Many nonprofit and ministry leaders get frustrated with their board of directors because it seems as though they don’t really understand “who” the organization is and what it does. One effective way to overcome this frustration is through the use of a comprehensive, easy-to-use board manual.
The board manual starts as an orientation handbook for new board members as it should provide useful information about the organization, the board and key staff. Then, the manual becomes a working tool throughout the rest of the board member’s term. Materials can be added and deleted as needed to ensure the manual stays up-to-date.
There is some debate these days about whether the manual should be in an electronic format or a hard-copy format. A board portal is a great electronic tool where all board documents can be stored; it may be worth spending some time ensuring the board knows how to use the portal. A great board portal tool is My Boardview. It can be found at https://app.myboardview.com/; you will immediately notice it is available FREE.
Regardless of the format you use, remember these keys to ensure the manual is a tool that board members use and rely on:
- Don’t overwhelm new board members with too much information.
- Keep items brief; for instance, provide just a brief biography of the Executive Director instead of a comprehensive resume.
- During board orientation, use the manual to guide the session
- Encourage board members to read the manual; perhaps, schedule some time to answer questions board members have about the material
- Review the manual on a quarterly basis to determine the updates that are needed
Include the following materials in the board manual:
Information about the Board – Provide board member names and contact information (there is nothing worse than serving on the board with someone and not even knowing their last name), board member term information, board roles and responsibilities and information about board committees.
Historical Information about the Organization – Provide an overview of the history of the organization-why it was started, who the founders were, etc., a copy of the IRS letter.
Strategic Direction – Include mission, vision and value statements along with the current strategic plan. Also include an overview of each of the key programs/services provided by the organization.
Financial Information – Since the board has a fiduciary responsibility for the organization, it is important that board members understand the finances. The manual should include a copy of the most recent annual report, a copy of the most recent audit or financial review and the most recent 990. Include a copy of the organization’s financial policies, its current budget and projections.
Board Policies – There are several key policies that boards need to have in place to support and protect the organization. These include: conflict of interest, confidentiality, whistle blower, expense reimbursements, insurance coverage, document retention and destruction as well as any others that apply to your specific organization.
Staff – Include the job description for the Executive Director, an organizational chart and a staff list.
Resource Development (Fundraising) – Include a copy of the current fund development plan, the case statement, sponsorship policies and current funder lists.
Miscellaneous Information – Include a copy of the annual board calendar that includes board meetings, committee meetings as well as any events or organizational activities to which the board will be invited. Include the minutes from board meetings for the last three board meetings, a list of any common terms or acronyms that might not be general knowledge, social media information and copies of current brochures and marketing materials.
Developing a comprehensive board manual can seem daunting and just a little overwhelming. Start small. Pick one or two areas and develop them, then, slowly work to add the other sections until it is complete. Once it is finished, mark your calendar with quarterly review dates to ensure the manual stays up-to-date.
Need help putting together your board manual? Contact us today, we can help.