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Non-Profit Toolkit Blog Series: Part 9A.6: Board Development Resources:  Cultivating a Collaborative and Strategic Leadership Force



A strong and engaged board of directors is the backbone of any successful non-profit organization. They provide strategic direction, ensure good governance, and champion your mission to secure vital resources. However, fostering a collaborative and effective board requires consistent investment in board development. This section empowers you with comprehensive board development resources to continuously strengthen your board's effectiveness and shape a future-oriented leadership landscape for your organization.

Why Invest in Board Development?


Investing in board development is not an expense, but a strategic investment. Here's why it's crucial for your non-profit's success:

  • Enhanced Board Functioning: Effective board development programs equip board members with the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to fulfill their fiduciary, legal, and governance responsibilities. This ensures your board operates efficiently and adheres to best practices.

  • Improved Strategic Planning: Board development fosters a collaborative environment where board members work together to develop a clear vision, set strategic priorities, and guide the long-term direction of your organization.

  • Stronger Fundraising Efforts: Board members play a pivotal role in fundraising. Board development programs equip them with the skills and resources to cultivate relationships with donors, solicit contributions, and champion your mission to potential funders.

  • Increased Board Engagement: A well-designed board development program keeps board members engaged and motivated. They feel empowered to contribute their expertise and provide valuable insight, fostering a more vibrant and enthusiastic leadership team.

  • Effective Succession Planning: Board development programs can facilitate a smooth transition process by preparing new board members to assume leadership roles effectively.


Key Components of a Successful Board Development Program:


A comprehensive board development program should address various needs and encompass the following key elements:

  • Board Orientation: New board members should receive a thorough orientation program that provides an overview of your organization's mission, history, governance structure, and key policies and procedures.

  • Ongoing Education: Offer ongoing training workshops and seminars to keep your board members up-to-date on best practices in non-profit governance, financial management, fundraising strategies, and relevant industry trends.

  • Board Self-Assessments: Conducting regular board self-assessments allows your board to evaluate its strengths, weaknesses, and identify areas for improvement. This fosters continuous development and ensures your board remains effective in today's ever-changing environment.

  • Board Retreats: Organize periodic board retreats to facilitate strategic planning, relationship building, and open discussions on critical issues facing your organization.

  • Governance Committee: Establish a governance committee tasked with ensuring your board adheres to best practices in non-profit governance. This committee can also oversee board development initiatives.

  • Mentorship Programs: Connect experienced board members with new board members to provide guidance and support. This fosters knowledge transfer and empowers newer members to contribute effectively.


Board Development Resources for Nonprofits:


Numerous resources are available to bolster your board development initiatives. Here are some valuable starting points:

  • BoardSource: https://boardsource.org/ - A leading expert in non-profit board leadership, BoardSource provides a plethora of resources, including board development toolkits, online courses, and publications.

  • National Council of Nonprofits: https://www.councilofnonprofits.org/ - The National Council of Nonprofits offers resources on board governance, including sample board policies and best practices guides.

  • Nonprofit Leadership Alliance: https://nla1.org/ - The Nonprofit Leadership Alliance provides training and resources for nonprofit boards, including guidance on board recruitment, board development, and leadership development.

  • Guidestar: https://www.guidestar.org/Default.htm?aspxerrorpath=/ViewEdoc.aspx - Guidestar offers free resources on non-profit governance, including board composition best practices and tips for effective board meetings.

  • Your State Association of Nonprofits: Many state associations of nonprofits offer resources and support specifically tailored to the needs of nonprofits in your region.


Additionally, consider reaching out to other non-profit organizations in your community. Connect with colleagues who have experience in board development and learn from their successes and challenges.


Engaging Your Board in Continuous Learning:


Board development is an ongoing process, not a one-time event. Here are some tips to encourage your board members to be active participants in their own continuous learning journey:

  • Offer Diverse Learning Opportunities: Utilize a variety of learning formats, including workshops, webinars, online courses, and peer learning sessions. This caters to different learning styles and preferences.

  • Focus on Practical Application: Ensure board development programs provide tangible takeaways and equip board members with skills they can directly apply in their roles.

  • Incorporate Board Member Feedback: Solicit feedback from your board members on their development needs and preferred learning formats. This ensures the program is relevant and engaging.

  • Recognize and Celebrate Learning Achievements: Acknowledge and celebrate board members' commitment to continuous learning. This reinforces the importance of personal development within your board culture.

  • Encourage Peer-to-Peer Learning: Foster a culture of knowledge sharing within your board. Encourage experienced board members to mentor newer members and facilitate peer-to-peer learning opportunities.


Building a Collaborative and Strategic Board Environment:


Beyond development programs, fostering a collaborative and strategic board environment is crucial. Here are some additional tips:

  • Clearly Defined Roles and Responsibilities: Ensure all board members understand their individual roles and responsibilities within the board structure. This fosters accountability and prevents confusion or duplication of efforts.

  • Effective Board Meetings: Organize focused and productive board meetings that allow for meaningful discussions, strategic decision-making, and progress updates. Utilize board meeting agendas effectively and encourage all board members to participate actively.

  • Open Communication and Transparency: Maintain an environment of open communication and transparency within your board. Encourage information sharing, constructive criticism, and healthy debate around critical issues.

  • Respectful Dialogue: Cultivate a culture of respect within the boardroom where everyone feels their voices are heard and valued. Promote constructive dialogue and prioritize collaborative problem-solving.

  • Diversity and Inclusion: Strive for a diverse and inclusive board that reflects the communities you serve. Board diversity fosters a broader range of perspectives, strengthens decision-making, and enhances the credibility of your organization.


