26 Practices of High Performing Boards
We agree with fundraising guru Gail Perry: it’s not unusual for boards to get stuck in one way or another. When boards do get stuck, they often turn to Gail for help. This week’s guest post has some of Gail’s best tips. Thanks Gail!
Gail’s list of 26 practices every board should follow:
They are thoughtful about their new members – and select them carefully. They don’t add people just because slots are open. They vet their new members carefully.
They orient their new members carefully – to help them get up to speed on strategic issues and also to help them feel a member of the group.
3. Clear Expectations.
They lay out clear expectations for board members. If they don’t have clear expectations, they are setting themselves up for problems either now or later.
4. Enforced Expectations.
They discuss expectations often as a group. That way they stay alive, and get recognized and accepted.
5. Annual Planning Retreat.
And they have an annual retreat to discuss strategic issues and to forge closer working relationships among board members. The planning retreat helps them establish and know what their goals are.
6. Social Time.
They make social time among board members a priority. Because they know this helps create closer personal relationships among board members, which in turn, engenders trust and a sense of team.
They make sure board meetings are interesting. That board meetings focus on important issues. That meetings don’t waste members’ time.
8. Term Limits.
They enforce term limits, no discussion, no question. Rotating new board members keeps the board fresh, and open to new ideas. Everybody knows and accepts this.
No term limits means that the board evolves into more of a social club – and this is clearly not in the organization’s best interest!
9. Consent Agendas.
They use consent agendas to save meeting time so they can focus on what’s really important – following up on their strategic decisions.
They have fun together, which establishes camaraderie. They take time for fun and for getting to know each other. You want your board members to enjoy their time on the board.
11. Group Process.
They pay attention to the intangible issue of group process – how the board members work together as a group. They do not engage in negativity, handwringing or naysaying.
They make sure that one group (usually the long time board members) does not dominate. So nobody ever says “that’s the way we’ve always done it.”
They have a strong CEO who the board members like and trust. They stand by their CEO. They are in a partnership relationship with the CEO.
They are willing to stay focused on what’s best for the organization -NOT their personal agendas or preferences.
They welcome strong discussion at board meetings, but they keep it cordial. Warm personal relationships developed through social time help create a comfortable environment for rich discussions.
They are willing to challenge each other, and willing to ask questions.
They never embarrass a fellow board member in front of the other board members.
16. Adhere to Structure.
They never go around the CEO to individual staff unless they are working on a specific project directly with staff.
They all make a proud personal gift individually each year, putting their money where their mouth is. They encourage all other board members to give.
They know why their organization needs and deserves financial support. They are clear on what the message is.
19. Self Evaluation Process.
They have a board self-evaluation each year and they discuss it frankly.
20. Monitoring Progress.
High performing boards have a way to measure how well they are doing. They measure themselves against goals, both as individuals and as a group.
They are action-oriented. Board members understand that their job is not just to come to meetings and pontificate.
22. Individual Action.
Each board member knows what his or her job is.
23. Decision Making.
They establish who is supposed to make what decision, and they are clear about it. They have clear ground rules on how decisions are made.
They are clear on how communication is supposed to flow.
Committees all have a specific reason for being, specific deliverables and action items. There are not endless committee assignments.
26. Team Spirit.
Your board works together as a team. There is a team spirit energy that pervades everything they do.
Creating a high performing board is just like creating a team. Everybody has to be clear on their purpose and what their job is.
Gail Perry, MBA, CFRE, is an international fundraising consultant, trend-spotter, speaker, trainer and thought leader. Her Fired-Up Fundraising Board Workshops have inspired thousands of board members to get actively involved in fundraising. Gail’s book, Fired-Up Fundraising: Turn Board Passion into Action (Wiley/AFP) is the “gold standard guide to building successful fundraising boards.”
Gail’s Fired-Up Fundraising approach, developed over the past 25 years as a non-profit philanthropy expert, has helped organizations raise hundreds of millions in gifts and support. Gail launched her fundraising career at Duke University and then directed the fundraising program at the Kenan-Flagler School of Business, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.