An entrepreneur recently asked me to explain what makes a good board member. Good boards require members with a vast network in the industry as well as a thorough knowledge of a particular issue or challenge and strong connections to the finance community. While these are all essential however, there are some other characteristics that are often overlooked when searching for the ideal board members – a enthusiasm for the cause, the ability to listen and communicate with humility and a willingness to go the extra mile – are also crucial to ensure that the board functions at its peak.
A good nonprofit board is enthusiastic about its purpose and shows that passion in their actions. The board member is committed to helping the people they serve, whether that means taking part in fundraising walks or volunteering at events, or lobbying city legislators. This is a trait that cannot be taught and it’s one which can make or break an organization.
It is important to have good judgment when you are on a board. This is particularly true when it comes to governance of nonprofits. A board with had a bad track record (whether in the process of approving strategies, hiring or firing or M&A transactions) is doing the organization harm. Good judgment is the result of wisdom, which is derived from making many tough decisions, having some failures and possessing a lot of knowledge.
The last trait that I believe is essential for a successful board member is an awareness of the value of cooperation. The most effective board members understand that their success depends on their ability to work in a team whether it’s the board meeting or at a fundraising event. They spend the time to build alliances among their fellow board members.