Building an Effective Nonprofit Board c. FOrBeS SArGeNT iii Board Relations
E stablishing a strong board of directors is critical to the success of every nonprofit organization. The board plays an essential legal and practical role in advancing the mission of the
Once the nonprofit is properly aligned with the community, a board can be developed. Here are five strategies for building an effective nonprofit board. Experience. Having at least
nonprofit, from governance to fundraising to operations. The best directors combine a passion for the mission with an ability to think strategically and provide proper oversight. Board composition will influence and direct the dynamics of the organization, so a team that brings a diversity of skills, perspectives and experiences is highly beneficial.With the right board members, a nonprofit can be successful in both good times and bad. First, it is important to know that nonprofit organizations are formed in response to community needs and,therefore, serve a public purpose. A nonprofit is closely aligned with the community it serves and, in turn, its board of directors must represent the community’s interests. Among the first questions to ask is, “Is there an unmet need in the community and can we make a difference in addressing that need?”The answers to these questions should come from a needs assessment that includes both quantitative and qualitative information. The organization should understand the demographics of the individuals in that community. It is important to survey potential users of your service to understand their perceptions, help frame the nonprofit board’s mission, and define the attributes needed for an effective board of directors. A nonprofit board that reflects the community it serves will be much more effective in serving the community and undertaking its fiduciary duties. For example, if the goal is to end gang violence in urban Latino neighborhoods, the nonprofit should consider having influencers from that community, such as Latino teachers and reformed gang members, as board members or program participants. By identifying the diversity that exists in the communities served, the nonprofit can better align community needs with board composition.
one or two board members who have served on a nonprofit board is key to having an effective board. They help provide guidance as to howmeetings should be run, how other boards deal with issues, and often provide a good balance to a board. Although it is not necessary for board members to have prior experience as business leaders, they should have good business sense and be able to translate the organization’s long-range vision into a practical plan. If the board is comprised of thoughtful, well-meaning supporters who lack the ability to lead and think strategically, the nonprofit will likely not achieve its goals. Enthusiasm/Passion. Aboardmember has to be enthusiastic about his/her role as a boardmember and passionate about the nonprofit’s mission. These board members help to energize the board, and serve as ambassadors for the nonprofit. When all board members actively participate in meetings, charitable events and fundraisers, others are encouraged to do the same, and this can have a significant impact on how the organization is viewed by the public and donors. In short, passion and enthusiasm can help drive successful fundraising and engage the community. Diversity. A nonprofit board is most effective when it draws from a diverse group in selecting board members. As stated above, the diversity should include making sure the board reflects a broad base of the constituents it serves. Having diverse racial, ethnic and economic backgrounds present helps give the board different perspectives on issues. Additionally, board members should have diverse professional backgrounds, including members of the legal and business community, as well as members with financial, accounting, and marketing backgrounds. Board members should also include supporters and constituents of a cause, so that their views get heard as well. If the board does not have
24 I Nonprofit Professional Performance Magazine
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