Six Steps to Success
for Super Board Engagement

Effectively engaging all board members is an ongoing process, but there are proven actions a nonprofit organization can take to set the stage for success. Luckily, these actions are not difficult or expensive to do.  Follow these six steps and I guarantee that your organization's board members will do better at doing their job! 

1. Conduct a Thoughtful and Considered
Recruitment Process

  • Assess the needs of the organization and recruit to fill those needs
  • Establish a clear process for how recruitment happens — document it — and ensure that all board and appropriate staff members understand that process

2. Establish and Communicate Clear Responsibilities and Expectations of Board Members

  • Be specific about what board members are expected to do
  • Write these down — create a job description that includes specific expectations
  • Share these with prospective board members before they are asked to join the board
  • Ensure that they are understood and agreed to by all current board members as well
  • Review annually and revise as necessary
  • Establish and follow a process for giving board members ongoing feedback on how they're doing on meeting expectations

3. Provide Orientation/Education
for New Board Members

Be sure to include:

  • How the board operates and makes decisions
  • Mission and programs of the organization
  • Finances
  • Fundraising and the board's role in it
  • Conflict of interest policies
  • Board buddy program

4. Establish Clear Understanding and Expectations About the Role of the Staff Versus the Role of the Board

  • Strive for a positive working relationship between board chair and chief executive; they are the leadership team
  • Generally speaking, board concentrates on the big picture issues, staff is responsible for day-to-day management  
  • Define role of staff members (other than chief executive) who interact with the board on committees; and define board's relationship to those staff members

5. Continually Develop the Board's
Leadership and Knowledge

  • Determine what training needs there are, and provide training during board meeting time
  • Offer opportunities for board members to receive training outside of your organization
  • Offer multiple opportunities for all board members to represent the organization — at meetings, receptions, as a speaker, etc.
  • Hold an annual board retreat
  • Engage the board in strategic planning

6. Engage Each Board Member in a Fundraising Role that Works for Him/Her

  • Develop clear expectations of the fundraising role, with specific goals defined for each board member
  • Offer multiple options on how a board member meets those expectations and goals
  • Provide support from staff to help each board member meet fundraising expectations
  • Provide training on fundraising on an annual basis, or more often if necessary


A couple of interesting websites:
For a very comprehensive version of a board training manual, called “Fundamentals of Effective Board Involvement” written by a Canadian organization,

For lots of information pertaining to boards, – some of the material is only available to paid members of the organization, but there are also lots of free resources.  

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Soto's Smart Solutions Newsletter


Spring 2012


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