Secret Ingredients of a Successful Board

Posted on Jun 27, 2013 in Nonprofit

Serving on a nonprofit Board of Trustees is one of the highest callings of community service. You are entrusted with the governance and fiscal oversight of an organization created to serve the common good. Because of your efforts the hungry are fed; the homeless sheltered; the poor clothed; and the uneducated/under-educated given a opportunity to learn skills to better provide for themselves and their families. This responsibility is enormous. What is it,  though, that makes a successful Board member? Over the past dozen or more years that I have served as a board member or worked with various organizations, I have found the following ingredients to be essential:

  • Board members must be passionate about the mission…there are no two ways about it.
  • Board members must know in advance the expectations, both of time and treasure. A job description is a must so that this will happen.
  • Board members must be willing to make a financial “stretch” gift every year they serve. They will also need to support events throughout the years, and share their “circle of influence.”
  • Board members must have time to undertake the committee work that goes on between board meetings. It is never enough to just show up. Woody Allen may feel that 90% of the time that is enough…but he clearly wasn’t a board member!
  • Board members must focus on planning and oversight and leave the nitty-gritty to staff. Micro-managing will frustrate good board members and drive away great staff.
  • Board members need to see term limits as a way to continually bring new life blood to the organization. Keeping a list of potential new members alleviates the stress of departing members.
  • Finally, board members must a have a sense of humor to serve in times of financial uncertainty, knowing in their hearts that they are helping to change the world!

Denise Sheppard is a development consultant who loves helping to raise money for worthy causes. She provides coaching for leadership; mentoring for development staff; and writes grants.  She can be reached at denisesheppard@comcast.net or 617.755.6001