8 Tips to Building an Effective Board

Building an Effective Board

Principle 5: Board effectiveness of Charity Governance Code states that “the board works as an effective team, using the appropriate balance of skills, experience, backgrounds and knowledge to make informed decisions. The tone the board sets through its leadership, behaviour, culture and overall performance is critical to the charity’s success”. The Code advocates a rigourous approach to trustee recruitment, performance , development and board conduct. An effective board will confront difficult topics, make suggestions, ask questions and challenge ideas.

Carol Weisman, President of Board Builders offers the following tips:

Tip #1: It is better to live with a vacancy than to put up with the wrong person in a key position. Take your time in recruitment. Prevention is better than damage control.

Tip #2: Induction is critical and training enhances effectiveness. Board members want to do a good job and can benefit from understanding their roles and responsibilities.

Tip #3: Welcome new comers. Assign new board members with a mentor or buddy.   The mentor serves as a guide, a source of advice and a safe pair of hands.

Tip #4: If a board member does not show up at a board member, the chair or a fellow board   member should call him or her. Such calls are usually appreciated and indicates that the board member was missed. It may be that the board member no longer has time to serve on the board. In that case ask how the organisation can use his or her talents effectively without the onus of meeting attendance.

Tip #5: Share the power: Effective delegation is an asset. Succession planning should always be on your radar screen. Sometimes nurturing individuals as potential trustees equips them to join the board at the right time. “Do one, see one, teach one” is the motto.

Tip #6: Most people do not say no to an invitation to volunteer. They never feel asked. You will have fabulous results by going to a specific individual and inviting them to fulfil particular roles. An open invitation to the whole board may be less effective.

Tip #7:  Interpersonal relationships are the single biggest factor in the success or failure of a board. Spend time building relationships . Having a meal together at an away day or sharing sandwiches before or after board meetings can encourage collegiality. Linkedin and other social media tools can be great ways of staying in touch in between meetings.

Tip #8:  Say thank you creatively, warmly, deeply and genuinely.   Create a culture of recognition and warmth. Your members will respond by sharing their talent and time.

Usefully the Charity Governance Code stipulates that the board reviews its performance and that of individual trustees including the chair. For large organisations it is recommended that this happens every year with an external evaluation every three years. In the governance statement in the trustees’ annual report the board explains how the charity reviews or evaluates its performance.