As a nonprofit organization, your board holds the most crucial responsibilities in ensuring your mission continues to be carried out and that operations are compliant. Since nonprofits are funded through the generosity of donations, they hold a special accountability to their donors, the federal government and other regulatory bodies. Forming a strong board is essential in fulfilling that accountability so that your organization’s purpose and story can be told for years to come. Not sure if your board is thriving? Outlined below are several key practices to consider implementing in your board if you aren’t already for increased efficiency and better board results.
Clearly Defined Roles. It’s a common truth for any team or group-based environment. Ensuring that each board member position has a clear set of responsibilities allows for seamless member involvement, fewer conflicts over what’s expected of members and more open communication throughout the board. It’s also a great way to make sure those applying to a certain board position fit the specified criteria so that they can contribute better to the group. On the same topic of defining expectations, it’s also a good idea to outline the anticipated financial contributions that pertain to each seat so that those who hold the position know the funding expectations and donate accordingly. This will eliminate any awkward conversations and ensure that those seeking a position on the board know exactly what to expect both their duties and donations.
Strong Onboarding Process. After you have selected a new member of your board, it’s beneficial to have a solid onboarding process so that the member can transition into their role with as much ease as possible. The sooner a new member feels acquainted with their role, the quicker they begin supporting your board goals and initiatives. Perhaps you compile some training resources pulled together by previous members who held the seat or assign a member to partner with the new person to provide advice and address questions. Just as you would train a new volunteer for one of your projects so that they have the knowledge and resources they need to make a difference, you want to provide the same for your board members. On the opposite spectrum, it’s also crucial to have a succession plan in place for members leaving the board so that future members are set up for success and that your board doesn’t end up dissolving due to lack of membership.
Efficient Meeting Structure. Board meetings are typically the set time that decisions and progress are made for your nonprofit. The time spent in meetings is precious and should not be wasted with one-off conversations and ramblings. Creating a set meeting agenda ahead of time that’s shared amongst members will help set meeting expectations and increase productivity. You may also want to consider a named facilitator that runs the meeting, reduces tangents, and defines action items so that by the end of the discussion, everyone knows their takeaways and next steps. Another key task is taking meeting notes. Depending on your board, it may work best to assign a scribe that is responsible for taking notes or meeting minutes and then sharing them with everyone afterward as an additional way to track progress and to-dos.
Regular Assessments. A board is only as effective as the work it accomplishes. Feedback is key to adjusting and putting out the best work for any team, and with boards especially. Make sure to complete routine board assessments that gauge the performance and progress of your members. This gives your board the ability to continuously improve and allows your members to use their voice on any concerns or ideas they may have. Utilizing more than one way to gather responses will give you better results as people have varying preferences when it comes to giving feedback. Consider a combination of surveys, focus groups, set meeting times or anonymous cards for members to share their thoughts at their own comfort level.
Know When to Seek Outside Guidance. As mentioned earlier, nonprofits are held accountable by numerous parties due to their funding structure. There are countless regulations and tax procedures that nonprofits must follow to ensure they are compliant, and at times keeping up with these things can be extremely difficult. If your board doesn’t have a strong background in tax or accounting, you may find value in investing in an outside resource to come in, assess your practices and records and provide you with financial best practices that keep your nonprofit running.
This list may feel daunting, but nonprofits accomplish work that changes our world for the better, and that means they need a strong board to ensure those efforts continue. If you are unsure where to start with implementing these practices, that’s perfectly fine. Try incorporating one or two into your board and evaluate your results, then build from there.
At BerganKDV, we have strong ties to the nonprofit industry, partnering with over 250 organizations on their tax, audit and accounting needs and are comprised of teammates who regularly volunteer or are even board members outside of the office. Our team would be happy to assist your organization with your finances and strategic approach. Want to learn more about what solutions we can offer your organization? Let’s talk!