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HomeTipsEffective Nonprofit Governance: 7 Tips for Building Strong Boards and Committees

Effective Nonprofit Governance: 7 Tips for Building Strong Boards and Committees

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Your board and committee members are the decision-makers of your NPO (Nonprofit Organization), holding your organization’s future in their hands. So, it’s important to know how to build a strong governance system.

We have compiled a list of 7 tips for building strong boards and committees to ensure your organization’s success.

Define Roles and Responsibilities

Decisions made by your board extend to policies, activities, human resources, fundraising, etc. They evaluate the organization’s strengths and weaknesses.

This makes it imperative that each member is aware of their roles, responsibilities, and what is expected of them in the initial recruitment process.

  • What is their required time commitment?
  • What are their financial obligations?
  • What about purpose, focus, and relationship with other board members?

Different members hold different responsibilities. A board chair, for example, holds the responsibility of planning and presiding over meetings and communicating with the CEO. Meanwhile, a board officer executes decisions and day-to-day operations.

Invest in Board and Committee Development

A strong governance board is continuously growing. Frequent reviews and ongoing education are examples of ways a board can continue developing.

Make use of self-assessments to form improvement plans. Ask members questions surrounding the structure of meetings, the board itself, and the value added by each member. Are you meeting the organization’s needs and wants?

Suffice it to say, board members are more effective when trained effectively. This can be done through comprehensive orientation and general governance-oriented training programs. Or it can be more specific.

For example, support a member who is interested in social work to pursue a degree in that field. This member should know what to expect as a first-year MSW student and know how their studies could improve their contribution to the board and your NPO overall.

Make these kinds of opportunities available to board members.

Structure Your Board and Meetings Effectively

Board structure matters. Board size, for example, is important. A board that is too large can lead to a lack of engagement and issues with decision-making. While a board that is too small can lack perspective and effective oversight.

Meeting structure also matters. Meetings are meant for discussion, debate, and consideration that can’t be glossed over in a written report. Therefore, their structure must be intentional.

It’s relatively simple to structure meetings effectively to achieve the best results.

  • Have a specific agenda.
  • Start and end on time.
  • Take detailed minutes.
  • And give everyone a chance to speak.

Foster a Culture of Transparency

Transparency is non-negotiable if effective nonprofit governance is your goal.

Once again, we reiterate the value of consistent reviews. These reviews include an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the board. They also include an analysis of the budget.

And the budget is where higher-ups usually trip up when it comes to transparency. If the members of the board are not fully up-to-date on the financial performance and economic activity of your NPO, how can valuable, informed decisions be made?

Transparency ensures compliance with laws, legal standards, and policies. And accountability leads to effort and issues being addressed head-on.

Ultimately, this results in the better overall performance of the board and the NPO.

Establish Effective Communication

Establish effective communication effective nonprofit governance

Ineffectiveness in the area of communication leads to frustration, unwillingness to ask tough questions, and negative relationships between board members.

And how can one expect to work cooperatively with someone they don’t trust? Trust is essential to positive relationships and close ties between board members. And trust can be earned through good, open communication.

Improving communication is an ongoing process of team development. But an ideal place to start is with active listening (to both words and subtext), probing or clarifying questions, and confirming that everyone understands.

Practicing these skills keeps members engaged and fosters integral trust and respect.

Encourage Diversity and Inclusion

A diverse and inclusive board and committee allows for deep insight and more robust, wholesome discussions. This cannot be provided by a board wherein everyone comes from the same perspective.

You need multiple angles from which to tackle a topic or problem, which is typically complex.

Diversity comes in the form of age, ethnicity, gender, skills, experience, competencies, philosophies, life experiences, race, and religion.

An effective board is comprised of community representation and continuous new voices. Thus, contributing to the board’s better overall performance and strong company identity.

There are various recruiter strategies to improve diversity and inclusion in hiring. For example, include your NPO’s need for diversity and unbias in the company narrative, on your website and social media, in job descriptions, etc.

Emphasize Strategic Planning

Strategic planning is necessary for identifying the goals and objectives of your organization. And includes establishing the specific steps included to achieve those goals.

Visualize a pyramid with the following headings from the top down:

  • mission,
  • vision,
  • values,
  • goals,
  • objectives, and
  • strategies

All need to be defined and considered while planning and in every decision made by the board. For example, are all activities aligned with your organization’s vision?

Strategic planning also emphasizes the discussion of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (or risks). And it allows for the safeguarding of financial health and assets.

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