Key Steps to Making Board Work Meaningful

By Karen Lehman June 20, 2023

No matter whom I talk to, I hear the same thing over and over, it is very hard to recruit good board members to serve on our board of directors. Why is that? I know we are experiencing an overall reduction in board volunteerism, but I also think it has to do with a personal sense of value for time being committed to the volunteer engagement. People want to be part of ministries where they can make a difference; to know that their work actually makes an impact on the life of persons being served and to feel a sense of passion for the mission and vision.

Board members want their time to be meaningful and they want to feel their input and expertise can make a difference for the organization.  Everyone is busy and balancing multiple priorities.  Board members may be attracted to your mission and have an interest in serving, but if they think their time is not being used effectively and efficiently, you will lose them.  This is especially true for those below the baby boomer generation who are balancing many more priorities than those who may be retired.  But no matter which stage of life, board members want to feel their time is valued.

What can you do to make sure your board is operating at a level to attract quality board members and then use their time wisely?  One of the most important ways is to look at the board’s workload.  The board meeting agenda should be structured in a way that allows for key decisions to be made, and generative time for the board to consider what’s around the next corner.  In order to have an agenda that allows for this, the bulk of the work has to be done in a committee or task force structure.

A board committee can look at the details on behalf of the whole board, and narrow down to the most important task, ratio, or action item required at the full board level.  Committees can more effectively consider the details of finances, board development and recruitment, quality monitoring, and other board responsibilities allowing more full board time on strategy and vision.

“According to BoardSource, the average number of standing committees is 4.1.  If that sounds like too many committees, the two most important committees are finance and governance - so start there! ”

According to BoardSource, the average number of standing committees is 4.1.  If that sounds like too many committees, the two most important committees are finance and governance – so start there!  Some organizations combine governance and executive committees, or they assign the executive committee the sole responsibility for the CEO relationship (compensation, assessment, etc.), informing the whole board at appropriate and regular intervals.  Committees are best structured based on your organization’s size and board culture.

When implementing a new committee or task force, it is important to have a clear job description, structure, and goals.  A task force or committee developed for a specific purpose needs to know when the work is done and the committee can be dissolved.

A great way to introduce people to your organization is to invite them to serve on a committee.  Few boards possess all the necessary skills and expertise, so inviting potential board members or other volunteers with specific contacts, knowledge, or skills to serve on a committee or task force can support board succession planning.  This gives both the board and the organization a way to prepare individuals for transitioning into a board member role.

Consider how your board might benefit from implementing new committee structures to gain greater efficiency, engagement, and effectiveness to ultimately increase your ability to recruit good volunteer board members.  Fostering commitment and effective leadership is everyone’s responsibility and brings meaning to the Board’s work.