Board Expectations — a Two-Way Street

October 14, 2022

Having the right board members is a one ingredient towards a recipe for success. Each time an organization recruits new board members, it is (hopefully) looking at a skills matrix and deciding what areas of expertise still need fleshing out on the board. Usually there is an interview process, where some veteran board members and professional staff try to determine if the candidate is a fit for the organization. It’s not unlike a job interview. But, just as in a job interview, it should be a two-way street.

The Interview

As mentioned above, the interview to fill a board position should be a time for the interviewers (board and/or staff members) to ask questions of the candidate. Let’s not, however, be under the false assumption that the candidate themselves are not interviewing (at least informally) the organization to which they will be associated. It is best to conduct the interview as a two-way street, meaning that it is just as important for the interviewee to ask probing questions as it is for the interviewer.

Two-Way Expectations

In many of my former postings, I implemented a Board Expectation agreement/contract. In it, there were a bunch of expectations from the organization laid out that the board member was to fulfill. They may have included:

  • attendance at board meetings (they must attend a minimum of X% of meetings)
  • attendance at stewardship events
  • donating to the organization
  • being an advocate for the organization
  • making thank you calls
  • etc.

I have attached a sample expectation form here.

BUT, the flip side of that agreement/contract lays out what the organization must do to support the board member in their service. These points may have included:

  • sending out board packages at least a week in advance
  • keeping the board notified regularly
  • ## of one-on-one meetings with the CEO/Executive Director/Board Chair as a check in
  • transparency
  • etc.

Each time a new board cohort enters your organization is a time to reexamine your onboarding practices. Ensuring fit is just the beginning of a process. I have found throughout the years that the more time that is invested in the onboarding, the more successful (and fruitful) the tenure of that board member will be.