The Strauss Blog

Ten Tips: How to be a Good, Efficient Board Member

As I sit here at my kitchen table writing this article, I have my children running around in the background, wanting to go outside, asking questions, wondering why we are stuck inside. I question myself all the time – am I making the right decision, is keeping them home this week before the school closure hurting them, am I teaching them what they need to learn? With the global pandemic happening outside these walls, I constantly wonder if I am being the best mom that I can be?

The same question goes for being a volunteer board member, am I being the best board member I can be? I sit on a local non-profit board; the last few weeks have been chaos, but we have been in constant contact regarding what is happening, setting up board meetings via video call, everyone giving their input and ideas on what we are going to do, suggestions, contacting members, etc.

The answer to both questions of, “Am I being the best mom” and “Am I the best board member that I can be?”, are the same – I am trying my best, working hard on it, reading and learning as much as I can, giving input and being as supportive as I can be.

I came across an article that listed key qualities of a good board member that I thought was perfect, they are listed below (i):

  • Passion – deep interest in the mission of your association.
  • Vision and Leadership — the ability to see the big picture and the courage to set direction to achieve the association’s mission.
  • Stewardship — the integrity to serve the interests and pursue the goals of your association, as well as the interests of the public.
  • Knowledge — knowledge of your members and operations and organizational and managerial expertise.
  • Diligence — dedication and commitment to fulfilling your association’s goals.

In a past article of mine, I discussed going back to the basics with regards to the role of the board of directors for an association. Whether you have been a volunteer on a board numerous times or this is your first time, it is important to know your role on the board, as well as how to succeed as a good board member. Having good, efficient board members is the key to successful board governance.

Below are ten tips on how to be a good, efficient board member:

  1. Know the mission of the association.

The mission statement should be used as the guide point for the board.

  1. Understand your role and responsibilities on the board.

Volunteer boards are legally responsible for the actions of the association. As a board member, it is important to make decisions based on the best interest of the association, not your personal interests.

  1. Make sure that you review all board and association policies and procedures.

The association policies are a guide for you, as a volunteer leader, to carry out the association’s work. It is important to ensure that policies and procedures are well-documented and followed.

  1. Actively participate in board meetings.

Be prepared in advance of all meetings by reviewing past meeting minutes, agenda and reports. During the meeting, have an open mind, ask for clarification if not clear, and volunteer to help with action items and follow up.

  1. Ask Questions and Listen.

Ask questions rather than accepting the existing circumstances. Sometimes it is good to be the “devil’s advocate”; it will get the other board members thinking. Ask simple, clear, thought-provoking questions. Just as important as asking questions is to listen to the other board members questions and opinions.

  1. Support the Board’s Final Decision.

Even if you voted against a motion or ‘no’ on an item, you must support the board’s final decision. This does not mean you have to pretend that you agree, but you must support the process and final decision. Once a decision is made, the board speaks with one voice.

  1. Understand the Importance of Financial Statements.

Make sure that you read the financial statements of the association. You may not be an accountant, however, it is important to have some understanding of the financial statements that will be presented to you.

  1. Participate in Professional Development.

Continuous improvement helps keep us sharp and engaged in our work, whether it is by reading a book, participating in an online webinar or an in-person training course. Last year, I took an online course on the Basics of Board Governance. Although I have worked with many boards, it was very helpful and a good reminder for me of what my role is on the board.

  1. Self-Assessment.

Regularly ask yourself how well you think you contribute to the board’s work and what you can do or may need to be a more effective board member.

  1. Help with Succession Planning.

It is very important to help with the board succession planning as you want to have a successful, effective board when you are a member at large.

 

I hope that the above ten tips will help you to be the best association board member you can be!

 

Check out these article from my colleagues with more information on association boards:

https://strauss.ca/preparing-a-new-board-to-perform/

https://strauss.ca/boost-your-associations-financial-knowledge/

https://strauss.ca/effective-delegation-for-association-leaders/

 

Information was found at https://behcr.com/volunteer-opportunities/board-of-directors/qualities-of-good-board-members/