It can be said that the quality of a nonprofit’s reputation rests on the quality of its Board of Directors. Directors are often the face of the agency, the voice of the mission, in the communities in which they work and socialize. How does a nonprofit make sure its directors are able to strengthen and keep a healthy reputation?
Select directors who are strategic thinkers and who have management skills. A director is asked to advise and connect with a CEO/Executive Director’s management of an agency and should therefore have some experience and comfort in this effort. This may require taking time to vet a potential director, because often it is difficult to assess for these attributes in a resume. A person may have business experience (e.g., budget director, or legal counsel) but not have managed more than one or two people. The vetting of references would flush out these needed skills.
Rotate directors and committee chairs in significant positions. Succession planning is difficult for many nonprofits, but it is essential for directors in order to maintain an inspired and productive Board and agency. Sometimes this is very hard when a director is a major donor and dominates the meetings and decision -making process. But here is where current bylaws become critical. They should state the process whereby key positions are rotated. Clear rules and regulations make it easier for a Board Chair to manage the rotation.
Conduct Board evaluations. Just as Executive Directors expect and should have performance evaluations periodically, Boards should also conduct evaluations on themselves. There are surveys on line, or you may contact Executive Coaches of Orange County ( ecofoc.org) for assistance with this process. It may be easier and more confidential to use an outside, objective expert for this step. ECofOC has a Board Self-Assessment instrument that can start a healthy discussion about Board performance.
Select for skills that solve problems constructively. In today’s complex and diversified culture, Boards need directors with softer skills – those who are critical thinkers, know how to build a team, communicate constructively, and seek compromise. These important qualities can be chosen with the adequate vetting of potential candidates, and ensure that a reputation is maintained with pride.
Author: Adrianne Geiger DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org