A Two-Step Exercise for Designing Your Best Board
February 23, 2015
"If we could design the perfect board for our organization, what skills and qualities would we look for in prospective board members?"
Skills would include program knowledge and specific expertise in areas such as marketing, fundraising, consensus-building, finance/accounting, legal, and so on.
Qualities would cover more intangible – but no less important – factors such as firsthand knowledge of the organization, sense of humor, ability to function as a member of a team, listening skills, experience on other boards, and diversity profile (i.e., race, gender, age, socioeconomic status, and sexual orientation.)
Of course, one of the most important criterion for a board member is passion for and commitment to the organization’s mission.
Brainstorm your list with the full board. Think as broadly as possible. With a bit of effort, most groups can generate twenty-five to thirty characteristics they would love to incorporate into their ideal board.
After you've created the list, you'll want to ask: How does our current board compare to our ideal? What key skills and qualities are already represented on the board? Where do we need help? And how do we recruit a different mix of board members to fill the gaps we've identified?
Next, review the list with key staff and board members and assign a collective grade to each item.
You can also use this exercise as a self-evaluation tool. Ask each board member to rate himself or herself against the criteria on the list, using the same scoring system. Doing so will help your board members think more creatively about what they bring (or don't bring) to the table, and will provide them with an opportunity to work with – or remove – the less effective members of your board.
Andy Robinson is a Vermont-based trainer, consultant, and author. To hear more tips and techniques for building a better board, register for Andy's webinar series, "Build Your Best Board," March 4, 11, and 18, from 1:00-2:30 p.m. ET.