Nonprofit board performance is as critical as the performance of the CEO. Those board focusing on five strategic goals: governance, advocacy, recruitment, giving, and fiduciary responsibility tend to function well in a strong partnership with the CEO. In the last post, I focused on importance of governance and setting goals reflecting these vital duties only a board can do.
Advocacy has recently been recognized as a critical board duty. Each board member must understand the vital role his/her nonprofit organization plays in the community and translate that significance to his/her networks. Advocacy also means involvement with policymakers at the local, state, and federal level.
Sample goals in the area of advocacy include:
- Make a personal call (in-person, call, or at least an e-mail) to representatives in your district to educate on the nonprofit’s perspective. Each board member could be asked to make at a minimum two personal calls with a legislator.
- If the nonprofit participates in a legislative advocacy day, each board member could be asked to accompany staff at least once during his/her term.
- Make one presentation to a local club or civic association about the nonprofit. As a volunteer, your voice has greater impact than a paid staff.
- Each board member ‘adopts’ a program or service of the nonprofit as his/her main area of support. This member becomes an advocate for that particular program within the community.
Recruitment plays a central role in the long-term vitality of any nonprofit. Individual board members and staff change over time, but the organization is permanent. Identification of like-minded persons who share a passion for the nonprofit’s mission must be a constant activity. Affluence is good, but a sincere interest in how the nonprofit affects the lives and health of the community takes priority. The ideal board member is knowledgeable about local resources and is willing to introduce the nonprofit to those resources.
Sample goals in the area of recruitment include:
- Serve on the Donor Prospecting committee.
- Host one gathering at a board member’s home or office to introduce the nonprofit to the board member’s sphere of influence.
- Make one introduction per quarter of a member’s network to the nonprofit.
- Nominating Committee is a year-round function. Develop a service matrix grid to identify gaps in profession, age, diversity, etc. If you would like an example of this, please contact me.
- Create, pending professional bylaw review, a Director Candidate role as a prerequisite to election as a full voting board member. For one year, the Director Candidate actively participates in all board activities, with the exception of formal votes and executive board sessions. During this year, both the nonprofit and candidate determine if board service is appropriate.
Giving can represent a thorny issue, if during the recruitment process giving and participating in fund development were not made abundantly clear. Contrary to popular belief, I do not believe a position on a nonprofit board is predicated on any specific expectation about making a gift of $X to the nonprofit. Board members must express their belief and confidence in the nonprofit through a leadership gift that is right for him/her. A leadership gift means the nonprofit is in the board member’s top three (3) to five (5) charities when the year end tally of charitable gifts is made. The adage “you can’t sell it if you don’t buy it” rings true for board members and giving.
Sample goals in the area of giving include:
- Bring in a grant-making foundation representative to educate the board on the importance of 100% board giving. Many grants have a check box for 100% board giving. Why give a funder an easy reason to deny your grant request?
- Participate in donor cultivation, gift solicitation and stewardship training. Not every board member is a gift solicitor, but all can be good stewards, thankers, and cultivators.
- Introduce the classic “Give or Get” policy for board members. Prepare to open the proverbial can of worms if your nonprofit does not already have this type of policy in place. Set the “Give or Get” too low and it becomes the bare minimum for the affluent members of the board. Set it too high and the nonprofit runs the risk of not reflecting the community it serves.
Fiduciary responsibility weighs heavily in board members’ minds, given the heightened level of public scrutiny of nonprofit operations from a variety of external sources (i.e. Guidestar, Charity Watchdog, State Attorneys General, and the IRS). Members are familiar with the three legal duties of every board: care, loyalty, and obedience.
A sample goal in the area of Fiduciary Responsibility might include:
- Annual seminar on board/trustee effectiveness to increase knowledge of the current regulatory environment.
If you would like a copy of a board service matrix, please let me know.