Call them Boards of Directors or Boards of Trustees. Whatever you call them, they are the backbone of your nonprofit organization. They make it run the way it should. They keep it on track by providing oversight of its programs and they make sure that it uses the money given by donors and supporters wisely.
I have served on several Boards over the last fifteen years. Some have been better at some things than others, but my experience has led me to the conclusion that there are five main qualities for Boards that will make your organization successful for a long time.
1. A Board needs to be focused. The members of the Board need to adhere to the mission of the organization, whether it is a social service agency, an animal welfare agency, a health oriented program, an environmental group, or any other organization. It needs to make sure that it doesn’t stray and avoid entering into programs that have little or nothing to do with its mission. It needs to pay attention to the financial reports and make sure the funding it receives is used wisely and effectively. A Board needs to pay careful attention to what is going on.
2. A Board has to be committed. Members need to do their best to attend all their Board and committee meetings and not schedule other activities during those times. They need to read the materials sent out to them before the meeting takes place and show up to the meeting on time. They need to be prepared to debate possible changes and decide whether they should be supported. Once the votes are cast, Boards need to support the majority decision and continue working for the best outcomes.
3. A Board has to be ethical. They have to make decisions which are best for the organization, its clients and its donors. They need to understand that they are there to make the organization succeed, and not to enrich themselves, their family, or their friends. There must be no conflict of interest. If there is a potential conflict, they must remove themselves from the group while the matter is discussed by the other members, and accept the decision of the majority.
4. A Board should be diverse. A Board should be made of different kinds of members. It should contain a variety of men and women from different walks of life. When serving the community, it should resemble that community. Diversity needs to go beyond the traditional meaning of race and culture. Board members should be from different professions, cultures, religious beliefs, ages, and political backgrounds. If there is too much homogeneity in your board, the group risks being one sided. Sometimes, a Board needs some members who will give an alternative view and will offer new ideas. Each individual has a unique part to play and is important to the make up of the Board.
5. A Board needs to be philanthropic. Many Boards require that their members give a specific amount of financial support to the organization. Members should make an investment of their money and their time to show their commitment to the cause. Board members should also make an effort to tell others in their circles of friends, relatives, and business associates about what they do for their organizations and open doors for future support. They must be ambassadors to the community to help showcase the organization.
When you are recruiting members for your Board of Directors, think about these qualities and responsibilities. Let potential candidates know about these things and let them know what you expect from them if they agree to work with you. Your organization needs people who will live up to these expectations.