Stifling the yawns: 16 Tips to take the boredom out of serving on a non-profit Board of Directors
When you are elected to the Board of Directors for a non-profit association, you have the responsibility of the elected body. I have served on the board of directors for my homeowners association and Director of Marketing for a project management association.
A strong board is created by directors who are informed and able to stand their ground on important issues. If all the directors on the board agree to everything, then the board should be replaced by a rubber stamp.
Although board meetings can be boring, your responsibility as a Director should not be synonymous with sleep walking. Here are the 16 top tips to help you serve your constituents on the Board of Directors.
1. Remember that you are not there for you. You are there to represent your portfolio and association members. You are there to look out for the particular best interests of members, such as marketing needs of the organization when you are the Director of marketing.
2. You don't have to vote on every issue. Abstain from voting when you don't have enough information to make an informed decision. For example, if you did not attend the prior meeting and did not see the current month's financial statements.
3. Object to motions when appropriate. This is not a love fest. Your first responsibility is to your voters and to look after their interests. You are the embodiment of their interests in this regard. Be willing to take a position and stand alone as you defend the best interests of your seat on the board. It is hard to stand alone when all the other directors vote against your opinion, yet it is exactly this display of integrity that instilled faith in your constituents to vote you onto the board.
4. Set boundaries on your time involvement. Volunteer boards of directorships seem to have a unique ability to develop a never-ending stream of projects that will absorb all of your time unless you place boundaries on your involvement. How much time, realistically can you devote to this position every week, without significantly impacting your family life and health? What will you do when you run out of time? How can you focus on doing the best work on the most important projects for your association, but not waste time on other things? There is no shame in setting a time boundary on your involvement in the association. Make sure that your president and other directors are clear that your time boundaries are sufficient to meet the responsibilities of the role.
5. You have a fiduciary responsibility to association members. Members trust you to review the financials presented and contribute by watching the accuracy and correctness of financial reports. Don't neglect this responsibility. Read the financial reports and raise questions when necessary.
6. Create conflict on the board when needed. Don't accept sub-standard work from other board members. Don't approve proposals which are unclear or expose the association to unlimited risk.
7. Show up at every board meeting, in person if possible. Make up your mind to treat this position seriously. You can't be an effective director on the board if you don't treat the responsibility as a priority in your life.
8. Allocate time on your schedule for the BOD meetings, preparatory work, and follow up work. Your BOD work is important, so schedule time to do it each week.
9. Socialize with fellow directors after board meetings. Go out for drinks to bond and build relationships and improved functioning on the board. Fellow directors are more tolerant when you object to motions if they know that your heart is in the right place and you are standing up for the best interests of the organization.
10. Be polite at meetings, and still stand your ground.
11. Don't start too many projects and finish none. The key is to finish what you take on, and not take on work that you can't finish. Do the projects well that you take on and allow other people the opportunity to volunteer for the remaining projects.
12. Thank other board members for their work. Everyone is a volunteer, so thank them when they work, and create a culture of appreciation.
13. Don't always vote the same way. Don't always approve everything, always abstain, or always go against everything. Think for yourself, be informed and vote to the best of your ability on each item brought for a vote.
14. Insist that processes and procedures are followed, and that nothing happens on your watch that you would be ashamed if it were to come to light afterwards. Make sure your meetings have agendas and minutes are published afterwards.
15. Contribute to the Board of Directors. Bring insights, ideas and move he association forward. Do not come to every board meeting with a complaint or ready to shoot down every proposal that is offered.
16. Be an efficient conduit if you are a liaison on the board of Directors to Vice Presidents or committees. Don't be tardy in distributing relevant information to the vice presidents or to fellow directors.
There you have it. The 16 top tips to fill a Board of Director position for non-profit industry associations. Take these tips to heart and you will be welcomed back for another term on the Board of Directors. You will also earn a reputation that will attract other Boards of Directors to you and allow you to continue serving members of associations that you support.