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10 attributes of an excellent board

by The NonProfit Times - September 19, 2012

The role of good governance is to keep a board on the right track. If your organization has a solid plan for this, your board should be successful for many years to come.

Yet that’s only one aspect of a truly excellent board of directors.

In their book “Good Governance for Nonprofits,” Fredric L. Laughlin and Robert C. Andringa wrote that there are 10 attributes that make a board successful. According to the authors, an excellent board commits to:

  • Work with the CEO so that the board and he do not compete. Rather they serve as separate, complementary roles and function as partners in a trust relationship.
  • Adopt a clear mission, which it supplements with the values and strategies to accomplish it.
  • Select a CEO who is equipped to advance the mission within board-established policy parameters.
  • Elect a chair who is able and willing to manage the board and to maintain the integrity of the structure and process that the whole board has determined is best, leaving management to the CEO.
  • Define the criteria for new members; then select, orient, train, evaluate, and reward board service for those who give their time, talent, and treasure.
  • Govern through policies documented in a well-organized Board Policies Manual (BPM) of 15-20 pages, which is constantly updated as the board learns and adjusts to changing internal and external factors.
  • Form committees that speak to the board, not for the board.
  • Insist on great meetings, which include good staff material in advance, time for social interaction and learning, and agendas that are focused on improving the BPM.
  • Be accountable through legal, financial, and program audits.
  • Pursue excellence by keeping board members forward-looking and focused on outcomes/results, on disciplining themselves, and on effectual change so that they recognize, appreciate, and enjoy the process of governance.

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