High-Functioning Boards, Part 2: The Devil Is in the Details

Last week, we looked at the kinds of conversations that an executive director and/or board chair should have with each board member throughout the year over breakfast, coffee or lunch. Keeping lines open and reinforcing relationships is absolutely critical to engaging board members.

Meanwhile, It is also true that “housekeeping” issues–including the time, location, duration, preparation for, participation in, and overall conduct of meetings–can be in major factor in your board’s success. These seemingly minor things can be surprisingly essential to how your board functions.

For example, here are a range of considerations that you may be overlooking. Don’t assume that you’ll get the feedback you need unless you ask outright. We usually include these questions in an electronic survey, allowing respondents to choose as many as they wish:

What would make our board more effective?

  • More meetings
  • Fewer meetings
  • Longer meetings
  • Shorter meetings
  • Start and end on time
  • Different location
  • Different time of day, week, month
  • Food, water, coffee, etc. available
  • Better agendas in advance
  • Other documents in advance
  • Better (more clear, more detailed) financials
  • Better attendance
  • Stronger participation by board members
  • More voices heard–not just 1-2 people doing all the talking
  • More preparation by staff
  • More preparation by board members
  • More clarity on expectations of members
  • Better use of email or teleconferencing
  • More time in build relationships/socialize
  • More provocative dialogue around delicate issues
  • More accountability about existing commitments
  • More delegation from chair and/or lead executive
  • More dialogue around our industry, trends, challenges
  • Better defined process for board/staff communications
  • Better process to give feedback about board effectiveness
  • Smaller board
  • Larger board
  • Better use of committee structure

As with any research process, you may be surprised with what you hear–and need to be ready to consider changing your board operations as a result. Keep in mind that the effectiveness of your board, the level of engagement of its members, and its strength as a governing body is key to the future of your nonprofit.

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