7 mid-summer projects for more productive board work in the fall

On Monday of this week, I highlighted a list of spruce-up projects guaranteed to enhance your fundraising results come fall. But it’s not just development staff who can make hay while the sun shines. Board chairs and other governance leaders can do so as well.

The dog days of summer are a great time to prep for the year ahead. Give the following seven projects a try.  I guarantee you’ll experience more productive board work down the road.

1. Re-read meeting minutes, looking for repeat topics. What issues dominated boardroom conversations and consumed the bulk of the board’s time over the past year? If the board’s been stuck in a rut, determine to steer a new course in the months ahead. No organization has advanced by talk alone.

2. Map out a year-long learning agenda for the board. Few board members know everything they need to know to support their best service – not even those with many years of board experience. What issues are on the horizon for the organization? Where are the gaps in your board’s knowledge base and how will you fill them? There’s no shortage of resources available to you — articles, books, conferences, guest speakers, a retreat, webinars. Choose and use.

3. Check what’s budgeted for board development. If the dollars allocated are more meager than your learning agenda requires (see point 2), speak up now about the need for an adjustment. And don’t be embarrassed to do so – even if the budget’s tight (as budgets are for most nonprofits). Penny wise decisions are pound foolish if the result is to short-change the board’s ongoing development.

4. Organize orientation activities for smooth and speedy integration of new members. Remember, this isn’t a once-and-done event. Board member orientation is an ongoing, always in process, process (see item 2 above). For more on this topic, check out my video comments on the In Trust website. (If you’re not familiar with In Trust, it’s another marvelous source of resources for developing your board.)

5. Schedule conversations with members wrapping up their first year of board service. You should want to know how they’re feeling twelve months into their first term of service. Has board service deepened their commitment to the organization or dampened their enthusiasm? What do they hope to contribute to the board in their second year of service, and how can you help them succeed?

6. Link and learn. Locate, bookmark, and better yet, subscribe to online resources (blogs, e-newsletters, websites) that speak to challenges nonprofits and their boards. (If you haven’t already subscribed to Generous Matters, I hope you’ll do so now.)

7. Share it all with the CEO. And then solicit his or her feedback and suggestions. This is also the time to ask what the CEO needs from you and the rest of the board to ensure his or her best performance – and vice versa. Leadership is a shared venture.

Add your own mid-summer spruce up ideas to the list. The members of your board will thank you.

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