must not only continually evaluate the organizations they’ve been charged to support, but they must also evaluate themselves and grow their capacities.
Here are 5 actionable ideas to consider to improve your ministry’s board.
1. Communicate Expectations
If not already documented, consider discussing and expressly outlining the responsibilities of the board members. Board members need to know what the expectations are, even when it comes to basics, like attendance and engagement. Most critically, they need to understand what their operational and/or financial commitments will be, both personally and in reaching out to others.
If the roles and duties of board members are already transcribed, be careful not to assume everyone is under the same impression. Reiterate the responsibilities clearly and often. Well-defined expectations are the foundation of an effective board.
2. Establish Clear Goals Across Staff and Board
Are your board members and staff on the same page, literally? Are the most pressing short-term and long-term objectives for the year documented and discussed with both teams? If not, consider defining and documenting your organization’s current goals in a concise one-page document that can be referred to at appropriate intervals. Otherwise, your staff and board could easily be pulling on two different ropes.
3. Evaluate Duration and Content of Board Meetings
Assess how time is spent during your board meetings, including the length of the meeting. Some seasons of the organization’s development, are going to require more time to discuss important matters than others, but if meetings are typically running long or short, consider making some changes to respect everyone’s time. Meetings should be structured in a way that discussions and decisions can be effectively facilitated, but not at the expense of the individual meeting’s purpose. Not allocating enough time to do get the full job done or taking up too much of busy individuals’ time will impede progress and even motivation of the board. Perhaps you need increase the length of your meetings. Perhaps your board would be better served with more frequent meetings of the same length. Perhaps they are too lengthy. Don’t let the status quo get in the way of your organization’s governance.
4. Go Off Script Once in a While
Start scheduling some non-“business as usual” meetings throughout the year to intentionally create space to dream big and think from unique perspectives. Have a get-together to create fluidity and unity within the board, as the group should function as a unit even if opinions differ. Host a brain-storming session or team-building event. Being a part of the board should be not just authoritative, but stimulating, and allowing room for creativity and problem-solving is a crucial part to cultivating new ideas and improving the ministry.
5. Look for Missing Skill Sets and Perspectives
Lastly, at least once a year, step back and evaluate any gaps in your board’s mindshare. Do you need more financial acumen, more fundraising horsepower, more strategic thought? What kind of talents could the ministry benefit from including? Having a diverse set of skills and knowledge in the group increases the success of a board and therefore improves ministry it serves even more greatly.
A board can be more than just a group of people who come together periodically and vote on decisions. It can be a thriving, creative and intentional community that continually propels the organization forward into future growth and committed service. Utilizing these manageable, actionable steps can help a ministry’s board get there. With the support of an active, engaged board, a ministry can make even greater strides in its mission field.