Do the members of your organization’s board of directors feel engaged? Motivated? Energized? Connected to your mission? Do they participate? Attend your board meetings? Contribute? Ask questions? Do they hold themselves accountable for board actions? Do they understand their purpose?
As you honestly assess and answer these questions (and others), the last question in the above list is key. Working to ensure your board of directors and volunteers understand your organization’s governance model is a necessary requirement.
Governance can be defined as the processes by which organizations are directed, structured, controlled, organized, and managed to make and enforce decisions. These are the rules, practices, and oversight that provide direction and guidance. Your board members need to understand their own purpose in the governance process.
By providing a framework we can initially assess what having an engaged and effective board entails. Let’s look at some action items in three specific time periods: Before, During, and After
Before: Provide a ‘Commitment to Serve’ document. This document outlines a board member’s promise to help carry out the mission of the organization and how the staff will help them fulfill their role. The document can describe the many rewards that accompany board service and outline the responsibilities that accompany those rewards. This often includes: fiduciary responsibilities, the authority of the board, agreeing to confidentiality, avoiding conflicts of interest, expectations for participation, distinctions between staff management and board governance, and peer accountability. By implementing this agreement in advance, both staff and volunteers commit to the organization and to the understanding of board service.
During: Action and decision-making are two primary functions of what a governance board is entrusted to accomplish. Yet, many organizations have board meetings with no real reason to meet, no action items requested, and no real structure. This can immediately lead to board disengagement. Through their actions and decisions, effective board meetings produce results, not just reports. Review all board motions to make sure they align with your organization’s mission. Your board members are already key decision makers and want to contribute to making your organization the best it can be. Asking board members to truly govern keeps them relevant and engaged.
After: Board members want to see results. Action-oriented boards produce results. Aligning board motions, actions, and decisions with the organization’s mission generates buy-in, produces accountability, and maintains relevance and engagement. Ensuring accountability and transparency during the implementation of board approved actions reinforces a board member’s contributions to governance and the success of the organization.
Cover these topics in an effective board orientation where the governing documents, the mission, expectations, strategic discussions, and roles and responsibilities (and more) are openly discussed, and you will see good governance come to life. Let’s work together to change the mindset to not just be on the board, but to serve on the board!