Monday, November 25, 2013

[Partner Feature] The Three R’s of Effective Board Leadership

Guest post from Bergan Casey and Stacy Ehrlich of Seeds for Change Consulting, LLC. Seeds for Change is an Austin-based customized consulting firm serving nonprofit organizations.

Many organizations fail to maximize the full potential of their boards of directors. Instead of cultivating hands-on, constructive boards, many organizations choose members in haphazard fashion without giving consideration to the attributes and experiences of potential candidates.

As a result of poor choices, nonprofit organizations sometimes find themselves unable to meet their mission. Absent are board members who meet all of the necessary criteria: experience with strategic planning, communications and marketing, strong financial management, development, events and resource management. For instance, while some boards may be comprised of talented party planners, they may lack strategic vision or industry best practices. The opposite is also true, an overemphasis on new programming is detrimental to an organization if the board has not identified appropriate revenue streams.

As a result of limited capacity, boards will laser focus on the one or two objectives instead of multiple. Or they capitalize on a handful of board members to the exclusion of the rest. And in many cases, underutilized board members withdraw or quit. No wonder nine out of 10 Austin area nonprofit organizations claim multiple board vacancies.

The best board members come from being personally cultivated and asked to serve, and not because they revolve in similar circles but because they revolve in different ones.

  • RECRUIT by networking with spheres of influence beyond your own. Take a risk. Find potential candidates and engage in conversations about expectations and mission-based strategies, and precisely what added values these board members can bring to the table.

Once you recruit strong board members, you must be able to RETAIN them. The best board members will move mountains, finding creative solutions to issues and generating new strategies.

  • Create expectations that all board members will do their homework ahead of time and come to meetings prepared. As a result, board members will focus less time on reporting what they already know and more time on collective collaboration.

Lastly, board members should always be searching for their REPLACEment during their tenure, not waiting until the final hour.

  • Identify someone who fits your profile if that is what is needed, or identify someone who will fill gaps in knowledge. Organizational planning evolves during the three to six years of a board member's service, and it is important to anticipate the next chapter of your organization.

Nonprofits who practice the three R's—Recruit, Retain and Replace—will empower their volunteer leadership and propel their organizations to new heights.

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