One universal key to growing your successful nonprofit organization–moving forward its strategic plan, fulfilling its vision and mission, and securing the financial resources to run efficiently–is to build a dynamic Board of trustees. Creating a dynamic Board has become increasingly challenging as the philanthropic landscape shifts and as organizations strive to attract the best and the brightest to their Boards. The dynamic Board is essential in today’s competitive and transparent environment for nonprofits in every sector. Leadership is your trump card. CEO’s and development officers are pivot points for steering the Board toward dynamic leadership and engagement. It is vital for your organization’s senior leadership to facilitate and support the best in every Board.
What are the characteristics of the dynamic Board?
1. The dynamic Board is the result of a true partnership between the organization’s CEO/president and the Board chair. This partnership should evolve from one-on-one discussions between the chair and president, who build upon a relationship where the Board and chair are supportive of each other’s efforts. Critical to this is the Board chair’s true commitment and passion for the mission and vision of the organization.
2. The CEO and the Board chair must provide critical communication among other Board members to create a sense of transparency and a continuous focus on strategy. The Board chair must clearly delegate to trustee committee heads and must be in touch with these committees between Board meetings. Checking in to make sure the real work of a Board is occurring on time and in advance of scheduled Board meetings insures that the work of the Board–whether reviewing a new strategic plan, overseeing an audit, planning a capital campaign or determining critical strategic issues–moves forward.
3. The dynamic Board represents a diversity of talent that is put to use and stays on point. Whether you are a small organization in need of true hands-on skills such as accounting, communications, and legal or commercial real estate or if you need higher-level strategic thinking, the job of every Board member should be clear. This leads to the next and perhaps most critical element of the dynamic Board:
4. The dynamic Board is engaged. On the best Boards, its members see and believe in the future vision of the organization; they are willing to invest personally through their time and dollars, to open doors, to get strategic and to think big. Engaged Board members can articulate clearly why they are personally involved and can then take ownership of the specific activities that will move the organization forward. A great strategy for Board engagement is to assign a senior staff member to each Board member based on that member’s interests and talents. For example, a Board member who is particularly focused on education programs and internet strategies would be paired with a senior program officer to focus on core subject matter. Nothing inspires a Board member more than to engage with thought leaders on substantive programs and subject matter. For example, the National Women’s History Museum invited James Chung, founder of Reach Advisors, to conduct a seminar on the future of museums. His engagement with Board members on this topic was a watershed event for them.
5. The dynamic Board is in constant recruitment mode. Every Board member should be identifying outstanding peers who could provide ongoing leadership. This activity should be supported and overseen by a strong governance committee which follows solid procedures for recruiting new Board members who fulfill the organization’s needs.
As a first step, the CEO, vice president for development and the senior Program person at your organization should make Board engagement their highest priority. Define how you will regularly communicate in a compelling, personalized way with your Board members who, most likely, are overloaded with e-mails. Your Board is your most important asset for communicating the importance of your organization to philanthropists, business leaders, politicians, artists, scientists and the rich blend that makes up your constituents. Your Board is your best source of financial leadership and should be your best support for achieving strategic momentum. Inspire them with your purpose and your sense of vision!