Cultivating your Board of Directors or Elder Board

“Healthy boards don’t just happen.”

~ Stephanie Roth

The strength of your board can make or break your organization.

Most nonprofit and church leaders want their organization to have an informed, engaged Board of Directors or Elder Board! However, too often Executive Directors, pastors, existing board members, and other staff are so busy with their daily responsibilities, consistently communicating with and empowering  their board members feels overwhelming. 

Check out the following  resources to help you strategically and intentionally strengthen your existing board members and recruit valuable new members.

How to steward your board’s time & talents more effectively.

Here are 7 ideas to help you steward your board’s time and talents effectively. Consider how you can take a step toward implementing one of these steps this week!

  1. Looking for a new board member? Proactively source and recruit board candidates who align with the ministry’s strategic direction and board’s needs.
  2. Provide effective orientation and training for new board members to shorten their learning curve and empower them to contribute quickly.
  3. Conduct annual performance reviews and assessments for the board members to provide feedback and opportunities for improvement.
  4. Encourage active engagement of board members by providing regular financial and volunteer opportunities for them to contribute meaningfully.
  5. Develop a clear strategic direction and clear roles and responsibilities for each board member. 
  6. Cultivate a culture of responsibility and accountability among board members.
  7. Delegate authority and empower others to fulfill their ministry duties to the best of their abilities.

Evaluate your board’s strengths

Check out this article from the Nonprofit Quarterly, “Building an Effective Board of Directors.” The article provides a helpful framework for thinking about board development. One highlight of this article is the importance of evaluating your board’s strengths.

Each board member is an individual with unique skills and experiences. Taking time to assess the strengths of your current board members and identify gaps that need to be filled can help guide future board appointments and inspire board training. One method to help with your assessment is to create a chart like the one below to cross-reference the qualifications of your current board members with your organization’s needs.

Skills & Expertise Representation Commitment to Organization
Fundraising Legal Accounting Local Gov’t Church leadership Gives financially Volunteers time
Board Member #1
Board Member #2
Board Member #3

This chart provides some examples of qualifications you may want to include in your own chart, and there will likely be many other qualifications you want to add. You can use the following categories to guide you: 

Skills & Expertise = professional or experiential skills the board member can use to aid the organization. (e.g., fundraising/development, grant writing, communications, accounting/financial management) 

Representation = constituencies  represented on your board. (e.g., former clients, racial/ethnic diversity, government leaders, church leadership)

Commitment to Organization = ways in which board members contribute to the organization’s mission and purpose (e.g., assistance with fundraising, volunteer their time, affirmation of mission and values)

Create or refine your board orientation process

Creating an  orientation process helps new board members to integrate and adapt and feel comfortable more quickly in their role. An orientation process can simply include these two steps: 

Create a Board Manual

A Board Manual is an easy way to provide important information to new board members. The Board Manual can include: 

  • Organization’s mission statement
  • Brief description of programs
  • Current budget
  • Most recent financial statement
  • List of current funding sources
  • Organizational chart or description of structure
  • List of board members’ names & addresses
  • By-laws
  • Long range plan (if you have one)

Hold an Orientation Meeting

Orientation for a new board member could be incorporated into the agenda for an already-scheduled board meeting. To reinforce the new board member’s  inclusion and welcome them to the team, orientation should include introductions to other board members and staff if possible. It is also a good time to go over the information provided in the orientation manual and allow the new board member to ask questions.