By Throne Gordon, Ph.D.
CEO, Beyond Story
AABLI alumna, Class #3
You may have learned it can be difficult to persuade board members to support your cause. Once they’re on board, it can be just as challenging to move them to change roles.
We’ve all heard that “a leopard doesn’t change its spots.” That’s also true of board members; they don’t always change positions. Yet it’s important to promote growth and avoid stagnation in your organization. That means board members should “mix it up” a bit.
Here are three ways you can encourage your board to keep the roles “rolling.”
- Create a list of To Do’s that includes the election of officers and appointments to roles on a regular basis.
Creating a defined time and task for change pushes boards to make it happen. Do you keep track of how long officers remain in their roles? Are there regular reporting procedures for how they are fulfilling their responsibilities? Is there someone in a support role who can fill in when an officer is not available? Ask these questions and get solid, clear answers. Outline a process for elections and committee appointments and stick to it. Establish a clear time frame for when it is supposed to happen, and do it! Even if the positions remain with the same people, it’s important to go through the process to make sure the mechanism of change is in place when you need it.
- Keep your books in order.
Having a clearly outlined set of policies and procedures is one thing, but you should also have clear bylaws, treasurer reports and executive reports. When these reports are kept up, board members tend to be more comfortable with the idea of changing roles. Make sure you have a record of your meetings and all the notes from the meetings. Any official documents should be updated annually. Secretary reports and notes should be kept in a binder or online portal with easy access. Your treasurer should have his or her books readily available. Good books create good boards.
- Consider a built-in succession plan.
Many organizations build change into their structures and roles. This is a great way to make certain that board members change roles on a regular basis. Term limits and a process for moving forward help generate new ideas and fresh perspectives. The president’s role can be filled by the vice president after a certain amount of time; the vice president’s role is assumed by the treasurer, and so on. “Rolling up” is an effective change mechanism.
Keeping a board energized and aware of all the roles each member can play is the job of the executive director and each board member. It’s not an easy task: change is the one thing that can make most people uncomfortable. But it’s also the thing that keeps our organizations vibrant and financially stable. Get used to understanding and accepting the changes necessary for board roles.
For more information on board governance, growth or nonprofit sustainability, visit me at www.drthyonne.com
This blog is not written by aabli.org or The African American Board Leadership Institute. The author is solely responsible for the content.