A Personal Journey to Excellence in Nonprofit Leadership and Management Part 3 of 8: Board Governance
You may have heard I’m embarking on getting a Certificate of Excellence in Nonprofit Leadership and Management by the Society for Nonprofits and Michigan State University. So far I’ve learned about strategic planning and resource development. Now up? My third course on board governance.
By law, every nonprofit must have a governing board (aka The Board of Directors, aka Board of Trustees, aka the Board). The Board governs the organization by creating the organization’s vision, mission, values and policies as well as ensuring they are properly understood, followed and implemented. They also have the critical role to provide financial oversight for the organization.
Here are the top four lessons I learned:
- Dream Team. An organization’s board must be made up of visionary leaders – being future focused and always looking forward to the landscape’s changing opportunities. Visionary leaders possess an entrepreneurial spirit. They are strong communicators and risk takers. They find creative ways to connect and value diversity. They focus on the root causes to find the appropriate courses of action.
- The Art and Science of Diversity. Diversity in a board has a direct impact on an organization’s capacity to increase fundraising and community contacts as well as enrich its programs to serve its constituents. Although, diversity in a board goes beyond the demographics of gender, race, culture and religion. A successful board must also have diverse skills – differing thought, background and experience.
- Off on the Right Foot. Being a successful board member isn’t only up to the board member themselves. It is up to the organizations executive team and staff to get them off on the right foot and sure they feel wanted and needed throughout their tenure. Organizations need to orient them and give new members the tools they need to be successful. Matching a new board member with a long-time board member through a mentoring program can also help as the new member is getting their feet wet.
- Ch-Ch-Changes. Boards evolve and change just like everything else in this world. Nonprofit leaders must support the transformation of boards as an organization moves through its life cycle. For example, the start-up phase is when there are the greatest demands on the leader and board given limited resources to drive financing and supporters’ dedication. While the maturity stage requires support more focused on managing the mission and supporting the staff of the organization.
As communicators, we must support board members to be successful in their role and responsibilities. We directly develop the tools for board members to represent the organization and mission, ultimately helping people live healthier and happier lives.
We’re almost half way there – next is marketing and its role to connect with an organization’s clients and community.
Melissa Zuckerman is an Account Director at JPA Health Communications