Assessing the Current Makeup of Your Nonprofit Board

David A. Mersky imageLast month, in our continuing series on strengthening your agency’s board and volunteer leadership, I outlined the specific responsibilities of the committee on governance and leadership development.  This month I will look at assessing the current makeup of your nonprofit board.

Board Member Responsibilities
One of the first tasks of this vital committee is to review the basic responsibilities of nonprofit board members. These invariably include:

  1. Determine the organization’s mission and purposes.
  2. Select the executive.
  3. Support the executive and review his or her performance.
  4. Ensure effective organizational planning.
  5. Provide that there are adequate financial resources through their own gifts and their philanthropic engagement of others.
  6. See that all resources are managed effectively.
  7. Determine and monitor the organization’s programs and services.
  8. Enhance the organization’s public image.
  9. Assess its own performance.

Changing Board Needs at Different Stages of Institutional Development
One consideration in the selection of board members involves awareness of the changing needs of the organization, which may call for different types of board members at different stages in its life. As a nonprofit evolves, the governing board will pass through various cycles and you may need to involve board members with skills, backgrounds, and contacts different from those your current board possesses.

Often a particularly critical phase in an organization’s life involves the transfer of responsibility from the original group of founders to the second generation of leaders. Another phase may be the change from a “community” or “working” board to a more high-profile “fundraising” board, which may include more visible leaders from the community and elsewhere.

Assessing Current Strengths and Gaps in the Governing Board
These factors help constitute the reasons why it is critical to develop a system of rotation for board membership and for officers, with a limit on the total number of terms each board member may serve. The committee on governance and leadership development should begin its work by developing two lists—first, a list of all the existing board members and, second, a list of potential board members—and then determining the relationship and balance between them.

The two lists are then entered into a Board Profile Matrix composed of the names of current and potential board members across the top and, down the side, the characteristics, skills, experience, and backgrounds you wish to have represented on your board, at this stage of your nonprofit’s life. This helps you identify how successfully current board members fulfill these qualities, as well as what other assets you may still need on your board now and in the next several years.

NEXT MONTH:  Identifying Potential Board Members

LAST MONTH: Assuring the Best in Nonprofit Management: The Committee on Governance and Leadership Development