How effec­tive are your board members?

There’s a big dif­fer­ence between the board and its board mem­bers. Remem­ber that the board does cor­po­rate gov­er­nance – and that only hap­pens when the board is togeth­er at meet­ings. Cor­po­rate gov­er­nance is a col­lec­tive act.

Written by
Simone Joyaux
April 22, 2014
Let’s now focus on board members.

So now let’s focus on board members, the individuals who make up the board.

All boards need to develop and adopt, and then enforce, performance expectations common to all board members. These obligations need to be reviewed during the screening interview. A potential member’s commitment should be secured prior to her or his nomination.

Performance expectations of you, the individual as a board member

Each board member of an organisation affirms the expectations outlined here and strives to perform accordingly. All board members should be treated the same when it comes to these expectations.

The expectations should be clearly explained during the recruitment process. You should only be accepted as a nominees or appointee after you have agreed to fulfil these expectations. By accepting nomination or appointment, you confirm that this board service is one of your top volunteer and giving commitments

You must believe in and act as an active advocate and ambassador for the values, mission and vision of the organisation.

Specific performance expectations common to all the members are:

1. You must believe in and act as an active advocate and ambassador for the values, mission and vision of the organisation.

2. You should work in a way that contributes to the effective operation of the board – and work with fellow board members and staff to assure that the board functions well. This includes, but is not necessarily limited to, the following.

  • Focusing on the good of the organisation, independent of personal agenda, self-interest, or the influence of others.Supporting the organisation’s policies and procedures for conducting business.
  • Maintaining confidentiality of committee, board and organisation work unless authorised otherwise.
  • Supporting board decisions once these are made.
  • Participating in professional development opportunities to strengthen corporate governance and advance the organisation’s effectiveness through learning. (Thanks to Cohort 20, Saint Mary’s University master’s degree in philanthropy and development.)
  • You should participate in the appraisal of your own performance and the performance of the board and its committees.
A board member must participate in her own performance appraisal.

3. You must attend board and committee meetings regularly. You should prepare for these meetings by reviewing materials and bringing these materials to the meetings. Use conversation as a core business practice and ask strategic questions and participate in dialogue.

4. Keep informed about the organisation, its issues and its connection to the community through active participation within the organisation and outreach outside the organisation.

5. Help support the charitable contributions operation of the organisation, specifically by,

  • Reaching into diverse communities and helping to identify and cultivate relationships to support the organisation as donors, volunteers and advocates.
  • Giving an annual financial contribution to the best of personal ability[1]. If the organisation launches a special campaign, give to that, too.
  • Participation in fund development by taking on various tasks tailored to your comfort and skills.
The authority of the chief executive officer and staff must always be respected.

6. When appropriate, you should use your personal and professional contacts and expertise[2] to benefit the organisation, without compromising ethics or trespassing on relationships.

7. Be available to serve as a committee/task force chair or member. Be a prepared and active participant.

8. The board should be informed of any potential conflicts of interest, whether real or perceived and you should abide by the decision of the board related to the situation.

9. The authority of the chief executive officer and staff must always be respected. You must adhere to the limitations of the board, its committees and individual board members.

10. If you are unable to fulfil these expectations you should agree to step down from the board.

[1] Some organisations make this type of statement: ‘Consider this organisation one of your top two to three charitable commitments.’ What do you think of that? Why would an organisation include that statement?

[2] Each candidate is invited to join the board in order to provide specific expertise to the governance process. The individual is informed of this need – and agrees – prior to nomination or appointment.

About the author: Simone Joyaux

Simone Joyaux

The late, great Simone P Joyaux, ACFRE was described as ‘one of the most thoughtful, inspirational, and provocative leaders in the philanthropic sector’. A consultant who specialised in fund development, strategic planning and board development, Simone guided countless organisations and professionals during her many years of consulting and coaching, teaching and writing. She taught in the graduate programme for philanthropy at Saint Mary’s University, in Minneapolis, USA. Her books included Keep Your Donors, Strategic Fund Development and Firing Lousy Board Members. As a volunteer, Simone founded the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island, a social justice organisation. Simone and her life partner bequeathed their entire estate to charity. You can find more of Simone’s writing in SOFII’s Simone Joyaux archive, here

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