Alumni, Boards & Communities

The ABC's to building your base

Providing 21st century engagement strategies for the progressive organization

What is your expectation for your board...


Have you ever asked yourself this question?


Managing a board is usually part of a multi-faceted role that includes event management, fundraising, engagement & you name it. Due to the variety of competing priorities setting expectations for your board can be one of the things that falls to the wayside. In replacement of setting expectations we might do other things such as annual board meetings where we share school updates or share fundraising goals. We may even give our boards small projects throughout the year based on our time and capacity and what we think they would “enjoy”. In a lot of cases we share information with the board but don’t often set expectations as to what they are to do with that information.


It can even be the case in which we do not know whether or not to determine our board active or inactive, successful or unsuccessful because we have never set clear expectations on which to judge their participation and support. When we look at the difficulty and let’s be honest sometimes the frustration we have with our overseer, trustee, non-profit or professional boards much of the issue lies with expectations. Let’s break this apart.

There are two core ways individuals come onto your board and each comes with its own context


1) Honorary/ Nomination – For the majority of cases most board members are brought in as part of a stewardship process.

a. As an honorary position the member will be looking to you to explain, direct and inform them of their role at all times. Yes, at all times. Since an honorary role represents prestige there is an implicit understanding that they will receive a high level of stewardship given that they were requested to hold a specific position. That stewardship requires that the staff person is continuously and considerably available to the member whenever there is a need.


2) Application- Members go through a formal application process which includes some type of statement of interest, resume and references/recommendations.

a. In an application setting the member is more apt to assume a certain level of work and though they are going to look to you for guidance they will be more prepared to take their own initiative. Though they will still feel as though it is an honor to be part of the board they will see the relationship with staff as much more of a give/get and will engage in a manner that is much more reflective of a colleague where they will request the staff person’s support and assistance but will be more understanding of competing priorities.


No matter what the context is here are some quick tips you can use to set expectations in either setting:


1) Share expectation number 1 always & often- The number one expectation of any and all board members is that they take ownership of their role and come to you with suggestions and ideas. This should become part of your board culture.


2) Maintain accountability through regular check points at which you can actively ask for ideas, thoughts and feedback regularly. (Every 3 to 4 months works well)


3) Empower your committee chairs to maintain regularly scheduled meetings and take attendance which will allow them to plan and act efficiently and effectively


4) Clarify communication pathways for various type of communication ( i.e. if someone has an idea do they tell you or their committee chair or both or one first, why/how/when do they do this)


5) Focus on outcomes- It is not enough to get meeting minutes. What did all the time and good will efforts add up to?