How to Grow an Award Winning Board

Mission Statement | Bylaws | Board Responsibility | Board Member Commitment | Recruitment | Nominations | Board Presidents | Board Meetings | Chairing Board Meetings | Committees | Budgets | Monthly Financial Reports | Fundraising | Executive Director | Liability | Potpourri

Attendance Requirements

Most bylaws have some form of attendance requirement. Typically three consecutive and unexcused absences from regular meetings allows the board to terminate the membership of offending members – something a board will rarely do. A third consecutive absence without excuse should constitute a resignation to be met by a form letter from the secretary accepting the implied resignation and thanking the former member for past services, etc. However, another option is three consecutive absences from regular meetings for any reason would constitute a resignation. The board might grant a leave of absence in the event of illness or for an unusual and extended trip, but only one such leave of absence should be granted in any three year term. Boards appear to be getting smaller these days and they need all of their members present most of the time.

Speaking Out in Public

The only persons who should speak publicly for a board or for an organization when there are troublesome internal issues going on are those whom the board has designated as public spokespersons. These, typically, are the board president and the CEO or executive director. All others should direct questioners to those whom the board has designated as public spokespersons.

Past Presidents or Chairpersons of the Board

Too many bylaws still maintain the immediate past president as an officer of the board, or require that this former officer chair the nominating committee, or continue as a member of the executive committee or a few even go so far as to make immediate past presidents life members of the board! In most cases past presidents are capable of continuing to make contributions to the work of the board, but it should be up to the board in individual cases to decide upon the nature of that contribution. Legislating in the bylaws what you will do can occasionally have unfortunate consequences, so leave your options open. Permit (not guarantee) re-election of the immediate past president to the board if your bylaws are set up to do this, if continued service is desired. Then give whatever assignment to that past president that is appropriate and needed by the board.

Take Yourself Seriously

An old principle holds that the quality of the board is the ultimate determinant of the quality of the service or product turned out by the organization. The best of CEOs or executive directors cannot live up to their fullest potential lacking the support of a truly committed board which knows its role and plays that role to the hilt. Know your role, know what is the proper relationship of the board with the executive and the staff. Remember that boards are responsible to establish the results that are to be achieved and the staff are responsible to develop and then implement the methods necessary to achieve those results, within whatever policy guidelines the board has set. But a board that sits back and does little but approve or disapprove those issues brought to it by its executive director or CEO is no better than a caretaker. Take yourselves seriously, leadership in your nonprofit organization begins with the board.

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