You’ve Got New Board Members, Now What?

New non profit board members are often confused, uncertain, and unclear on exactly what their responsibilities are once they are on the board. They are eager to help, but recognize they may not have historical or institutional knowledge of key agency issues. They are (understandably) reluctant to jump into the thick of major discussions or decisions.

Additionally, existing non profit board members can become too comfortable in their ”senior status” and pull back. They may begin to feel less inclined to participate in discussions and decision-making.  You could sit back and watch as their engagement slips overtime. 

So, what can you do to immediately engage new directors so they feel values and also keep your long serving directors’ “heads in the game?”  How can you get the most out of your board when these two understandable situations arise? Keep in mind: some of these are suited for existing non profit board members rather than new ones. 

15 Things Every Non Profit Board Member Should Be Doing 

  1. Knowing their elevator speech cold. Can each one deliver a compelling 30-second summary for the work your agency does?
  2. Working their contacts book and connecting with people who have resources or services the agency needs.
  3. Coming to meetings fully briefed, ready to go.
  4. Fulfilling expectations they have agreed to with the board chair and CEO ( financial, volunteering, special projects, etc.).
  5. Adopting a freshman board member and properly orienting them so they can get off to a good start.
  6. Seeking potential board candidates to replace those who will be stepping off the board at the next annual meeting.
  7. Engaging with the strategy to determine how he/she can help with implementation.
  8. Asking good questions, without fear of judgement.
  9. Avoiding means and methods issues, (those are the executive director’s responsibilities), but staying fully involved with policy implementation and execution.
  10. Demonstrating moral courage by raising alarms or asking uncomfortable questions when things don’t make sense or seem “square”.
  11. Keeping informed on key agency issues, both those inside and outside the agency itself.
  12. Serving as ambassador and champion for the agency by publicly speaking to community groups whenever the opportunity arises.
  13. Tracking program results, financial results, and agency progress on its annual goals.
  14. Volunteering at the agency, even if only in some limited capacity, to stay generally informed of how things are going where “the rubber meets the road.”
  15. Understanding what your client base needs today to succeed (social services help, financial help, growth in their faith, etc ) and delivering those services.

Get The Results You Want For Your Board

Encouraging your directors to engage with these suggestions will help them to either successfully acclimate to their new responsibilities or revamp their current work ethic. These ideas will help empower both groups to speak up during and between board meetings, remain involved in essential organizational functions and improve the overall effectiveness of your board.

Let me know what you think of these ideas. Can you think of any I should add?


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