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FAQs about BoDs (Frequently Asked Questions about Boards of Directors)

by Katie Mae Simpson

Five Ways to Develop Your Board

board table questionsSome of the questions we get asked the most here at MANP are about board recruitment and development.   While recruiting and maintaining a committed and active board can be challenging, it is a vital part of operating a dynamic and healthy nonprofit organization.

As you consider the best ways to strengthen your board, we have a long list of resources in our Answer Center and we’ve compiled some of our most Frequently Asked Questions here.

1. Where do I start?  (aka How Do I Know What My Board Needs?)

Before you spend time and resources planning and making changes within your organization, we suggest taking the time to complete a board self-assessment.  This is the best place to start to check your board’s vital signs, or to put in place practices and strategies for a healthy and energized board.

2. How do we get the ED and Board Chair rowing in the same direction?

There’s a fundamental tension between the (volunteer) Board of Director’s oversight role of the (paid) Executive Director. That question – who is ultimately in charge here? – can lead to conflict and confusion. One section of our Answer Center is devoted to this important relationship. Read on for valuable information about ED/Board tension and some great tips about pinpointing and then resolving differences.

3. What are the best practices for a Board of Directors?

I’m glad you asked!  Are you new to a board?  Want to go deeper on your understanding of board roles and responsibilities?  There are many resources out there for you.  MANP offers a semiannual Board Boot Camp, with both basic and advanced sessions..  We recommend attending this training with fellow board members (and senior staff), to strategize together and take the teachings back home, together.

Plus, our Principles + Practices for Nonprofit Excellence tools provide a framework for organizational reflection and action planning.  Not to mention they are free to download!

Does your board have a leadership development and succession plan, both for board leadership and executive/staff leadership?   There are lots of resources compiled on our website to help you build leadership development into the bones of your organization.

4. Help! We need more people on our board to “do the work!”

Is your board or staff facing burnout?  Board recruitment (and retention!) needs to be ongoing, and it needs to be strategic.  Don’t recruit blindly – you need more than just bodies in the room.  We offer a recruitment guide so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Soon we’ll have a toolkit available with a variety of resources about board recruitment.  If you’d like to be notified when it is ready, send us an email.

For some boards, maybe it isn’t just the number of people in the room, it is the makeup of those folks.  Diversity is a buzzword used often when discussing board development.  Here are some tips for building a board that meets the needs of your mission and reflects the communities in which you live and work.

5. Our strategic plan is out of date/not relevant/nonexistent. We need one, right?

Bingo!  You know you need a plan, but plug “strategic plan” into any search engine and you’re overwhelmed with results.  We’ve compiled some of the best resources.

Need more help with your plan?  Think about hiring a consultant from outside your organization to help shape your agenda and facilitate your strategic planning process.  MANP’s Yellow Pages professionals can help your organization plan your strategy session(s) and develop your in-depth strategic plan.

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