Board of Director Leadership Development

The who, what, why and how to create and retain an effective board of directors.

Get the right people on your Board

Actively recruit – this is an ongoing pursuit, don’t wait for the AGM. Current Directors and the Executive Director can be part of recruiting potential directors. A few months prior to your AGM be sure to form a nominating committee composed of 2-3 directors and the ED.

If your non-profit has a committee structure this is a good source of future directors.

You want to have a diverse mix of professionals and people with different skill sets. Utilize a skills matrix tool to determine skill sets, interests, and other pertinent information about current and desired directors.

Also keep in mind that volunteers often like to do something different from their job.

Potential directors will look for a well-run organization, which will have a recruitment package in their tool kit; this would lay out expectations of directors, a code of conduct and basically answer the question “what am I getting into?”.

Build your Board in an intentional way and you will have a successful one.


Reasons to join a Board of Directors

Have you ever sat on a Board of Directors? No? Why not?

Non-Profit organizations are always in need of engaged directors to serve.

All skills, interests and ages are welcomed. There is no big mystery to it, nor a long list of qualifications.

Professionals such as Bankers, Lawyers and Accountants are required, however others with a variety of interests, time, and a desire to serve are highly valued. If you are interested, look for an organization that has a mandate and values that align with yours and inquire.

Don’t worry if you are not familiar with how a Board operates; governance, codes of conduct and such. Most NPO’s offer training, orientation and a Director’s manual.

It is an opportunity to contribute to your community, meet people with similar interests and can help build your resume and your network.


The Board of Directors/Executive Director relationship

The directors on a board and the Executive Director are partners, working together on the same level.

The purpose of the Board of Directors is to guide the organization and govern themselves. They determine the destination (Vision) and direction (Mission), however, the day-to-day operations (how to get there) is the ED’s job to direct. The staff report to the ED and they in turn report to the BOD as a whole.

The Board is required to exercise active and attentive oversight, know what is going on, ask questions of management, but stay out of operations; the principle is – “noses in, fingers out”.

To put it bluntly, if management had to wait for board approval before carrying out routine tasks, the society would grind to a halt.

The necessary elements to a good BOD/ED relationship are communication, co-operation, respect, and trust.


Recruiting younger Directors for your Non-Profit Board

One of the valuable things about workshops is the interactive conversations that happen. The sharing of challenges, ideas, and solutions. Non-profits may have very different mandates but there are always many common issues.

One issue that came up in a recent workshop, and I have heard many times, is the difficulty in recruiting the younger generation to sit on a Board of Directors.

We were fortunate to have a college student on our call, so we asked her.

She felt that the Directors on a board were people who have had years of career and life experience and she would be reluctant to volunteer. Would she have something to contribute? Would she be welcomed? It all seemed intimidating to her.

If a board would like to attract this generation, they could reach out and make them feel welcomed and valued. Express why you want them to join; their energy, education, perspective, and new ideas to name a few. How they will compliment the more experienced members already there. Offer the opportunity and share the benefits, such as mentoring, expanding their knowledge and network, and the chance to contribute to building their community.

What are the reasons that people leave their positions on a Board of Directors?

  • If they feel that their time is not well spent.
  • The organization is not operated efficiently, and nothing is getting done – no forward momentum.
  • Meetings are redundant – They keep dealing with the same stuff over and over, or meetings are taken up with staff, committee, or director reports.
  • Director(s) with personal agendas or wrong attitudes.
  • The board acts like an “old boys club”; been around too long, are resistant to change and think it is “their” organization. (Kings or queens in their Kingdom).

Solutions to these issues to prevent losing Directors:

  • Respect their time!
  • Start and end meetings on time – don’t Wait for Late!
  • Use a consent agenda – send out reports in advance so meetings can focus on important items, projects, policy, planning, governance.
  • Succession planning – bring in new blood consistently. Have maximum Director and Executive term limits written into policies.
  • Good Governance – Strategic planning, full slate of policies, procedures in place, use of committees.

In short, set the Board up with the training and tools needed to govern themselves. This way they stay in their lane (setting direction and monitoring) and the staff can have their lane clear – destination defined but without obstacles. This will result in the organization keeping happy and productive Directors.

For more information on workshops and training for your Board of Directors, contact me here.