10 Tips For Rebuilding A Nonprofit Board
1. Assess the current condition of the Board - in other words - how bad is the current situation? Drawing on a health metaphor and adapting the Illness-Wellness Continuum originally developed by Dr. John W. Travis, we use the Board Wellness Continuum to help diagnose the current health of the Board. Is it dysfunctional, diseased, or dead? We discussed these diagnoses in a recent webinar - Board CPR: Revitalizing Troubled Boards.
2. Conduct a Postmortem - if your Board is defunct or dead, conduct a postmortem examination to try to determine the factors that led to the demise. A postmortem would include talking to people that were formerly on the Board to discover what led to their departure:
- Was it just a matter of improper fit?
- Did they leave due to a change in their personal life?
- Did they just burn out from trying to do too much?
- Were they frustrated by poor planning, lack of direction, or inadequate training for their role?
- Did they feel their service was not a good use of their time or talents?
Get the facts as best you can and meet with a group of advisors to review the feedback to identify trends and develop strategies for moving forward.
3. Conduct interviews with departing board members - as a matter of practice we recommend exit interviews for all board members. This is best done by the governance or board development committee (if you have one). Develop a list of questions that you ask all departing board members and seek their input and feedback on ways to improve the Board and the organization. Some sample questions might include:
- What did you find most rewarding/frustrating about being a part of this Board?
- What’s one change we could make that would make board service more fulfilling?
- Why are you resigning from the Board?
- Is there anything we could have done to change this decision?
4. Consider your complicity in the matter - This is probably the hardest challenge to face, but what if the Founder or ED is part of the problem? Let’s be honest and admit there are situations where this is the case. If this is the case, you can either recognize it, address it, and change or stay the course and shipwreck the organization.
5. Revitalize board service - talk to your existing board members and determine what parts of board service are exciting and invigorating as well as any tasks or parts that are boring. If it is boring, take time to discover what’s lacking in the experience and determine ways to re-energize board service.
6. Evaluate effectiveness of board meetings - take 5 minutes at the end of each Board meeting and assess the effectiveness of the meeting. Did we stick to the agenda? Did we allow enough time for the important topics to be addressed? Did we lose valuable time on insignificant issues or personality conflicts? Are there unresolved issues between board members that need to be addressed before the next meeting?
7. Build a Board Bench - in other words, make board member recruitment an ongoing priority and activity in your organization. Always be looking for prospective board members! Formalize your board recruiting process and maintain a database or roster of prospective candidates.
8. Invest in Board Development - it is common in grassroots organizations for board members to be new to board service. Therefore, they may lack a thorough understanding of how organizations operate, how to read a financial statement, or how to best fulfill their duties and obligations as board members. Commit to providing ongoing educational opportunities, also known as board development for all board members. This occurs in a variety of both formal and informal ways.
9. Find a mentor - if you are the Board chair or ED and are struggling with building or leading the Board perhaps you can identify a local leader who would provide some mentoring. This could include sitting in board meetings as an observer to see how their board or committee meetings are conducted. It could also include one-on-one discussions on a number of topics: board-staff relations, board involvement in fundraising, creating and managing the agenda for board meetings.
10. Hire a consultant or coach to help you navigate this season. You may have great local resources to assist. If not, contact us for help rebuilding your board. We’d love to help you develop and implement a plan and get back on track with your Board.
Invest the time, energy, and effort to revitalize your Board; it’s a worthwhile investment.
View a Free Webinar on Board CPR: Revitalizing a Troubled Board for Service
This webinar targets those organizations whose boards are defunct or perhaps even dead. Watch now as we explore ways to reengage and rebuild your nonprofit board for greater performance.
Need Additional Help Rebuilding Your Nonprofit Board?
X Factor provides a variety of services to support the development of strong leaders for nonprofit organizations including board development training, board recruitment planning, board manual creation, and leadership coaching for board members and EDs.