Summary: There is no doubt that serving as a committee chair comes with significant board leadership and decision-making tasks. However, it is not just a chairperson’s responsibility to use their power for getting things done, but it is also their responsibility to oversee the board committee members and senior management team.
In holding such a notable role as board chair, it is worth taking a step back to reflect or plan when you are preparing for your role, selecting executive directors, or trying to support your organization. Today’s podcast episode will discuss how to ensure a strong chair through a strategic plan, and help prepare for a strong future. Board development is not something that happens overnight, but when given proper attention can help achieve a mission in the most effective way possible.
Today’s Podcast is State of Board Chairs: Preparing, Selecting, Supporting Board Chairs
Welcome, everyone. My name is Stephen Halasnik and I am CoFounder and Managing Partner of Financing Solutions. Financing Solutions is the leading provider of Lines of Credit to nonprofits. Our line of credit program is easy, fast, inexpensive, and costs nothing until used, making it a great cash backup plan. If you would like to learn more about the program, please visit us at nonprofitmbapodcast.com and if you decide to apply today, we will even give you a $250 credit on file, or feel free to give us a call at 862-207-4118.
Today, I am excited to be speaking with Mike Burns from BWB Solutions.
Mike has over 20 years as a nonprofit manager. Since 1994 Mike has been a partner and organizational development consultant in BWB Solutions. His work focuses on strategic and business planning, nonprofit governance, and helping nonprofits assess their readiness for mergers. His blog, Nonprofit Board Crisis, highlights nonprofit governance matters. As a central research team member, he recently completed two national surveys on the roles, relationships, and preparation of nonprofit board chairs.
Mike has a B.S. in business administration from Marquette University; a master’s degree in nonprofit management with a focus on governance from Lesley College; and, a graduate certificate in nonprofit marketing management from the University of Hartford.
Mike, Welcome to the Nonprofit MBA podcast
Step to Ensuring a Successful Chair and Board
Often we see folks becoming the board chairmen through a number of different situations. Oftentimes, these situations were unintentional in which the individual never planned on becoming the chair in the first place, but ended up in that position. As a result of this, individuals who become board chairmen may lack the leadership skills needed for success.
In order to resolve this issue, consider seeking out someone who has been a board chairman for a long time for mentorship. As a new chairman, sitting in on a non-profits board meeting may benefit you in ways that allow you to quickly learn the ropes. Finding this type of helpful mentorship can be quite challenging, but there are programs out there to assist you in these positions. Having a mentor will help you in learning what a successful strategic partnership would look like, learn about onboarding, how to construct board meeting agendas, form partnerships with other chief executives, have informed action, learn about board recruitment and many other important topics. Sitting in on boardrooms and committee meetings will allow you to quickly leverage your current skill set.
Furthermore, being able to prepare for the next incoming board chairmen is crucial for ensuring the future success of your organization. An organization that is actively preparing for the future will want to set a framework so when the next board chairmen comes in, the learning curve won’t be so hard. Having an extensive framework will also allow board directors to adapt to a new chairman, and will allow for a seamless transition instead of a rocky one.
In addition to having a proper framework, succession planning within your non-profit or organization will help ensure that the members of the future will be aligned with the ultimate mission of the organization. For example, a sophisticated organization may initially hire board members for a lower position who they can also see potential in for growth as a chairperson. This would require very tedious selection but would help prevent downfalls later on if everyone within the organization had a shared vision and leadership skills from the get-go.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion have been changing the way board members have been recruited within organizations and nonprofits for the better. It is important to create a board composition of members who can relate to people that mission targets. Historically, it has not always been this way and boards have quite often been made up of people who can not personally relate to the target group. Board recruiters have been putting a heavy emphasis on DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) and have been changing the composition when considering new board members.
In practice, it is the role of the board to go out and participate in the recruitment of members, but in reality, a lot of this is done by executive directors. While the executives surely may be skilled to find and select board members, it may not always be the most effective way to meet all the bylaws for selecting members.
As Mike Burns stresses, having strong board governance is key. The governance committee of an organization will help ensure that members of the board are working effectively and with strategic direction. A good governance committee should also be participating in the selection process by giving board members criteria in order to select the best-fit person to be a chair member within an organization. A corporate governance committee may choose to create a set of bylaws to ensure DEI within the organization or non-profit. They may also add additional criteria such as seeking individuals who will help bring innovation, challenge ideas, and who ideally have industry experience.
Supporting Board Chairs
Having the right chairperson and effective board both play a large role in having a successful organization. During COVID-19, many nonprofits and small organizations have shared a common struggle of switching to virtual meetings of the board, where it may be harder to maintain engagement and enthusiasm.
During these times, it is especially crucial as a board chair to ensure that your current board members feel as though their voices are heard. As a board chair, being able to listen and consider board needs is crucial. An environment that allows members to feel as though they have a purpose and feel as though their voice matters in board discussions is a way to maintain effective operations. This also helps aid in creating a culture that makes individual board members feel more welcomed and engaged as part of the community. Keeping proper job descriptions such as a spokesperson, nominating committee, audit committee, advocacy member, ex-officio, or board leader may allow individuals to feel their contributions more properly too. In addition to this, allowing members to complete self-assessment can allow them to evaluate their skills and evaluate what is going well, and where improvement can be made.
The board chair serves as the facilitator of the board directors and must accomplish their fiduciary duties through a perspective that will always keep their member’s best interest in mind while overseeing committee work. This in turn will allow all board members to never feel as though they are a burden, but allows members to feel as though their skills are being used and appreciated.
Maintaining good policies and procedures as well as strategic planning will allow any organization or non-profit to keep achieving their mission, as well as ensuring their board members are motivated. Consider sharing mission moments in full board meetings, which allows members to want to be part of the community and keep the momentum.
As a chairperson, it is also important to be able to have painful conversations, manage meetings, figure out how frequently meetings need to be held, and be able to bring in effective tools to accomplish the mission. For example, it can be extremely helpful to stay on track by using finance and program dashboards which help track financial reports, financial statements, annual budgets, and understand the extent to which a mission is being achieved.
Incorporating these tools can serve as a catalyst and make sure that your board of directors is engaged especially during a pandemic. If there needs to be improvement within the organization consider ad hoc committees, also called task forces, who can help fix issues at stake. Ad hoc committees are different from standing committees, and usually, help work on projects having to do with stakeholders or fundraising. Lastly, having performance evaluations can allow board members to feel that their voices are being heard, ensure members do not exceed term limits, avoid conflicts of interest, and ensure board service is upheld.
I would like to thank so very much Mike Burns from BWB Solutions. If you like today’s podcast, please feel free to share it with a friend and also subscribe to your favorite podcasting app. If you liked today’s podcast please give us a review on your podcasting app to help us get the word out, and of course, if you are looking for a Line of Credit for your nonprofit, you can call us at 862-207-4118 or visit our website at www.nonprofitmbapodcast.com. If anyone wants to get in touch with Mike, you can find him at firstname.lastname@example.org, 203-508-1462, and of course bwbsolutions.com .
Thank you all for making the world a better place
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