Creating the Right Non Profit Board

It happened to me last month….. An executive director of a non-profit approached me after my keynote address at a very big event in Washington DC and mentioned how ineffective his board of directors is.

He was very impressed in what I have created at the Financial Policy Council and wanted to explore ways I could assist him creating a similar type board at his non-profit.

I said why not and we went doing a series of things that helped his board better understand its role and get excited and engaged in the work of expanding its reach, increasing its accountability, and driving its growth strategy.

Here are some of the key tips I gave him which I thought I would also share with you.

Get Clear About Your Role. You must develop board by-laws, a committee structure, individual goals and individual roles and responsibilities. The board as a group must come up with all of these elements (with help) and together decide how they want to work and create accountability for themselves.

Find the Right People. Contrary to popular belief, a nonprofit does NOT want to recruit any warm body for their board. Instead you want to take a hard look at your organizational strategy and determine the skills, experience and networks required at the board level to make that strategy a reality. Compare those needs with the current board and determine where the holes lie. Then recruit people with those missing skills, experience and networks.

Give Everyone Specific Goals. If you are not very clear and consistent with each board member about what their specific roles and requirements are, it is little wonder that they are not performing. You need to set a give/get requirement for each board member and then meet with each member individually at least once a quarter to talk about how exactly they plan to meet that requirement. And use that opportunity to be creative and strategic about tapping into each individual member’s strengths. Don’t try to make each board member do the exact same thing.

Let Them Be Strategic. If your board meetings are merely a boring recitation of everything that’s happened at the organization over the past quarter, it is little wonder that there is no passion, energy or initiative on the board. Instead, make sure that each board meeting poses a key strategic issue for them to grapple with. Let your board use their brains and drive the strategic direction of the organization. Begin engaging the board on a much deeper level and start reaping the benefits.

Make Them Lead. At the end of the day the board should be leading the organization. Don’t get frustrated with their lack of leadership and simply take over for them. Encourage the board chair to drive the agenda, to lead the meetings, to ask more of the board members, to raise the bar.

I see it happening every day at the Financial Policy Council’s Board

A board of directors can be a nonprofit’s most valuable asset, bringing the organization better exposure to key decision makers, access to increased community support, and more effective, sustainable leadership.

Come join us in being a part of decisions that are shaping the world’s future and help us continue building the Financial Policy Council the right way.

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Written by

Ziad Abdelnour is a political activist and is the Founder and President of the United States Committee for a Free Lebanon.