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5 tips for an effective not-for-profit board

A recent survey of nearly 1,000 nonprofit directors revealed that gaps in not-for-profit board performance fundamentally impact the success of the organization. Problems range from lack of true engagement by board members to their failure to fulfill important fiduciary duties. Do these sound familiar?  Don’t worry. We are here to help you resolve these issues and set your board up to be as efficient as ever.

To avoid these shortcomings, consider the following best practices:

Set clear expectations up front. Do your incoming board members have a thorough understanding of what is expected of them? And do they understand what meeting those expectations will involve? Have they met key players and learned about relevant policies and procedures? We recommend developing a comprehensive onboarding process that clearly defines board responsibilities, including the details they need to know to hit the ground running.

Mandate committee participation. Committees are where the work is done, so it is a good idea to get all members involved at this level. Let them indicate their preferences based on their interests and experience to optimize engagement and effectiveness.

Select a chair capable of setting the tone and holding members accountable for meeting expectations. Dealing with volunteer board members who are often also top donors is a delicate balance. Many may have strong qualifications and will be donating significant time and resources. But remember, the chair role requires strong people management skills and a deep business acumen to provide leadership for the organization. The chair will need to maintain strong, productive relationships with management and fellow board members while being able to deliver tough messages and motivate others to bring their best to the organization.

Commit to having board members with diverse backgrounds and experiences. We recommend identifying key skills to pursue when recruiting board members (e.g., legal, financial, human resources, marketing, fundraising and community connections) to ensure all needs are covered. Beyond skill diversity, different backgrounds and experiences will bring wider-ranging perspectives to the table and set the stage for greater success.

Set term limits.  Having new faces and fresh perspectives are key to your board’s success. New members help shake things up. Still want to keep former board members engaged? It is a bonus if you can tap into their vast knowledge and let’s face it, their financial contributions. Why not form a legacy committee that provides special recognition to past board members while maintaining their ties to the organization?

To read the complete article posted on October 27 from AICPA Insights, please click here.  Or, if you have questions about the performance of your nonprofit board, please contact a Dugan & Lopatka professional at (630) 665-4440 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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