3 Install a Serious, Goal Oriented Nominating Process Visualize what you would like your Board to look like in three-or-five years and then map out a process to get you there. The Nominating Committee’s work is a year round activity – this is a proactive group looking for people that will be committed to your organization and that fulfill the requirements of your Board profile. Be tough, be disciplined. Each person you ask to join your Board should be recruited with a clear set of expectations for the specific role they will be asked to play as a member of your Board.
4 Install a Formal Board Orientation Process Getting your entire Board – whether it’s 15, 26 or 43 people – on the same page is no easy task. A good, well considered, and serious Board Orientation Process can be an important step in the process of getting your Board focused on your mission, the challenge ahead, and on the role the Board, individually and collectively, must play in advancing that mission. The development of a Board Orientation Kit and the protocol for an Annual Board Orientation Session will assure that all incoming Board members are trained and oriented to the same standard.
5 Define and Communicate the “Give/Get” Responsibilities The most successful Boards define, in very clear terms, the annual “Give/Get” responsibility of each Board member – and communicate this responsibility before they offer Board membership. They have a declared minimum contribution that they expect from each Board member and they work with each Board member to define their individual fundraising goals.
6 Develop Formal Performance Criteria and a Performance Review Process Having standards for what is expected from each member of your Board without a parallel way to review the performance of each Board member on an annual basis is akin to having no standards at all. A clear and unambiguous way to evaluate Board performance as well as a mechanism for communicating that evaluation will elevate, in a substantial way, the overall performance of your Board.
7 Establish and Enforce Clear Membership Terms The most abused best practice in Board development relates to Board terms. For most organizations, one of the more controversial and politically charged issues is the creation and enforcement of Board terms. For far too many organizations there are either no Board terms or the Board terms are not enforced. Without enforced Board terms, deadwood will certainly accumulate, performance expectations carry less weight, and inactivity creeps in.
8 Conduct Periodic Board Retreats With the rush of events in everyone’s busy life, few opportunities present themselves to sit back, to reflect on the lessons learned from recent experience, and to refresh the organization’s outlook for the future. Well organized Board retreats are an excellent way to recharge the Board’s enthusiasm and to refocus their energies for the year ahead. Many organizations use retreats as a way to update their five year strategic plan…refining the course as they progress through the plan.
9 Create the Leadership and Map Out a Succession Plan With the right people in a room you can make even the most ambitious vision happen. To this end the most successful Boards focus on leadership. You need to ask yourself: Who is going to be the next person to chair your Board; and, Why this is the right person at the right time. You need a succession plan…who is the next in line to be Board Chair and what experience and exposure do we need to give that person so they are ready when the time arrives. Similarly, leadership is centrally important in setting the direction and tone of the Board Committees. The energy spent preparing natural leaders to chair Board Committees is time well spent.
10 Conduct a Board Development Process Organizations that are serious about Board Development will take the important steps to refresh and re-energize their Board. This process audits the overall health of your Board; it assures that the nine recommendations, outlined above, are effectively in place; it helps you define and communicate an appropriate role, responsibility and growth plan for each Board member; it would help the organization to install an effective way to identify quality Board members; and, finally, it would foster a more dynamic Board recruitment and nominating process.
Charles S. Whelan, Jr., President, The Whelan Group serves as a management and financial advisor to a broad range of educational, cultural and social service organizations. In the course of his work, Mr. Whelan has helped hundreds of nonprofit organization to shape a new or broader vision for their work, to build stronger and more engaged voluntary Boards, and to develop and implement creative strategies for growth. Mr. Whelan serves on the Board of several nonprofit organizations that respond to the needs of disadvantaged children and promote peace building in post conflict societies. For additional information about The Whelan Group, you may visit our website at www.whelangroup.com or send an email to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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