How do you define an “effective board member”? (What makes a board member a good one?)
An effective board member actively contributes their time, treasure, and/or talent.
A board member who is considered valuable includes writing a personal check annually for a significant amount to the organization. They get their company to provide a corporate match to the donation and/or support grants through their respective employers. An effective board member also solicits friends, colleagues, family to contribute financially, as well as attend events.
This includes donating individual or the board member’s firm’s expertise. This can include printing, legal, financial, insurance services, etc. It may also include emceeing events or soliciting discounted venues. A great board member will also recruit other board and committee members.
And an “ineffective board member”?
The opposite of above. An “ineffective board member” does not take board or committee membership seriously, does not prepare for meetings by reviewing materials, or does not share their opinions or expertise in meetings. This type of board member does not get to know fellow board members, makes negative comments at meetings or to others outside of meetings.
This board member does not make an annual donation, nor do they attend and support events. They do not invite friends, family, or colleagues to events. This board member will not seek out ways to be helpful to the organization nor look for others who may be helpful.
They often overstep their role as a board member to actually move into a staff function. E.g. the HR director leaves, and a board member moves into that role. This may negate directors and officers (D&O) liability insurance.
Examples of an “ineffective board member” behavior
I have seen a lot of “ineffective board member” behavior over the years. Including board members attempting to gossip with staff about the Executive Director or other board members.
Board members asking ridiculous questions in meetings showing they had not read the materials in advance and/or do not understand the mission, financials, or actual workings of the organization. While they severely embarrassed themselves, the real impact is the distraction time wasted.
Raised voices, angry diatribes are more of the inappropriate behaviors that I have observed. I have also heard board members ridicule events they do not support. It is preferable to keep quiet or leave a board if you cannot support them in fundraising.
What can be done to become an effective board member?
There are several steps one can take to make the transition from a “ineffective board member” to an effective one.
Additional tips to remember
Make sure your board provides a binder with a tab for each program and department within the organization. This should be provided immediately upon admitting a new board member. The binder should include each department’s mission, vision, and org chart.
The information should be updated and added to the binder/tabs prior to each board meeting with current info – financials, org charts, committee and board minutes, audits, insurance binders, etc.
Board and committee prospect packets should be provided to each prospective committee and/or board member. These packets usually include a job description for the committee and/ or board member, at least six months of financials, a copy of the last audit, six months of board minutes, and a list of current board members with their business affiliations.
Being an effective board member not only positively contributes to the organization’s clients and staff but to the overall community you ultimately serve, making your city, state, county, etc. better.
About the Author
Since joining Valtas, Jacki continues to contribute to the non-profit community through her legendary network, enabling her to connect non-profit organizations to the right resources. She holds several non-profit board positions in support of her non-profit passion for Basic Needs.
Connect with Jacki here >
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