The behavior and practices of a board of directors sets the tone for the organization. An effective board supports positive operations and programmatic outcomes. Practicing effective governance can help secure the confidence of your staff and stakeholders and position your organization to respond to unexpected challenges and opportunities.
But what exactly constitutes good governance? What steps can your organization take to make sure that your board instills and supports the practices of good governance?
Key Steps to Good Governance
Regardless of how one board may differ from another, the list of habits below could help your board apply habits for improving governance.
Recruit Intentionally for Diverse Representation
Determine the skills, voices, and perspectives for your board. These range from community and geographic representation to skills like financial and legal expertise.
Conduct Thorough Onboarding
Don’t assume that any new board member, even someone who’s been a volunteer or donor with your organization for years, understands the intricacies of your operations. Provide easily digestible information on programs, policies, people, and strategy.
Remember that onboarding involves not just information, but relationships. It’s important to facilitate information sharing and mentorship between experienced members and new members of the board.
Invest in Continued Board Education
As board members cycle on and off, key knowledge can be lost. On a diverse board, people come to the table with differing expertise. Provide regular training in areas that are critical to your operations—including governance and finance—which helps the board to approach issues from the same baseline knowledge.
Update Policies and Procedures Regularly
Review board policies every two to three years for alignment with regulations and your current operations. Think of policies as a means to establishing a legacy of good governance for future boards and staff. This also can help your board stay aware of the policies and how they are accountable for them.
Hone Your Decision-Making Skills
Learn how to make decisions within your board’s group dynamic. What information does each board member need? How do individuals exert influence and handle conflict? What are the group norms?
Honor the Partnership Between Board and Staff
Boards should focus on strategy and outcomes, leaving the daily operations to staff. Board members with operational expertise can be highly valuable. Be thoughtful and set clear expectations when you bring them in for guidance so that you don’t end up handing the key of the operations to them, resulting in blurred lines.
Evaluate Outcomes Regularly
Your organization should have a strategic plan that’s updated every three to five years. The board should be deeply involved in reviewing the mission, vision, and values; and setting goals.
To keep the board focused on strategy and policy, set a strategic plan check-in at each board meeting. Connect decisions and agenda items to your strategic plan’s goal areas or the mission. Develop performance measures to communicate your targets and progress toward outcomes.
Conduct an Annual Self-evaluation
Take a step back each year to assess the board’s accomplishments, behaviors, and opportunities for improvement. This can be as simple as a survey or a discussion in a dedicated meeting. An independent evaluation every few years can also identify opportunities to improve.
We’re Here to Help
For guidance on evaluating and improving board governance, contact your Moss Adams professional. You can also visit our Environmental, Social, and Governance Services page for additional resources.