Board Direction


Board Direction

The Board of Directors and their involvement and activity are critical to your nonprofit,. Board recruitment, membership and behavior can present both opportunity and challenge to nonprofit managers. Let’s explore the good, bad and ugly.

Nonprofit boards tend to have lots of horror stories told about them, and I suspect you may have a few of your own. Managing people is the toughest part of any job, and a group of people with noble intentions can be more difficult than some.

Getting more from your Board

Key to improving board performance is abject clarity about

  • who each person is,
  • why they sit on this board and
  • what their goals are for board membership.

This requires digging a bit deeper than the usual boilerplate? because I care and want to make a difference? that you hear so often.


Creating an on-paper matrix of the board?s interests, abilities and skill sets will help. Understanding what each member needs to do to feel engaged and appreciated is fundamental to developing results and action. While ostensibly people join boards to improve and increase the impact of the organization, many times this is not true in practice.

Matching the board member with the work or project that is most consistent with their true concept of commitment goes a long way to increasing that member?s satisfaction as being part of your organization.

Know Your Board

Know your board, invest the time to speak to them and you will be able to see how they may best support the work even if it is in nontraditional ways.

Knowing the agenda and background inspirations for your board members will allow you to craft a position and place for many of them. Leadership is critical for nonprofit boards, inspired by passion but often lacking pragmatic sense, having someone with both of these can make a so-so board a more involved, engaged and active one..

Board Unity

Nice idea—-can it be done? Yes and no, and this as well requires some thoughtfulness. Often a board can be divided on many internal issues: fundraising, performance, governance, policy and outreach.

Putting the right member in the right spot is hugely helpful in that one board member?s participation, but group dynamics are a whole ?nother animal.

Strong Leadership

Board unity ironically relies on one main thing: strong leadership. Boards need guidance and direction even if that is what this group intends to provide for its staff and constituency. A good board leader is aware and accepts the differing levels of contribution of the board members.

A Board Chair creates more symbiotic committees and projects for the board. Round pegs in square holes has never worked, asking someone terrified of asking for money to lead the Fundraising committee is an exercise in futility-for both the member and the organization.