How do we keep the board communicating effectively?

The board assumes a unique responsibility in the nonprofit sector. It is obligated to hire the executive director, develop policy, assume fiduciary responsibilities and support the executive director in implementing strategies to move the organization forward. Each member offers a diverse perspective, distinct expertise and unique character, yet all work toward a common goal.

Communication between the board and the executive director is vital to the health of your organization. Regular, open meetings between the board chair and the executive director are paramount and must be guided by what’s best for the organization. Each should keep the other informed about trends, developments and the like.

Disagreements should be respectfully resolved and responsibilities should be clear. As leaders in their respective positions, the executive director and the chair act as partners to guide your nonprofit and set the tone for the board and the organization at large.

To keep the board communicating at its best, consider the following:

  1. Focus meetings on strategy, not just administration.
    Make it easy for routine issues to be dispensed with quickly. Then, get your board talking about deeper issues that can help you meet your goals. Provide clear, concise agendas and disseminate them in advance so board members can come prepared to engage, ask insightful questions and provide informed opinions.
  2. Invite candid discussions.
    Create an environment that encourages board members to freely express their opinions, even if they challenge the status quo. Consider bringing in a facilitator to discuss complex issues. This will help keep the chair, executive director or any one member from pushing a particular agenda in an attempt to sway the group.
  3. If your board is large, consider breaking up into groups for discussion.
    Smaller group discussions encourage creativity and may encourage less outspoken members to join in and offer their expertise.
  4. Make it easy for the board to understand and act.
    Use real examples and frame issues in terms of what you want the board to do. Discuss strategies you want to implement and talk about how you intend to get there.

Boards & Governance FAQ

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