All too often, when clients share their concerns with us, they lament about the performance of their Board members. Their discontent is manifest in a variety of ways, but more often than not we hear things like:
“My Board never seems to come to meetings prepared, if they come at all.”
“They don’t follow through when I need them to?”
“Why aren’t they giving at the levels we need?”
Just the other day, I was speaking with an executive director about her Board president and, while she said she knows her president is committed to the organization, her ongoing frustration relates to a lack of action. So I asked, “Is there a straight forward set of expectations for your president that you can both reference and discuss?” Does your president understand an on what you are relying on her for?
I also recently asked one of my clients if they had clear expectations for Board members and if there was a protocol in place to discuss/review those with prospective and current members. (Based on some feedback we had received regarding an upcoming campaign initiative, it was evident that Board and staff were not operating from a shared set of expectations.)
I have written in the past about how we can and must invest in building strong relationships with our Board members (“Attention Must be Paid”) and, while that is absolutely true, there is also a great deal of value in making sure that our Board members have clarity as to what is expected and needed from them to help advance your mission. If everyone isn’t operating from the same playbook, and those responsible don’t have a clear understanding of their specific roles, you are ultimately leaving your success to chance.
The good news is that establishing clearly defined roles and responsibilities for your Board members is not complicated.
- Depending on the size and structure of your Board; your governance committee, executive committee or even your chair/president and one or two other interested Board members can help you to develop criteria appropriate to you organization.
- Board members must be involved in this process to ensure that there is ownership of the stated expecations.
- While not an exhaustive list, your expectations should include: terms of service, meeting and special event attendance, committee service, financial support, fundraising and other ambassador roles.
Once your expectations have been approved by the board, or reaffirmed if you have them already–as it is a good idea to revisit these every couple of years, the key is to make sure that someone (Board Chair, Governance Committee Chair, Exec. Dir.) meets with each Board member on an annual basis. This provides an opportunity for the Board member to share any of their concerns, to discuss additional ways in which they think they could contribute to the organization and to make sure that the relationship is mutually beneficial.
If you have had any compelling experiences with your Board Expectations, we’d love to hear about them and share your thoughts and ideas in a future post.
by: David Gee, Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions