Sunday, March 29, 2009

After Recruiting Board Members Help Them Become Effective Quickly

Nonprofits' best chance for their organizations' greatest aspirations is each organization's own leadership. Board members, executive directors, trustees, advisers, development directors, program directors, and all other nonprofit leaders should follow their nonprofit's bylaws, recent strategic plan, current development plan, implement policy, and do all of these jobs with the mission statement in clear vision. While many people come to the nonprofit sector from the 'for profit' sector, operating nonprofits requires specific, different, knowledge (even of legally required oversight and reporting). If someone begins to volunteer for or work for a nonprofit without having a nonprofit background - all they need to do is learn. Provide anyone new to your organization with an opportunity to get up to speed and become effective quickly.

The organization, when recruiting board members or hiring new staff, has a proactive role to play in getting these 'newbies' into the organization, trained, on the same page, and on their way to being effective and productive members of the organization. It is common for a nonprofit (start up, small, large, or multinational) to provide new board members with a binder.

The binder should include the following:
__ Board Roster including the names of all board members, their preferred contact information, where they work (or retired from), and any official positions that they hold on the board or hold on committees. You may also include how many years they have sat on the board, to provide newbies with a context.

__ Staff Roster, including their title, work contact information, and note any committees that they sit on.

__ Organization's Bylaws

__ An abbreviated but clear list of all laws that pertain to the nonprofit organization that requires specific reporting, oversight, and compliance of the organization AND THEM (e.g. Sarbanes Oxley Act). You can also include key required reporting dates, and what dates, annually, the board is given financials to scrutinize.

__ The Mission Statement

__ Annual Fundraising/Contributions Required of Each Board Member Annually including what the protocol is for each donation the board member raises or donates, themselves, over the year so that how much each board member raises or contributes, over the year, is counted towards their respective annual required contribution total, for the year. Yes, every nonprofit should ask its leadership to set an example for other potential donors in the community, by contributing or raising larger donations, annually, themselves.

__ A Board Member Job Description

__ An Executive Director Job Description (as the board traditionally oversees the job that the ED is doing, reviews him/her annually, and makes decisions about the E.D.'s quality of work (and hires a new ED when necessary)).

__ A concise but thorough history of the organization, how it came to be, and its accomplishments from the past five years.

__ A list of all of the organization's committees, the current and next year's fundraising calendar, the programs/services/research, etc., board retreat dates, a schedule including anticipated outcomes and goals, and include for each of these nonprofit operations and when the evaluation period is to occur, what the evaluation method will be, how the each evaluation will be tabulated, and when the post-program review meeting will be to review evaluation results and recommend improvements, and changes.

__ The organization's current financials (Profit and Loss, Balance Sheet, and Current Annual Operating Budget); including the most recent fiscal year's professional financial audit and the most recent fiscal year's Annual Report. Ask board members to review the agency's financials quarterly and also annually, starting now.

__ A list of current resources that anyone new to the nonprofit sector could refer to, to educate themselves on contemporary, professional, nonprofit best practices in all areas of nonprofit operations (e.g. how to read, analyze, and understand financials (especially for fraud); nonprofit bookkeeping; traditional nonprofit board work including board/staff relations and conflict resolution; fundraising; how to be an ambassador to the community on behalf of the organization; the organization's professional field of work (including the latest thinking in the professional field); how to manage volunteers; strategic planning; etc.).

__ A list of the organization's current partners and collaborators, including which programs they work with your agency on and the collaborator or partner's explicit respective role and your organization's role in that program.

__ A calendar including each board meeting, time, date, and location; and board training dates.

Board binders may also include: committees with position openings that they could join, a schedule for any trainings that the programs people or board is going to hold, local professional nonprofit affiliations that they may want to join to learn and to also get to network, the protocol how to work with the development (fundraising) department such as how it prefers that the board report anything it learns to the fundraising department (to assist donor development) after board members socialized or networked with current or potential donors (e.g. grant donors or major donors); a couple of example "elevator speeches" to help them create their own, as they discuss the organization with friends, colleagues, and family; etc.

Require each board member to become familiar with the information in the binder. It will help them represent the organization and conduct their job as a board member better.

Binders, today, can be digital (either a memory stick with the pertinent data, a download that sits on the organization's server that can be FTP'ed down, or a CD ROM, etc.) as long as any new members will have regular access to a computer (either their own or at the organization).

The binder is usually updated, at least annually, for all members, with new laws or legal updates that effect the nonprofit sector or the organization's professional field; new organizational policies and plans; and updated organizational documents such as bylaws; current financials; or anything that has been updated, changed, or is new that pertains to the nonprofit's operations, board oversight, and legal compliance.

Anyone new to any organization will need to get beyond a learning curve, but the sooner and better that the new person is up and running, the less time and money is taken from the organization - and the more they are contributing to the organization's achievements (fundraising, programs, etc.) sooner. Having everyone informed, clear, and on the same page is powerful. Board binders and training increases these chances.


Marilyn F said...

Thanks for this articles Arlene. I am in a Master's program for nonprofit mgmt and am doing an independent research project. Creating an Effective Board of Directors is one topic I am very interested in.

Thanks again.

Arlene M. Spencer said...

Marilyn, Hello and thanks for reading and commenting. Good luck in your studies and I understand: having effective, experienced, pertinent community members on a board is powerful but making sure that they (as their own individual independent leaders on behalf of the organization) are fully educated and informed to do their job (even if it is volunteer work) to the best of their ability for the good of the nonprofit and the community. Thank you, Arlene