We in the nonprofit field are beholden to Boards of Directors. Our boards are responsible for voting on major decisions that impact all of us; they are a key piece to the success of an organization.
So why is it so hard to find board members who understand this?
Good boards put good people in place, check in regularly to make sure things are running smoothly, attend board meetings, contribute money, talk us up to people who will contribute money and refrain from meddling in the day-to-day operations of the organization. Seems pretty straightforward.
But let’s look at it from their perspective.
Take Miss Smith, for instance. She is a board member who works more than full time at her job, has 2 school-aged kids, and sits on another board in addition to mine. She volunteers at her kids’ school, is a member of a local running club, and has a myriad of other hobbies. She takes the time to attend a monthly meeting at my organization as well as a monthly finance committee meeting. Needless to say, Miss Smith has very limited additional time for me.
The job of an Executive Director is to make it easy for individuals to be good board members.
- Let them know what you need, whether it’s an introduction to a potential funder, 10 names for the database, or selling a table at an event;
- Give them access to anything they request in a timely manner, whether that’s financials or program updates;
- Communicate with them regularly about important decisions you are making.
The short of it: an ED needs to manage the relationship as Board Members do not have time to. You can make your board into what you want it to be, but you have to be proactive, clear in your expectations, and must make sure you have the right people in place.