Board members are “mission critical” especially in the life of small nonprofit organizations. By paying close attention and understanding important characteristics of volunteer leadership, the organization will be positioned for long-term success. Two truly distinctive differences for the small shop board are the composition of the board and the role it plays.
Board composition: Assembling the right group of volunteer leaders is essential to fundraising success. Those who work together to serve on boards have the potential to become the life blood of the organization. It is essential that the partners who we invite to join our boards be prepared to play the right role.
- Passion: Meeting at least every other month, board members need to have a strong passion for the mission and values of the organization, as they act as important advocates and ambassadors.
- Generosity: Board members are an extension of its development team to identify new prospects and solicit gifts, as well as to financially participate themselves. Philanthropy is often the main source of revenue in a small organization, thus it “takes a village” of committed and generous board members to make it all happen.
- Demographics: Members often serve on at least two committees; the governance committee is of important note as they develop the matrix of membership characteristics and talent needed. The governance committee also monitors membership rotation, roles, and responsibilities to keep the organization thriving and infused with fresh new perspectives.
Governance and management: In a small nonprofit, the board plays an integral role in its governance and management as compared to a larger institution or organization. It is important to define that role appropriately and prepare members for success.
- Guidance: Board members play a much more active role in strategic decision making, including core programs and staffing decisions and reviews.
- Expertise: Smaller nonprofits look to the expertise of their boards for critical advice and skills around areas such as legal, finance, technical, and human resources.
Further points to consider: Identifying potential members who have the expertise sought and the large amount of time required to support a smaller organization is often noted as one of the biggest challenges. Implementing education and training for members on important roles and rules is critical, as this is often a first-time board placement for many. Remember to build continual momentum by recognizing and tying your members’ individual and collective contributions back to the overall growth of your organization’s mission. A celebrated board is a happy and productive one.
For more information on developing strategies for managing your small development shop and engaging your board, contact Lani McCollar. BWF can also assist with board training, leadership coaching, and other talent management strategies. For more information, contact us.