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4 Best Practices for High-Performing Nonprofit Boards

Have you ever wondered what separates high-performing nonprofit boards from those that are average or underperforming? Successful boards operate at a higher level because they do specific things strategically and differently from others. 

A high-performing board truly operates as a team. Each member is encouraged to perform at their personal best, while consistently bringing professional skills, expertise, and experience to the table. Ultimately, they are focused on furthering the mission of the nonprofit and work collectively in its best interest. 

If you’re looking for ways to help your nonprofit board operate more effectively, it can help to learn more about the best practices for board development and board operations. Listed below are the four best practices for developing your nonprofit board.

Clearly outline member expectations

It’s important that new board members understand what’s expected of them right from the start. This is the best way to find people who are qualified to serve and avoid the individuals who aren’t the right fit.

Being transparent will set your members up for success from day one. Here are some of the expectations you can outline for potential members:

  • Meeting attendance and participation
  • Requirements for participating in committees
  • Participation in community outreach programs

Establish your donation policies

The topic of requiring nonprofit board members to donate can be a contentious subject. Some boards feel that members should be required to make a minimum donation to show that they have skin in the game, or a vested interest. 

Others recommend donating, but don’t make it a requirement. At the end of the day, this is a decision each board needs to be comfortable with and needs to make for itself. 

Whatever you choose to do, it’s important to be clear about this policy from the start. If you’re vague about your policies, when the topic of donating does come up, some members may feel caught off guard or put on the spot. This can lead to confusion and potential problems down the road.

Encourage members to provide feedback

Every member should be encouraged to give feedback about how the board is operating. Regularly requesting and receiving feedback from board members can help identify points of dissension among board members and help highlight areas where the board can improve.

Individuals prefer to provide feedback in different ways so you should give your board members multiple, balanced opportunities to express themselves. Anonymous surveys and group discussions during a board meeting are two of the many effective options available. 

And if problems or disagreements do arise, don’t avoid them with hopes they’ll resolve on their own. These situations are an opportunity for board members to work together and provide space to strengthen the team dynamic as a whole. 

Provide training for new and existing members

And finally, the best way to help your board operate more effectively is by providing both new and existing members with the training and support they need to perform. 

A significant amount of time, thought, and care is put into choosing the individuals who serve on your nonprofit board, and it’s important to continue developing those individuals.

That’s why we offer the Team BoardBuild Essentials Certification. This online, self-paced training has seven lessons that cover 22 different topics related to serving on a nonprofit board. At the end, members will take a test and receive a certification in Nonprofit Board Governance.

Our training and certification provides the foundational elements for a new member who has never served on a board before. However, they are just as valuable for long-time board members! This experience will equip your board members with the tools they need to serve effectively and will help them prepare for future growth. 

We believe investing in board development, and facilitating foundational knowledge, are critical steps in your journey to build a high-performing board of directors. 

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