Guidelines For Board Members

An executive director was bemoaning the executive committee’s decision to develop guidelines for board engagement.

He didn’t have to tell me that the board already had sufficient guidelines in its trusteeship letter of agreement.

Typically, guidelines for board engagement are separate from policies governing conflict of interest, ethics, and matters of fiduciary responsibility. Board engagement deals less with “what you are required” to do and more of “what you ought to do.”

Of course, board engagement refers to attendance at, preparation for, and participation during, meetings; however, other than attendance, measuring these may prove difficult.

An engaged board should do more than just show up and fulfill its fiduciary responsibilities.  Members need to be knowledgeable about the mission, purpose, outcomes, successes and challenges of the organization.

They should participate fully in the nomination process, board and CEO evaluations and succession planning.

They should raise the profile by publicly advocating for the organization and share positive information about the work of the organization, its administrators, staff, and the board itself.

Board members need to contribute annually to the annual fund or operating expenses of the organization, and any capital or comprehensive campaign, as well as help to raise philanthropic funds by introducing others to the mission and impact.

Major special events should also be supported board members through attendance, sponsorship and bringing others into the fold.

This particular executive director was troubled by the board’s enthusiastic embrace of one special event, the amount of attention it drew, the time and involvement of a number of board members and the relatively small return on the investment of number of resources.

This event was small time compared to the capital campaign underway.

New guidelines for board members focused on one small aspect of board responsibilities should be avoided and members need to be reminded of how these activities fit in the overall realm of a board member’s role.

What other guidelines would you add to this list?