Building a Future-Ready Board:


By investing in board development and fostering a collaborative and strategic board environment, you empower your board to tackle present challenges and guide your organization towards a thriving future. Encourage lifelong learning and embrace ongoing development as a cornerstone of effective board leadership.

Remember, a strong and engaged board is instrumental in propelling your nonprofit's mission forward. Invest in your board, empower them through continuous learning, and together, create a force for positive change in the communities you serve.


Board Development Resources:


This section provides additional resources specifically tailored to address some of the most common challenges faced by non-profit boards:

  • Board Recruitment: Finding and recruiting qualified board members is crucial. Here are some resources to guide you:

  • Idealist: https://www.idealist.org/ - Idealist offers resources on board recruitment, including sample board position descriptions and tips for attracting diverse candidates.

  • BoardNet: - BoardNet provides resources on board recruitment best practices, including guidance on competency-based recruiting and conducting effective board candidate interviews.

  • Board Performance Evaluation: Regularly evaluating your board's performance allows for continuous improvement. Here are some resources to get you started:

  • Nonprofit Quarterly: https://nonprofitquarterly.org/ - Nonprofit Quarterly publishes articles and resources on board self-assessment and evaluation.

  • GuideStar: https://www.guidestar.org/Default.htm?aspxerrorpath=/ViewEdoc.aspx - Guidestar offers resources and sample tools for conducting board self-assessments.

  • Board Technology: Technology can streamline board communication and collaboration. Here are some resources to explore:

  • BoardEffect: https://www.boardeffect.com/ - BoardEffect is a popular board management software solution that facilitates secure document sharing, online meetings, and communication tools specifically designed for non-profit boards.

  • Official Diligent Website: https://www.diligent.com/ - navigate to their "Boards" product page for more information on Diligent Boards. This will provide you with the most up-to-date details on features, pricing, and potential free trials.


Compensation for Board Members: Striking the Right Balance


Determining appropriate compensation for board members is a complex issue that requires careful consideration. Factors like the size and budget of your organization, the scope of board member responsibilities, and local market practices all play a role. This section provides valuable resources to guide you in navigating this process:

  • National Center for Non-Profit Law (NCCL): https://ncipl.org/overview/ - The NCCL offers a wealth of resources on non-profit board compensation, including legal considerations, best practices, and potential tax implications.

  • Regional Non-Profit Compensation & Benefits Surveys: While there isn't a single national survey, many regional non-profit associations conduct annual compensation and benefits surveys. These surveys provide crucial benchmarks for non-profit board compensation specific to your geographic location.


Finding Your Regional Survey:


To access the most relevant compensation data for your board, locate your state association of non-profits. Most states have dedicated associations advocating for and supporting non-profit organizations within their borders. You can find them through online searches or by visiting national non-profit resource websites like:


Once you've identified your regional association, visit their website and explore their resources section. Many associations publish their compensation and benefits survey reports publicly or offer them to members for a fee.

Remember: When utilizing compensation data, consider the report's publication date. Ideally, you want the most recent data available to ensure benchmarks are relevant to current trends.


By utilizing these resources and conducting thorough research, you can determine appropriate compensation for your board members, fostering a sense of appreciation for their valuable contributions while adhering to legal and ethical considerations.

Board development is a journey, not a destination. By utilizing the comprehensive resources provided in this section, fostering a culture of continuous learning, and nurturing a collaborative and strategic board environment, you can empower your board to become a driving force for your organization's success. Together, you can navigate challenges, seize opportunities, and propel your mission forward, making a lasting impact on the communities you serve.


Side Note: It's generally not advisable to discourage paying board members altogether for non-profit organizations. Here's why:

  • Expertise and Time Commitment: Effective board members contribute valuable expertise and dedicate significant time to strategic planning, fundraising, and organizational oversight. Offering compensation acknowledges this time commitment and the value they bring.

  • Attracting Qualified Candidates: Competitive compensation helps attract and retain qualified board members, especially those with specialized skills crucial for your organization's success.

  • Diversity and Inclusion: Offering compensation can broaden the pool of potential board members by enabling participation from those who might not otherwise be able to afford the time commitment without financial support.


However, there are certainly ways to structure board compensation effectively, and focusing on active roles is a great strategy. Here's a revised continuation that incorporates this approach:


While there's no one-size-fits-all answer, it's important to strike a balance when it comes to board compensation. Here's a common misconception to avoid:

  • Misconception: Paying board members automatically raises red flags.


Reality: The key is ensuring compensation aligns with the scope of responsibilities and adheres to best practices.


Here's a more effective approach:

  • Focus on Active Roles: Instead of a base salary for simply being a board member, consider offering compensation for specific roles and activities. This could include committee leadership positions, undertaking special projects, or attending crucial meetings outside of regular board schedules. This ensures compensation is directly tied to the contributions board members make.


By focusing on active roles and tying compensation to specific contributions, you can create a more transparent and accountable system. This can also help attract individuals who are genuinely passionate about your mission and willing to contribute their expertise actively.

Additional Tips:

  • Develop a Compensation Policy: Establish a clear and documented board compensation policy that outlines eligibility, compensation levels for different roles, and justification for these levels.

  • Benchmark Your Practices: Research compensation trends for non-profit boards in your region and size category. This helps ensure your compensation structure is competitive and attracts qualified candidates.

  • Seek Legal and Tax Guidance: Consult with legal and tax professionals to ensure your board compensation practices comply with relevant regulations and maximize tax benefits.


By following these recommendations, you can create a board compensation approach that acknowledges the valuable contributions of your board members, fosters a culture of engagement, and attracts talented individuals to propel your nonprofit's mission forward.


1 Comment


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