A strong board of directors can make or break an organization. One of my pro bono activities is helping nonprofits develop high-caliber, high-value boards. Sometimes, a board needs to be refreshed or changed to reflect changing needs.
Too often, however, boards underperform for many reasons. One could be that members are not recruited strategically. The true purpose of the board and member roles and expectations may not be well defined, or directors are selected based on relationships instead of needs and value.
Execution can be weakened either through poor meeting preparation or facilitation. Some CEOs may not want a strong board to challenge their independence or question their judgment.
Whatever the reason, an organization must step up and make changes.
In brief, there are six steps to build a board:
1. Determine the board's charter.
2. Define and prioritize qualities and skills needed to support the charter.
3. Define the board structure and governance.
4. Develop director position descriptions and metrics.
5. Recruit continually.
6. Provide comprehensive orientation and ongoing assessment.
A nonprofit governance example is The Nature Conservancy. An excellent private sector charter and corporate governance guidelines example with additional detail is Monsanto.
Next, the qualities and skills to support the charter should be defined and prioritized. Common needs include expertise in finance, operations, technology, strategic planning, fundraising, law, partnerships, and marketing.
Include soft qualities like strategic thinking, sound judgment, the ability to evaluate people, curiosity, communications, and commitment.
According to management guru Peter Drucker, author of Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices
, "Board members should have proven their ability as senior executives—whether in business, in government service, or in other institutions. They should also have time for the job."
A director position description should include:
- Company overview
- Qualifications required
- Performance metrics
- Board information
Educating new directors thoughtfully and thoroughly sets the tone for their engagement and success. Provide a comprehensive welcome that ensures they know the industry, trends, people, and issues. Onboarding materials should be professional quality and include:
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