Building a thriving non-profit is no easy endeavor. With the multitude of challenges and opportunities, it’s difficult to determine the best investment of your time to grow your organization. One area that is often overlooked is the importance of building an effective board of directors.
Over the past few years, our team has witnessed the unbelievable growth, excellence and impact of New York City based Praxis Labs. Their mission is to create cultural and social impact through entrepreneurship.
We interviewed Praxis Co-Founder, Dave Blanchard and asked him about the importance of a board of directors. Afterall, he has built an all-star board of directors, scholars, venture partners, and one of the most impressive rosters of business mentors you’ve ever seen.
Enjoy these tips and strategies from Dave Blanchard and apply them to your organization.
1.Every Great Board Has 3 Ingredients
There are three things make up an effective board: Engagement, Role, and Self Awareness. Engagement means that the member understands the mission of the organization and is personally committed to it at a significant level. The role means understanding the primary function of the board during your particular phase of your organization (ie: fundraising, hiring/firing, strategy, advising, etc). Self-awareness means the board member knows how to apply their value to the needs of the organization as well as know when their time is complete.
2.Be Clear On Organizational Expectations For The Board
Make sure the board member knows what is expected of them, especially when it comes to expectations on their role to fundraise. The most important thing we ask of our board (beyond our quarterly meetings) is that they stay engaged. This means we expect them to attend our events and take an active role in the relationship with our fellows.
3. Think Strategically About How Terms Rotate
We have a 2-year board term. 2-3 years is a good average and is a good marker to assess how the board member is feeling about their role. Make sure the terms stager so that you don’t have multiple members suddenly ending their term all at once.
4. Give The Board Continual Feedback
Surprises are always bad. Embrace a model of consistent feedback with your board so that they can remain relevant and connected to how things are going. Meaning, they know right away if they are not meeting your expectations. That way, should you ask someone to transition on, it won’t be a surprise.
5. Make Sure Every Board Member Has Mission Alignment
Mission alignment is really important. When we consider someone for the board, we ask ourselves if the person is living out a life that is representational of what we are trying to do in the world. If you look at our board, they truly embody our mission and vision in every area of their lives.
6. Recruit Slowly
Don’t be in a rush to build your board. It’s important to build the right board with the right people — even if that takes a long time. We build relationships with people and exposing them to our events. A board member who is engaged and thoughtful in your cause will be spreading your vision among their peers and will be a great attracting force to others.
7. Beware Board Members Who Have An Agenda
The board’s primary purpose is to serve the organization and help the team fulfill its mission. That won’t be possible if a person is first looking out for their personal interests ahead of the organization’s.
8. Craft Your Board To Be Diverse
We have utilized something called the Life Framework, coined by April Chapman. It includes building the diversity among your board according to labor, influence, finances, and expertise. These are the things your organization needs most from a board. Build your board to have individuals who are strong in one of those particular areas.
9. Build A Board For The Future of the Organization, Not the Present
Build the board according to where you want to see your organization go in the future. Otherwise, you will be constantly faced with the difficult work of graciously removing board members that no longer can create value — while trying to bring on new members to a board that feels like it is in flux. Be sure that you can articulate your vision well and build a board that wants to help you reach for the stars. Build the board of your dreams and you might be surprised who says yes.
Let us know what you found to be helpful and interesting in the comment below.