Board Building Worst Practices

Board Building Worst Practices

The latest in our series of “worst practices” posts, below is a list of behaviors to avoid while building your nonprofit board. The board members are the “owners” of the nonprofit so you want to pick them carefully. Undoing the damage is way harder than finding the right people the first time!


·      Recruiting board members mostly from your own social circle. This can lead to homogeneity and not bringing on the right diversity of talent and experience. 

·      Not thinking strategically about what skills you need on the board in order to be a sophisticated professional organization (Attorney, HR expert, CPA)

·      Failing to provide a good orientation for new board members. Board members routinely say they feel unprepared because they weren’t onboarded appropriately.

·      Failing to appreciate and recognize board members throughout the year. If you want to retain the best, acknowledge them.

·      Failing to make board service a positive social and professional experience. Being a board member is a real sacrifice. Make it fun and make it enjoyable.

·      Failing to notify board members of their obligations in regard to fundraising, attendance, and committee work

·      Failing to inquire about conflicts of interest or self-dealing. Not all conflicts of interest are bad or nefarious, but they must be surfaced and discussed.

·      Failing to think through terms, term limits, and choosing the right people for officer roles.

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·      Failing to ask the board to evaluate itself at least biennially. That’s right. The board must evaluate itself at least every other year.

·      Failing to elect, train, and develop a highly effective board chair. The chair can make or break the entire organization. Invest in coaching and training.

·      Failing to have clear charters for your committees. If your committee members don’t know what they are in charge of, why do you even have them on a committee?

·      Failing to secure Director and Officer Liability insurance. D&O Insurance is vital and cheap. Get it.

·      Failing to give a full year’s notice of board meeting dates. Eliminate barriers to participation. Get meetings on the calendar far in advance.

·      Failing to give adequate notice of information the board needs to make informed votes and to enable informed conversations 

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