There are literally more than 1 million items related to non-profit board service on Google. Here is one more that puts board management into an acronym, SOARR, which will hopefully give you 5 things you can do with your board.
Let’s address the elephant, board service and board management is challenging. There are “do nothing” board members, boards and staff that struggle with what is “appropriate communication”, and boards that feel like they are in more chaos than the organization. The point is that if you are reading this and one of the 1 million other articles, you are not alone.
Here are 5 ways you can help your board to SOARR
1) Be SPECIFIC
The more specific you can be in the role you want to your board and its member to play in your organization, the better. It starts with a good board agreement. It should discuss what an active board member looks like, this includes: time needs outside of board meetings; events they are expected to participate in (with dates if possible); financial expectations; recruitment of board, volunteers and donors. It should also clearly state what their term is and whether or not it is renewable. Finally, a clear explanation on how to resign or what constitutes removal.
2) Convey OWNERSHIP
Board members are a part of the team and should be treated in that manner. Board members are leadership volunteers and need to know and understand the whole organization. They need to receive the orientation any new or prospective volunteers receive, they need to be given the same regular updates that staff are given. After the board agreement and conflict of interest policy are signed, the solid orientation needs to be conducted. If possible, the opportunity to observe your mission is extremely helpful. Use the pronouns “We, US, and OURS” the same way you use YOUR with donors.
3) Provide ACTIVITY (specific activity)
If you are providing them with collateral or tools to promote and raise money for the organization be specific about how to use it and what you are seeking. For instance if you have a flyer with a testimony and some statistics that you email to your board, make a suggestion on how to use it. For example, “Please send this flyer about our reading program to 4 people and see if you can make at least one appointment for you and our executive director, or possibly print several of these to share at your next Rotary or Kiwanis meeting.”
4) RECRUIT Always
You need to build your bench. You rightfully have high expectations for your board members. The majority of the people you welcome to your board are excellent additions, but you will need to replace them. Committees are a great way to engage potential board members and get them involved with YOUR organization before someone gets them involved in another organization. Then when a board member leaves due to the end of their term or unexpectedly, you have multiple options to keep the organization growing and progressing.
5) REVIEW Regularly
If there is no form of formal review for you and the board, then invite one. Reviews are as much the start of a conversation, as they are constructive criticism. Through this review, you can also review their role as a board member. One of the best things I did was develop 3 or 4 smart goals each year, share them with my board, then request meetings to review my progress and what action steps they would help me with. Of my 24 board members, I only got one negative response. Impressively, about six of them would regularly update me on their progress.
Board service and board management can be challenging. If you need guidance with your board or would like to conduct a retreat, contact PB&J marComm.