What a phenomenal article by Frank Martinelli (Texas NonProfits) on building an effective Board of Directors! I really enjoyed reading some of the strategies suggested by Frank and there are some obvious connections/suggestions applicable to the work of organizations I’m familiar with, such as TCEA, that I’m hoping to be elected to office for. These points are ones I’m going to keep in mind as I pursue elected office with TCEA, but you know what, these are just excellent suggestions for ANYONE who gets elected to Board or is interested in holding their Board members accountable.
While I cite other key take-aways from the article below via my DiigoNotes, I found four critical take-aways for me that made me leap out of my chair. Those take-aways included the following:
- Your Board of Directors needs to have a plan for ROTATION of Board members. One of the big problems with some organizations–such as TCEA–is the lack of term limits. This means Board members hang around forever and no fresh ideas are introduced, even if the Board members are committed individuals…failure to get new Board members results in a “closed” Board. Valuable, valuable feedback for any organization and its membership!
- The need for a public and easily available, written job description for Board Members. One of the frustrating things about running for TCEA office is that you’re elected to serve on the Board by the membership in your geographic area, however, there is no job description (that I’m aware of) posted for being a Board member where it’s easily accessible to all. While I’m sure there must be a job description somewhere, I hope new Board members aren’t confronted with one immediately prior to “swearing in” and expected to agree to it. I love this quote:
“prospective board members want to know what is expected of them along with an estimate of the required time. Avoid the temptation to downplay the responsibilities of board membership. New board members will eventually find out what the true expectations are and if they are different from what they were told before coming on to the board, you’re in trouble! “
- Follow effective committee structure. In my experience (not being organization specific in this critique, so don’t misunderstand), ad-hoc committees are poorly organized and thrown together at the last minute. It usually falls on the person chosen to chair the committee to draft the members, usually using up “favors” or relying on friendship to pull together. I like the author’s discussion of six elements of successful, effective committees, as well as committee member selection as shared below:
They can be a mix of board and non-board members and should be recruited with the following question in mind: What tasks is the committee responsible for and who among our members and supporters possess the skills and experience needed to complete those tasks? As is the case with other forms of volunteer recruitment, every effort should be made to match the needs and requirements of the committee and the skills, knowledge and interests of prospective committee members.
- Creating a matrix of current Board members skills. Wow, what a great idea to better get to know what people know how to do and can do. Consider these instructions:
There are many other great nuggets of information in Martinelli’s “Building an Effective Board of Directors,” including the self-assessment tool for Board members. Here are my notes and, of course, you’re encouraged to read the full article and check out the tools included at the end of the article.