Recently I had the opportunity to meet with the board chair of a young nonprofit organization. We discussed a number of topics, but spent the most time on how to build a board that will effectively govern this organization. While the role of a board may vary from organization to organization and as an organization moves through its life cycle, the basic tenets are generally consistent.
A board is responsible for setting the mission and the strategic direction of the nonprofit. The members of the board have a duty to understand and support the mission and to develop and implement strategies aligned with that mission. This certainly doesn’t mean that all board members will always be on the same page and agree on all issues and points. And in fact, a strong and diverse board will have many differing opinions. Building a board with a diversity of members – those with differing skills, experiences, points of view – will foster an environment that allows the organization to change, grow and adjust as circumstances warrant.
So where to start? Create a matrix of attributes, such as stakeholder representation, skills and expertise, key demographics, etc. Then begin identifying gaps and enlist current board members and friends of the organization to find potential candidates that meet the identified needs. Intentional recruitment of a diverse board is a key to effective governance.