Board members of non-profit organisations are all generally time poor and have competing demands on their attention and focus. However, if an individual accepts a position on a board, then being busy is no excuse for inadequate contribution – if you cannot contribute, don’t nominate. There are a few ways non-profits boards can collectively, and the directors individually, improve their effectiveness and therefore enhance the overall performance of the organisation and these include:
Clarity of role: the board has clearly defined and articulated its role and communicated this throughout the organisation; remove all confusion of “who is responsible for what”.
Focus on ends not means: the board is responsible for the overall direction of the business and enunciates this through the development and documentation of the strategic plan; the implementation of the plan is the responsibility of management and the business plan is the framework for the board to understand and review how this progressing;
Board procedures: documented, applied and updated annually based on a formal review. This should also include an annual agenda to plan the year, prioritise responsibilities and ensure the sequence of activities follows a logical pathway; and
Performance management: of the organisation, the Chief Executive and the board itself. Research tells us that a key reason for organisations not realising their potential is that the right plans are developed, however implementing the strategy and appropriately monitoring performance are the predominate reasons for underachievement. A board focus in this area will address this issue.
We are sure that there are many more ways for a board to improve its effectiveness. The first step is to understand the current status and then work from there. If the board work’s collectively and individually on the above 4 key areas, there should be an immediate and demonstrable improvement in board and organisational performance – and remember, governance excellence is journey not a destination.