Getting Your Board Onboard

Whether boards meet monthly or quarterly, we must remember that they are only seeing a snapshot of what is occurring within the organization. Their ability to make decisions on behalf of the organization relies on what information is shared with them. This leads to one area of concern and a habit to break or avoid: Assuming.

We cannot risk assuming that our board understands their roles or responsibilities.

I was working with a nonprofit board recently and the goal of the meeting was to come up with a plan for recruiting new board members. During that process, I gave a brief overview of the basic roles and responsibilities of a board member and how they impact the organization and its future. A newer board member to that group was intensely attentive throughout my whole explanation. To be honest, I felt like I must have been saying something wrong to warrant such scrutiny. However, to my delight (and you’ll see, slight dismay), she rushed up to me at the conclusion of the meeting to declare that after serving on various boards for over 10 years, no one had ever so clearly and simply explained her role as a board member! She was excited with this new understanding and eager, more than ever, to dive into her responsibility now that she understood what to do.

Does your board of directors understand their roles? Do you understand properly their roles and responsibilities?

Most organizations have some sort of board book and/or orientation for a new board member, but how long ago wereyours updated? Is a new board member simply given the book and left to read it on their own? These are important questions to ask yourself and not merely assume that each board member is on the same page and has an accurate understanding of what their role is and how they can best serve the organization.

Guess who is in the process of updating the board handbook.
Guess who is in the process of updating the board handbook.

I encourage you to take a look at your policies and board books to be sure you understand what is in them. Take time to discuss this with the board at a regular meeting, or schedule time to connect with each board member to discuss their understanding of their role, to make sure neither side is assuming anything incorrectly. This personal connection will also show the board how seriously you consider their responsibility to the organization.

If you do discover that your board book is out of date, incomplete, or even nonexistent, we at GLYCD can help you update, edit or create one for your organization and get everyone on the same page. If board training would be beneficial to brush up everyone on the role of the board, GLYCD can also help with that and many other aspects of board development and board relations. Give us a call or drop us a note and you’ll be on your way to a healthier and more productive board of directors and organization.

Chad Mager is an Associate at Great Lakes Center for Youth Development. He holds a Masters in Training and Development from Northern Michigan University. You can find him collaborating with our partners in Baraga, Delta, Houghton, Keweenaw, Menominee and Schoolcraft counties, in addition to providing technical assistance to youth serving organizations. 

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