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Best Practices for Running an Effective Nonprofit Board

Woman speaking during nonprofit board meeting

As a nonprofit organization, your board holds the most crucial responsibilities: ensuring your mission continues to be carried out and operations are compliant. Because many nonprofits are funded through the generosity of donations and grants, they hold a special accountability to their donors, the federal government and other regulatory bodies. Forming a strong board is essential so that your organization’s purpose and story can be shared for years to come.

Not sure if your board is thriving? Outlined below are several key practices to consider implementing in your board for increased efficiency and better results.

Clearly Defined Roles

Ensuring each board member position has a clear set of responsibilities allows for seamless member involvement, fewer conflicts over what’s expected of members and more open communication throughout the board. It’s also a great way to make sure those applying to a certain board positions fit the specified criteria so that they can contribute better to the group.

On the same topic of defining expectations, it’s also a good idea to outline the anticipated financial contributions (if any) that pertain to each seat so that those who hold each position know the funding expectations and donate accordingly. This practice will eliminate any awkward conversations and ensure those seeking a position on the board know exactly what to expect for both their duties and donations.

Strong Onboarding Process

After you’ve selected a new member of your board, it’s beneficial to have a solid onboarding process so that they can transition into their role with as much ease as possible. The sooner a new member feels acquainted with their role, the quicker they begin supporting your board goals and initiatives. Perhaps you can provide some training resources pulled together by previous board members who held the seat or assign a member to partner with the new person to provide advice and address questions.

Just as you would train a new volunteer for one of your projects so that they have the knowledge and resources they need to make a difference, you’ll want to provide the same for your board members. On the opposite end of the spectrum, it’s also crucial to have a succession plan in place for members leaving the board so that future members are set up for success and so your board doesn’t end up dissolving due to lack of membership.

Efficient Meeting Structure

Board meetings are typically a time where decisions and progress are made for your nonprofit. The time spent in meetings is precious and shouldn’t be wasted. Creating a set meeting agenda ahead of time that’s shared among members will help set meeting expectations and increase productivity. You may also want to consider a named facilitator who runs the meeting, reduces tangents and defines action items so that by the end of the discussion everyone knows their takeaways and next steps.

Another key task is taking meeting notes. Depending on your board, it may work best to assign a scribe responsible for taking meeting minutes and sharing them with everyone afterward as an additional way to track progress and to-do items.

Regular Assessments

A board is only as effective as the work it accomplishes. Feedback is key to adjusting and putting out the best work for any team, and this is especially true for boards of directors. Make sure to complete routine board assessments that gauge the performance and progress of your members. This practice gives your board the ability to continuously improve and allows your members to share any concerns or ideas they may have.

Utilizing more than one way to gather responses will give you better results, as people have varying preferences when it comes to giving feedback. Consider a combination of surveys, focus groups, set meeting times and anonymous cards so that members may share their thoughts at their own comfort level.

Know When to Seek Outside Guidance

As mentioned earlier, due to their structure, nonprofits are held accountable by numerous parties. There are countless regulations and tax procedures nonprofits must follow to ensure they’re compliant, and, at times, keeping up with them can be extremely difficult. If your board doesn’t have a strong background in tax or accounting, you may find value in investing in an outside resource to come in, assess your practices and records, and provide you with best practices to keep your nonprofit running.

This list may feel daunting, but nonprofits accomplish work that changes our world for the better, and that means they need a strong board to ensure those efforts continue. If you’re unsure where to start with implementing these practices, try incorporating one or two, evaluate your results, then build from there.

At Creative Planning Business Services, we have a dedicated team that specializes in the nonprofit industry. We partner with nonprofits to address their unique needs and would be happy to assist your organization with your finances and strategic approach. Contact us today to learn more about our range of nonprofit-focused services.

This commentary is provided for general information purposes only, should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice, and does not constitute an attorney/client relationship. Past performance of any market results is no assurance of future performance. The information contained herein has been obtained from sources deemed reliable but is not guaranteed.

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