Today I presented a workshop (“Building Effective Boards and Committees”) at United Way of Mahaska County to a group of nonprofit leaders. The presentation started with this list of the characteristics of an effective board:
The board comes together around the mission—this focus enables a diverse group of individuals to set personal agendas and differences aside to work together as a team to advance the organization.
Greater than the sum of its (diverse) parts
We’ve all seen it—a stellar group of community leaders, each a talented individual in their own organizations. HOWEVER, these talented individuals seem to park their skills at the door when they come together around the board table. An effective board is a team in which everyone’s skills and talents come together to create a powerful group. Synergy, anyone?
A strategic board regularly scans the external environment of the organization looking for opportunities and threats; it is aware of organizational strengths and weaknesses. It develops and implements (see ‘proactive’ below) a plan to capitalize on opportunities that connect to the organization’s strengths and minimize threats that target the organization’s weaknesses. A strategic board is always asking, “How will this affect the organization?”
An effective board has more of a ‘can-do’ attitude than a ‘how can we?’ attitude. It figures out how to say ‘yes’ when it is strategic to do so.
This is linked to being strategic. An effective board not only makes a plan, it takes action and implements it.
Finally, an effective board has an emotional connection the organization and its work. Passion leads to the commitment necessary to create a motivated, engaged, and active board.