How to Get the Most out of Your Nonprofit Board Members

March 19, 2014

On Thursday March 6th, Northeastern’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society hosted a seminar entitled ‘How to Get the Most out of Your Nonprofit Board Members.’ The presentation included ways to leverage talents of specific board members in order to maximize effectiveness in serving the needs of the organization. Having served on multiple boards, Professor Rick Arrowood, J.D. had a unique perspective and focused his presentation on the legal duties and governance roles of board members, as well as recruitment and retention of board members.

Professor Arrowood discussed that the three main objectives of the board of directors of an organization should be to shape the mission, ensure leadership and resources, and monitor and improve performance. Board members should engage actively in strategic decision making that ensures resources are being correctly allocated and should choose leadership that enhances the reputation of the organization. Professor Arrowood discussed the importance of selecting the right board members and giving them a specific role on the board, while also noting that roles do not need to be hard and fast. Board members can serve on a committee in order to use their specific interest area to assist the organization in achieving its strategic plan. Committees may also serve as a way to recruit new board members, as committee members can show their talents in a specific interest area that may be useful for the organization.

Professor Arrowood emphasized that the culture of the board of directors is essential in ensuring its success. By developing roles and allowing everyone to express their opinions, the board avoids falling into groupthink and assuming that everyone is always on the same page. Professor Arrowod emphasized the importance of creating a professional and inclusive environment by having materials such as nametags and board manuals ready for meetings, as well as materials that remind members of the organization’s mission, such as pictures of the work the organization is doing. He also discussed how important it is to “never forget the board is a team” and to put emphasis on teambuilding and creating an environment that encourages sharing opinions. Most importantly, the culture should be one of recognition, reward, and respect. Thanking people in some sort of formal way and also putting the board on the “front lines” of what the organization is accomplishing are a couple ways this can be achieved.

Our next seminar topic will be ‘Financial Management for Nonprofit Organizations’ on April 17th. The event is free, but make sure to register here.