Last week we ran the first part of Andy’s Q&A with consultant Mazarine Treyz, who posed several challenging questions about building and training effective boards.
This week, we’re sharing the rest of their conversation. Enjoy!
Finding great board members
Mazarine: How can you find good board members? What’s a way to get the BEST people on your board?
Andy: First, figure out what gaps you’re trying to fill on the board.
You can work with a standard board matrix — lawyer, accountant, rich person — but I don’t find those very helpful. It’s better for current board and senior staff to identify specific qualities, skills, and representation they want on the board.
Once you’ve identified the gaps, start recruiting from people who’ve already shown commitment to the organization: your donors and volunteers. Use committees and other tools to bring volunteers in and move them up. Get to know — personally — your most generous and loyal donors.
I’m amazed at how many nonprofits recruit complete strangers, who have no experience with the organization, and parachute them into leadership positions.
After they’re trained, who follows up with board members?
Mazarine: How can you help staff follow up with boards after your training, to help them be better ambassadors?
Andy: When training mixed groups of staff and board, I sometimes sort them into separate rooms, give them flip charts and markers, and have them brainstorm what they expect from the other group around fundraising – staff expectations of board, and board expectations of staff.
Then I bring the groups together to compare notes. Sometimes these align. Often they don’t, which spurs conversation. Are these expectations realistic?
The answer to your question should be pretty well addressed in “Board expectations of staff.”
If we have enough people, I sometimes organize a third break-out group: What the board expects of itself regarding fundraising. I hope one of those expectations is peer accountability.
In the best possible world, it’s the work of board leaders to follow up with their peers, rather than relying exclusively on staff.
A graceful exit – especially for unproductive board members
Mazarine: How can you help a board member leave gracefully?
Andy: Another great question! Two responses:
1. Term limits. Mandatory turnover. Put it in the bylaws.
If someone is irreplaceable, she or he can continue to be involved, but not as a member of the governing board. After a year or two, you can invite her back on the board.
2. An emeritus or honorary or advisory board, where honored board members go. Give them a project or two, but not governance.
To make this work, the advisory board has to be perceived as a place of honor, rather than time-out for troublemakers. Start by populating it by well-loved, well-respected trustees who are ready to step away.
Mazarine: Thank you so much, Andy!
Andy: Thoughtful questions, fun conversation. Thank you.