Nonprofit Board Best Practices – Lessons From the 2020 BoardAssist Board Summit
We learned a lot at the recent BoardAssist Nonprofit Board Summit on how to be an outstanding board member. Our amazing panelists, some of New York’s most prominent nonprofit and corporate board members, had lots of practical and actionable advice for those of us who want to truly #bethechange.
Some key take-aways:
Be a Cheerleader.
Do everything you can to support the Executive Director, no matter how large or small the task is.
Sounds easy enough. But showing up for board and committee meetings is critical to being a successful board member.
Come to board meetings having read all the materials that have been sent to you in advance with an idea of what you hope to discuss and accomplish.
Be an enthusiastic optimist.
The best board members bring passion for the mission to their board service as well as enthusiasm and optimism.
Lend a Hand.
Assigning new board members a board buddy can be a very effective tool for onboarding new trustees.
Board members should set personal goals annually for what they hope to accomplish each year.
Board service is a privilege. The best board members are truly grateful for their opportunity to serve.
Know your Board.
Board chairs and/or Executive Directors are most effective at managing their board when they know them well and know what narrow part of their nonprofit’s mission resonates most with any particular board member. A good leader proactively offers his/her board members a chance to impact those exact interest areas. Rather than asking broadly “how would you like to help” they offer tailored ways to engage board members.
Give/Get or Get off.
Boards are increasingly moving to asking for a firm annual financial commitment and away from asking for something “meaningful.” Nonprofit boards need certainty to budget and plan for how they will deliver services. It’s no longer in “poor taste” to set a firm dollar amount expected from board members.
Turn Lemons into Lemonade.
When COVID 19 hit, the Girl Scouts of the USA were right in the middle of Cookie Season. COVID forced them to pivot to online sales, a move that had been discussed at length in the past but might not have happened without COVID. Sometimes an existential challenge can lead to a great opportunity to re-evaluate how best to deliver services.
Show Them What you Got
A key role great board members can play is helping nonprofit staff think about how best to communicate to the outside world, in an objective way, all the terrific ways their nonprofit is helping. Bring the inside out. The best board trustees help their nonprofit understand what metrics outside constituents care most about and then help craft them.
Board Finance for Dummies.
Board members who are not financial service professionals still have much they can contribute on the finance front. Focusing on cash flow and trends in the financial statements is key. Look at how assets are being allocated. Do they reflect the organization’s truest priorities?
Rain, Rain Go Away.
It’s great to have term limits, limits on invading the endowment, firm board/staff lines, but when there’s a crisis or Rainy Day, be flexible enough to understand some of those rules may need to give to best serve those who receive your services.
Click here for a full recording of the Summit if you were not able to be with us. Did watching the Summit get you excited for board service? Contact us so we can help you get started finding your dream board.