What Makes a Strong Non-Profit Board

Have you ever been in a board of directors meeting where everything is just humming along?

The work gets done and everyone has a good time doing it. What is it that makes for a high-performance team like this? How can you enhance your board’s functioning?

Strong Board Culture

One of the elements of a high-performance team is that hard-to-pin-down quality of “culture”. It’s a combination of the formal and informal rules, the agreements and traditions that develop over time. It’s the spirit of the group and the character of its interactions.

Here are a few indicators of strong board culture:

    • Members listen attentively and respectfully to one another.
    • The board encourages and supports creativity and innovative suggestions.
    • Members focus on the interests of the organization, rather than their own personal agendas. Everyone holds to a clear vision that inspires the members to work together with enthusiasm and commitment.

A culture like this keeps the board collegial, productive and focused on its mission. It also makes deliberation and decision making easier. Such a board will attract and retain strong board members and talented executives.

Enhancing Board Culture

So how do you improve or enhance the culture of your board of directors? Here are a few strategies to consider:

    • Celebrate successes.
    • Hold an annual retreat with getting-to-know-you and bonding exercises.
    • Set aside social time specifically for board members.
    • Discuss and make clear the linkage between board priorities and organizational goals.
    • Find ways to foster honest communication between board members.
    • Find ways to encourage board members’ learning, growth and performance in relation to the organization’s mission and the work of the board.
    • Discuss how to appropriately balance short-term and long-term needs.

What is Your Experience?

How do you help your board develop a strong, positive working culture? What strategies or practices have you found particularly helpful? Whenever people come together to work in a group, there are invariably bumps in the road. What strategies, principles or practices have you found that get your board through the rough spots? Share your thoughts in the comments below. We’d love to hear what you’re learning.

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