February 22, 2021

Evaluate Your Board to Keep Your Board Love Affair Going

Evaluate Your Nonprofit Board to Keep Your Love Affair with Your Board GoingYou’re proud of your board. They volunteer their time and energy. Moreover, they donate cash each year. You work as partners to further your mission. You have the right people and a robust agenda, and they engage in your work.


Are things perfect? Or, is there some room for improvement? This post will help you to diagnose your board’s strengths and quickly identify growth opportunities.


Locate your board on the diagram. The closer to the center (4), the better. (I’ve explained the criteria below.) Like a cheat sheet, your answer points to what needs doing to develop an even more dynamic board of directors.


1. People


Do you have the right people? Most board members are lovely people with their hearts in the right place. They agree to serve, volunteer, and give money! Yes, they are wonderful, but are they leaders? Active in the community? Able to think strategically? Do they follow through? If you have the right people, you will say yes to these questions.


Caution Light: Ranking high on 2 (Agenda) and 3 (Engaged), but low on 1 (People) begets micromanaging. Board looks inward when they’re uncertain how to promote you externally.


2. Agenda


What happens at your board meetings? Do attendees grapple with policy and strategy questions? Or, do they meander around tactics, operations, and occasionally visit policy? Or, in the extreme, do they listen to reports and give their unanimous approval—something they could do without gathering?


Caution Light: Ranking high on 3 (Engaged) and 1 (People), but low on 2 (Agenda) ushers in staff-board conflicts. Undirected but engaged leaders establish agendas that wade deep into staff territory.


3. Engaged


Do your board members attend meetings? Ask question? Volunteer? Appear on your radar screen between meetings? Ultimately, board members decide if and how they engage.


Here’s an example of what you want. Millard Fuller, the co-founder of Habitat for Humanity International, said, “Jimmy Carter served three years on our board, and he never missed a meeting, never came late, and never left early. He didn’t take phone calls in meetings. He set a new standard.”


Caution Light: Ranking high on 1 (People) and 2 (Agenda) but weak on 3 (Engaged) means that you’re not a priority for your board. At best, you have an expectation disconnect. More commonly, the calls for you to reevaluate 1 and 2.


Where did you rank your board? How can you move your board closer to 4, the ideal? How will you make sure you keep your love affair with your board going?


For more on keeping your love affair going with your nonprofit board:


Karen Eber Davis

Karen Eber Davis provides customized advising and coaching around nonprofit strategy and board development. People leaders hire her to bring clarity to sticky situations, break through barriers that seem insurmountable, and align people for better futures. She is the author of 7 Nonprofit Income Streams and Let's Raise Nonprofit Millions Together.


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