9 steps to a build a board of directors

AgriNews photos/Erica Quinlan Board members from various organizations participate in the AgrIInstitute training program.

INDIANAPOLIS — Today’s nonprofit boards need members that are knowledgeable, skilled and focused.

To help volunteers to lead their organizations, AgrIInstitute hosted a board of directors training session. Board members from agricultural and non-ag groups alike attended.

Dave Sternberg, partner at Loring, Sternberg and Associates and senior governance associate at Board Source, was the keynote speaker.

“How do we get board members ready to participate at the highest level?,” he asked. “At new member orientations, they’ll often direct you to the committee that might be ideal for your skill set. They’ll assign you a board buddy to quickly acclimate you to what’s going on.

“It’s important to get people engaged.”

Education also is crucial for board members, Sternberg said. Topics for education include fundraising, current trends in the sector and impacts of federal legislation.

“What they need to know and understand in order to be an effective board member is what you want to educate them about,” Sternberg said. “Some of these things are ten minute drops of education before a board meeting starts.”

Sternberg shared nine steps to build a successful board of directors.

Building A Board

Step 1: Identify board needs, such as skills, knowledge and connections needed to implement a strategic plan. Find out who has the needed characteristics.

Step 2: Cultivate potential board members. Get them interested in your organization and keep them informed.

Step 3: Recruit prospects. Describe why a prospective member is wanted and needed. Explain expectations and responsibilities of board members, and don’t minimize requirements. Invite questions and elicit their interest.

Step 4: Orient new board members to the organization. Explain program history, bylaws, pressing issues, finances, facilities and other issues. To the board, provide recent minutes, committee lists, board member responsibilities, and a list of board members and key staff.

Step 5: Engage all board members. Discover their interests and availability. Involve them in committees or task forces. Solicit feedback. Hold everyone accountable, and show appreciation for a job well done.

Step 6: Educate the board. Provide information concerning your mission area. Promote exploration of issues facing the organization. Don’t hide difficulties.

Step 7: Rotate board members. Establish and use term limits.

Step 8: Evaluate the board and individuals. Engage the board in assessing its own performance. Identify ways to improve, and encourage self-assessments.

Step 9: Celebrate by recognizing victories and progress. Appreciate individual contributions to the board, organization and community

AgrIInstitute is a leadership development program that includes a two-year leadership certificate program.

“We want to advance leadership in the agriculture industry, but not everyone can do the two-year program,” said Beth Archer, executive director of the institute. “The Thought Leader program and board of director training are ways to reach new people and organizations.

“We can being in experts like Dave, and they get an opportunity to network. At the end of the day, everyone learns something new.”

Learn more at www.agriinstitute.org.

Erica Quinlan can be reached at 317-726-5391, ext. 4, or equinlan@agrinews-pubs.com. Follow her on Twitter at: @AgNews_Quinlan.

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