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3 Steps to Developing an Effective Nonprofit Board of Directors

How many times have you said to yourself, “There is no way I can accomplish everything on my to-do list!”? You may be running your nonprofit as a one-person show, or have a team of dozens, but everyone reaches their maximum capacity at some point. Good news — hope is closer than you think!

Believe it or not, you aren’t expected to do it all. If you effectively select, cultivate, and engage your board of directors, you’ll have a team of volunteer leaders who care deeply about your mission and bring a wealth of resources and knowledge to bolster the efforts of your team. However, it is up to you to put this group — and their generosity — to work.

  1. Select Selection is the most important step as you build your board of directors. Search for board members who complete a well-rounded picture of giving through three categories: Time, Talent, and Treasure. An ideal board size is around 10-12 people with a variety of backgrounds in business, social circles, and connections. It wouldn’t be helpful to have a board made up of only accountants (but you do need one!) or marketing professionals — make sure you diversify your board members so their talents are utilized effectively. Don’t forget you also need "workhorses," a.k.a. board members who have the time to volunteer at events, serve on committees during the workday, and help with day-to-day tasks.

  2. Cultivate Provide your board members with the resources they need to be successful. Each board member should be interviewed and provided with a job description, organizational structure, onboarding tools, and a clear explanation of what you expect from board members — whether it’s 100% board giving or attending 8/10 of your board meetings annually—they need to know the expectations. You should also provide a welcome packet and “swag” to every new member, so they feel part of your team. Welcome new board members with enthusiasm and make certain they understand how they add value to your mission.

  3. Engage You may already have the most experienced, generous, and talented board members, but without a plan to engage this group, the maximum impact their talents could have on your organization isn't guaranteed. You'll want to engage your board members by creating committees for events, programming, fundraising, marketing, or any other area your organization needs. Ask board members to host events for potential donors in their homes and invite their friends to learn more about your mission. Use board members' connections with local media and businesses to spread your message. A board member who is engaged with your organization is excited to share your great work and will be more invested when they are tasked with a specific job within your nonprofit.

Serving on a nonprofit board can be one of the most fulfilling ways to effect the change volunteers want to see in the world, but as professionals, it’s up to us to be prepared to manage the gifts of time, energy, and expertise they bring to our mission. Effective board management has the power to amplify your organization’s impact where it matters most. So, the next time you pull out that to-do list, make sure your board and these three steps are at the top!

Are there other strategies you've found to be effective in getting the most from your nonprofit board? If so, we’d love to hear from you. Please share your ideas in the comments below!


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