How To Have An Excellent Board of Directors

A good nonprofit board of directors doesn’t just happen.  It must be worked on.  If you want to have an effective board of directors for your nonprofit organization, you should take these factors into consideration.

Size

The number of board members should be not to big, not too small, but just right.  What is “just right?”  That depends partially on the functions of the board.  Larger boards, composed of 15 or more members, are useful when fundraising (or donating) is one of the main functions of the board, and/or many subcommittees will be necessary for the board to fulfill all its roles.  Smaller boards can operate more informally and possibly make decisions more quickly.  A small dysfunctional board, however, can be harder pressed to be decisive than a well-run large board.

Diversity

A diverse group of people is more likely to consider various perspectives on a problem or opportunity, and more likely to come up with creative solutions.  Ethnic diversity is critical – the board of directors should look as much like the client population or the population of the surrounding area as possible.  Diversity of expertise is also important.  For example, you don’t want everyone on your free clinic’s board of directors to be a doctor.  Nurses, social workers, accountants, and lay people can all strengthen the board.  Here are some common types of knowledge and abilities you should look for from different board candidates:

  • Expertise in the subject matter relevant to your nonprofit organization
  • A solid financial background
  • Experience in fundraising, or the ability to tap into high-dollar donors
  • Knowledge of program evaluation

Finding Candidates

The executive director, other key staff, and members of the current board should get together to identify people who can strengthen the board.  To save time for more pressing board matters at regular meetings, a subcommittee responsible for board recruitment can be formed.  Of course, the entire board votes on new members, but the subcommittee can make a list of potential candidates, approach them, interview them, and present their findings to the board.

Interview for Fit

Once potential board members have been identified and approached, the next step is to interview them.  You should look for explicit assurance regarding the amount of time they are willing and able to commit, an understanding of and commitment to the mission of your organization, the ability to feel comfortable speaking up and the ability to listen to other’s opinions, and the capacity to disagree with a board decision but to support the decision and organization once the vote has been cast.

This blog is a re-post from December 12, 2011.

Recent grants received by our clients include:

several grants totaling $94,000 for a daycare program for children from low-income families – for general operating expenses

$25,000 for an agency that provides services for sexually exploited women and their children – for general operating funds

$20,000 for a homeless shelter – for general operating expenses

4 grants totaling $20,000 for an agency providing last wishes and gifts for children terminally ill with cancer – for general operating expenses

4 grants totaling $15,000 for an organization providing a diabetic life skills camp for children – for scholarships and general operating expenses

$10,000 for a private high school for high-needs students who have not been able to succeed in public schools – for general operating expenses

North Texas Nonprofit Resources also was instrumental in helping edit a multimillion dollar grant from the State of Texas for an agency battling alcohol and drug abuse.

Murray Covens, Principal

murraycovens@northtexasnonprofitresources.org

North Texas Nonprofit Resources

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One Response to How To Have An Excellent Board of Directors

  1. Thanks, Murray. As we approach our annual meeting and the time to transition to our “new” Board at Bea’s Kids, this article is timely. I plan to print and review with our members as my “parting” words of wisdom for future Board development. My tenure with Bea’s Kids ends August 31st. You have been my “online” mentor during these past couple of years that I have chaired the Board. Thanks for sharing your “w.o.w.’s” (words of wisdom) and for your continued guidance, albeit electronically!

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