For many small nonprofit boards, hiring a search firm to find their next executive director simply isn’t an option financially. Organizations can do the search themselves, but should involve people in the process who have experience in searches, and to follow best practices. What follows is an overview of the process that will result in the best possible hire on a budget.
Here’s a selection of items to include in your board manual. Many of these documents you already have. If you find you need to create documents, your current board members will appreciate having them as well, so be sure to share them with everyone. Keep everything brief, but informative.
Consider whether it makes more sense to have these as printed documents, or if you would rather create a shared online area to store them. Every board and board member is different in how they prefer to receive information. Google Drive is a low cost solution that nonprofits often use for sharing documents.
A conflict of interest policy is standard for most nonprofits, but a code of conduct and ethics lets you go beyond just financial conflicts and look at all aspects of being a board member. This could also be called a board agreement. It lays out basic guidelines for group norms, before you need them. Just like any group where you bring together a group of people who don’t know each other, they need to specify how they are going to work together.
As an executive director, I had a board that I enjoyed working with, but there were friction points. I now realize that the answer to these was simple, I needed a contract.
The truth is that boards aren’t great employers. The board-ED relationship is always a somewhat awkward one. An ED has 9 or 12 or 15 bosses, who are technically supposed to act together, but in reality they don’t always manage to do that. Plus the board composition changes regularly, so the ED’s relationship with them changes as well.
Feeling challenged by your board? Wish they contributed more? Wish they would tell you what they want? Do you see so many fundraising opportunities but the board says it isn’t their job? Whatever your difficulty is, I highly recommend getting the book Boards on Fire by Susan Howlett. In fact, I would recommend getting copies for every board member, reading it together, and then making real changes in your organization based on the insights that Howlett shares.
Boards on Fire is a quick read, but it contains a wealth of wisdom on how to really engage board members in making the organization successful with a focus on fundraising.
Every board needs great leaders, but it takes time to build up a strong board. The best advice I can give you is that you can’t instantly have a good board, as discouraging as that sounds. The good news is that you can develop a board who will make a real difference for your organization. Here are the steps:
I’m offered the following two board trainings through the Human Services Federation. If you are interested in a similar training for your board, let me know.
HOW TO ENGAGE YOUR BOARD IN FUNDRAISING
CULTIVATE YOUR NEXT BOARD LEADERS
You’re not alone! Join us for an informative presentation on building a stronger board, and take back practical ideas to grow your organization. The training is targeted at executive directors, board chairs, or nomination committee members.