Why You Need a Board and How to Build a Great One: Insights from an Expert

As someone in the social entrepreneurship game, I’m all for having support from my Board of Directors. I always want to make sure I’m doing my best to look after them like they support my organisation, the communities we serve, and me. This morning’s UnLtd’s webinar with Lorraine Gailey, the Founding Director of Hearing Partners and expert in all things board-related, blew my mind! I wanted to share some key takeaways from the webinar.

Do You Need a Board of Directors?

The short answer is: Yes, yes, and yes! A good board of directors/trustees is essential for the success of any not-for-profit organisation. A great board can provide valuable input for making tough decisions, especially in the face of changes in the world, funding opportunities, or staff crises. Moreover, some funding opportunities may require a board in place. So, if you’re trying to secure funding, having a strong board can only improve your chances.

How to Build a Great Board

Now, let’s talk about building a great board. First, you need to understand the skills and expertise needed on the board. You don’t want a bunch of clones who all think the same way, right? So, having a mix of board members with different backgrounds and perspectives is important. This can help to ensure that a range of viewpoints is represented and that the board is not dominated by one perspective.

Once you have your board members, it’s important to ensure that they have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities. This may involve training or orientation to new board members and ongoing communication and support. Communication is key to a great board, so make sure to have regular meetings, email updates, or other forms of communication to keep board members informed and engaged. And don’t forget to have clear procedures in place for addressing conflicts or other issues that may arise.

The Legal Side of Things

Now, let’s discuss the legal side of things. Board members are legally accountable for the decisions made by the organisation, while advisory group members are not. So, it’s important to be aware of the legal responsibilities of being a board member. But don’t worry; there is professional liability insurance that can provide protection for board members against legal claims resulting from decisions made in good faith.

It may be easier to recruit members for an advisory group than a board, due to the different levels of responsibility involved. But keep in mind that board members may feel a greater sense of responsibility for the success of the organisation, which may lead to a higher level of engagement and commitment.

The Question of Voting Rights and Control

It’s understandable to worry about losing control of your organisation to a group of people with different ideas and opinions. However, it’s important to remember that having a board doesn’t necessarily mean giving up control.

One way to maintain control is to set up the board to retain certain voting rights while still giving the board decision-making power. For example, you can give certain members more voting power than others or set up a system where the CEO has a tie-breaking vote. This way, you can ensure that the board is still making decisions in the organisation’s best interest while keeping control in your hands.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, building a strong and effective board requires a commitment to ongoing communication, relationship-building, and evaluation. By working on selecting the right board members and providing ongoing support and feedback, organisations can ensure that their boards are a valuable asset in achieving their goals.

So, don’t neglect your board. Build a great one, and watch your organisation thrive!