How to achieve success as a not-for-profit

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Written by Jeb Banner on 5 October 2020 in Features

Jeb Banner provide three quick tips to empower not-for-profit board leaders achieve their mission.

A not-for-profit relies on its board leadership to make decisions that promote the longevity of the organisation. These dedicated individuals work to ensure the team has the necessary resources to strive toward its mission and these leaders should be given every opportunity to succeed. 

To accomplish this, there are three primary ways you can empower not-for-profit board leadership:

  • Make the most of board meetings
  • Emphasise effective communication
  • Clearly define expectations.

Empowering your board leadership with these steps will help your team operate at optimal capacity and push the organisation’s work forward.

Make the most of board meetings

Productive board meetings support your not-for-profit’s overall efforts, helping you make steady progress toward goals. To host effective meetings, start with actionable agendas.

Think of an agenda as a roadmap – if it’s well designed it will help you navigate business items, while not dwelling on unimportant issues. Overall, aim to create a structured list of discussion topics with intended outcomes (e.g. to inform or make a decision). Then, distribute the agenda in advance so members come prepared.

At the meeting itself, take minutes based on these discussion items. Remember, your board meeting minutes serve as a reference point for future decision making, so ensure they’re straightforward and comprehensive. Note pertinent details, such as motions that were made and the rationale behind key decisions.

Miscommunications will slow your team down, so a solid communication strategy is vital

By doing so, your leadership will have all information needed to act on follow-up items.

Emphasise effective communication

Your board’s effectiveness relies on proactive communication. Miscommunications will slow your team down, so a solid communication strategy is vital. To keep your leadership communicating – with one another and with the rest of the organisation – try these best practices: 

  • Communicate between meetings – discussion boards will enable leadership to discuss key initiatives without relying on emails between meetings.
  • Schedule check-ins – aimed at executive directors, regularly scheduled check-ins open the door for leadership to share progress and elevate challenges.
  • Ask for feedback – ask your board leadership for input on communication strategies. This will simultaneously convey that you value their perspectives and boost their engagement overall.

Without strong communication methods in place, your board leadership will run into missed opportunities. Overall, removing barriers is essential for empowering your board to strengthen its impact.

Clearly define expectations

Developing a strong board starts with setting clear expectations up front, especially with new leadership. Otherwise, you risk running into confusion and compromising their experiences.

Take the time to explain each role’s day-to-day responsibilities as it can be difficult for newcomers to fully grasp expectations. For a better learning experience, implementing a formal mentoring programme may be most beneficial as these can lead to 46% higher leader quality.

From here, consider turning to external resources to develop a learner-centric culture. For instance, many state associations of not-for-profits offer training programmes (e.g. webinars on governance topics). You may also consider asking another not-for-profit’s board chair to give a presentation about effective leadership.

Regardless, without proper training, executive directors will struggle to attain confident leadership. Effective implementation will ensure leaders fully comprehend their responsibilities and expectations.

Remember, board leadership plays a vital role in providing guidance and contributing to your organisation’s strategic focus and financial stability. Taking these steps will help ensure board leaders are fully engaged, participating, and operating at optimal capacity.


About the author 

Jeb Banner is the founder and CEO of Boardable


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