More and more is being written these days about the critical difference a Board makes in the effectiveness of business and ministry. How to get more out of what you put in is a relevant question at any time in the development of an organization and its Board.
The topic of Board effectiveness is important to me for a number of reasons. First is my firm belief that leadership trickles down. The quality of an organization is directly related to the quality of its Board. Second is the lack of consistent training on “How to Be a Board Member”. Most folks learn “on-the-job,” and orientation is rarely seen in most ministries. The third reason I am drawn to this topic is that your Board is the most critical factor in the long-term success of your ministry. All that being said, it is also at the top of the list for CEOs and Board Chairs who must find the best way to work together.
In my 30 years of working with numerous non-profit committees and Boards, I’ve found eight key actions that I think will help your Board tremendously…
- Clarify Your Role with the Organization – Are you a Board that really likes to get their hands dirty and play in the sand or can you step back, design the sandbox, and shape the way the staff will operate the ministry? Do you govern, advise, or run the ministry? The best Boards step back and build the frame within which the CEO will fulfill the mission.
- Clarify Your Role with the CEO – How does the Board interact with the Executive Director? Who’s in charge of whom? Proper authority would ensure that the CEO is subject to the Board’s oversight. The Board should hire, fire, monitor, advise, encourage and exhort. Also, assign a point-person as liaison between the Board and CEO. Often, this is the Board Chair, but the Executive Committee could also meet with the CEO from time to time to address specific issues.
- Clarify Your Role with Each Other – As a Board, how will you work together? When and how will you govern? What do you value in terms of the type of culture you will shape on the Board? Will you invest much time in building relationships or a streamlined business-only format? I have a friend who believes good friends make good decisions, and valued Board retreats and a social element. Others don’t see it as necessary. How will you hold each other accountable in boardsmanship?
- Determine How You Will Measure the “Success” of the Board – This is extremely important, because the Board is a separate, but related organization to the ministry it governs…with its own values, culture, objectives, and measurements of success. It’s what I call “The Board, Inc.” This can include the Annual Chairman’s Initiatives that reflect the areas of focus for the Board itself.
- Make Board Development the Number One Priority – This includes consistent recruitment with a clear “Job Description” and clear Performance Standards for each Board member. Additionally, you must always be cultivating future leadership and officers to provide strong continuity and Succession Planning
- Ensure a Regular and Consistent Performance Review of Your CEO – It must be clear what the Board values. What does it take for the CEO to score a perfect “10?” The process and timeline for review should be clearly spelled out. Don’t take your CEO by surprise.
- Be Visible with the Key Constituents of Your Ministry – Those who value your ministry should be valued by you. Do you know who are they are? Most often, this would include donors, staff, clients, business and community leaders, and sometimes those in leadership with peer ministries.
- Have a Long-Term View – In simple terms, Embrace the Vision, Equip the Ministry, and Ensure Fulfillment of the Mission. Dream Big – The Sky is the Limit!