A key to positioning for success… on the job, in a volunteer role, or on a board of directors, is to provide clear expectations of the individual. We have all been in situations at one time or another where we weren’t really sure exactly what was expected of us. I am going to say that more than likely, you felt uncomfortable in this position and essentially paralyzed. The same is true for board members.
We often don’t realize and remember that for many, serving on a nonprofit board of directors is a new experience, and one that is very different from their “real” job. To equip board members for success then, means setting clear expectations and helping them to understand their roles and responsibilities.
While an organization will often have a detailed job description, it is also important to have an annual board commitment agreement or letter. In this agreement, it is important to outline the expectations of board members in three main areas: governance, volunteerism and as a participant or ambassador.
Additionally, be certain the agreement contains the following details:
- Specific roles and responsibilities within each area mentioned above. For instance, if there is an expectation that all board members will contribute financially to the organization, this needs to be detailed in the letter.
- An overview of the organization’s conflict of interest policy as well as the procedure to disclose any perceived or actual conflict of interest.
- A copy of the board meeting schedule for the year. This will allow board members to enter all dates into their calendars and will increase the likelihood that they will attend. It may also be helpful to include specific topics that will be covered at each board meeting. For instance, if your fiscal year begins July 1, it will be helpful to plan to review the budget for the upcoming year during the May or June meeting.
- Additional events or activities that board members are expected to assist with or participate in.
Spend some time planning ways to equip your board members for success. Doing so will reduce stress and frustration for both the board members and the Executive Director.