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Seven Keys to a Dynamic and Successful Nonprofit Board – Pt. 2

In part-two of a post we began last week, PMA presents the remaining four keys to creating a dynamic and successful nonprofit board of 7-keys-boarddirectors:

  • Engage to Ensure Ongoing Connection –Following the 90-day orientation plan we described in the previous post, it remains important to maintain an ongoing connection. On some larger boards, PMA has heard members say that they can feel lost, with no one reaching out directly to provide insider insight.  Still others find themselves pulled into committee work that obscures the broader view of governance.

PMA suggests a number of ways to keep board members connected and actively engaged.  Assigning a “board buddy” or mentor to new board members helps to ensure that no one feels disconnected.  The board chair should interview each board member once annually to determine if there is interest in a leadership path.  Board meetings should be more than just a report out to volunteers, with no discussion encouraged.  Above all, each board member should have an individual annual plan with 90-day objectives – a signature PMA deliverable.

  • Plan to Articulate the Message – It seems like an obvious statement, but boards should spend a good amount of time establishing long term & short term goals and objectives.  Whereas most boards must also focus on near-term survival, a board should also be setting 3-year strategic focus toward 10-year vision, empowering the staff to develop the operational structure to achieve that vision.

PMA believes that a plan is only as powerful as how it is communicated, bringing together the various resources that are needed to make it a success.  For board members, boiling down that plan to a “call to action” is critical.  To harness a personal network, board members need a way to articulate where the organization is going in straightforward language, with a way for individuals to participate and help make it a reality.

  • Identify & Cultivate – Two Pathways – Leadership development and donor development are linked but distinctly different activities. On too many boards, the process for being considered for the board is secretive and unclear.  Board members benefit from the discussion of what makes a good board member, as it bubbles up attributes and expectations that bring into focus the role of current board members as well.  Everyone should understand the holes that need to be filled, which means conducting a gap analysis that is shared with everyone.  PMA utilizes a custom board gap analysis matrix to engage in this activity.  Cultivating potential leaders should be the role of every board member, not just the nomination committee, addressed during one annual meeting.

Similarly, for organizations with boards reluctant to engage in fundraising, the issue may be the existence of a development committee that artificially creates the expectation that members of that committee are solely responsible for fund development.  Fundraising is the responsibility of every board member.  If the organization is unable to continue operating to benefit the community due to a loss of operating income, then a board would have failed in its responsibility.  PMA believes that board members must understand that fund development (earned and contributed) are a priority role of the board of directors – members should assist in this area to the degree they can, in ways that are appropriate given each individual’s capacity and network.

  • Evaluate Board Performance – “How did we do?”  How many nonprofit boards evaluate their own effectiveness at managing a 501c3? While many organizations have dashboards to measure the success of the nonprofit, a separate dashboard should exist to measure the effectiveness of the board itself.  Some break this down to the individual – what are the metrics that translate into success?  Attending board meetings? Attending events?  Cultivation of donors who make a gift? Personal giving?  This intentional assessment leads to goal-setting for the coming fiscal year – how can we improve?

For more information on nonprofit topics, follow our 7 Keys Series to Organizational Excellence posts every Wednesday.