How effective is your board?

Qualities to seek when selecting directors.

by Debra Reynolds

Boards of directors range in number from a handful to a roomful. Regardless of size, however, to ensure effective leadership, organizations must select directors who understand the scope and importance of their duties to the entity. Whether directors serve for-profit or nonprofit organizations, their leadership skills and character play a key role in the effectiveness of the board. Boards of nonprofit organizations are unique. Directors are often drawn to organizations because of their passion for a particular cause, and they serve without compensation. Organizations sometimes seek directors with fundraising in mind.

So, what qualities make for an effective nonprofit board? Boards are as varied as the organizations they serve, so there is no one-size-fits-all approach to board selection, but generally directors should:

  • Be committed to the organization’s cause;
  • Be willing to give the required time and energy to the organization;
  • Be fully engaged and  not overcommitted or distracted by too many other responsibilities;
  • Understand their roles and responsibilities, including their legal duties of care and loyalty;
  • Attend meetings and arrive on time, prepared to actively participate;
  • Disclose any possible or actual conflicts of interest;
  • Share particular knowledge or expertise that is useful to the organization; and
  • Be collaborative and open to diverse viewpoints.

Once established, an effective board works in unison towards its mission and purposes. A mission-centric approach keeps the board focused and leads to better discussion and decision-making. Directors are fiduciaries who have a duty to act in good faith, to use ordinary care based on their individual knowledge and experience, to devote a reasonable amount of time and attention to the responsibilities their position demands, and to act in the best interest of the organization.

Like the organizations they serve, effective boards are not created overnight. But, with time and commitment to their ideals, all boards have the potential to be great. Contact us for more information about board responsibilities and director selection and duties.

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