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Help Your Board Be Its Best

by Mike Smith • August 14, 2015

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In this follow-up article to my previous one on the basics of running a board, I’d like to share some things I’ve learned over the past 30 years about the relationship side of board leadership.

A board is more than a group of people who run an organization. It’s a team of people focused on a shared vision. So when we’re serving on or chairing a board, we need to foster cooperation, unity, and inspiration. The following ideas will help as you pursue these goals.

Designate one meeting for the purpose of doing your strategic planning for the entire year. At this meeting, set your goals for the future and evaluate your past year’s performance.

If your organization can afford it, try to meet at least once a year at a nice location that will help you find inspiration. Use this atmosphere to get to know each other better and bond your hearts together. Normally, this meeting should be your annual strategic planning session. You will find that as a result of these kinds of destination meetings, friendships will develop. (Note that maintaining board friendships is a difficult balance. We still have to maintain our objectivity and always act in the best interest of the organization, even though it might mean differing with our friends on the board.)

Purpose to find a way for our board to be evaluated by others. We all have our blind spots, and it is valuable to know what our constituents (or would-be constituents) are thinking about our organization. We want to remain relevant. The face of homeschooling is changing, and a good board will have its finger on the pulse of what newer homeschoolers want from their organization.

Attempt to unite your board members’ hearts, not just their minds, to your organization and each other. If you are all Christians, it’s a good idea to pray before each board meeting. Use this time to pray personally for each other, as this is a way to bond. Be patient with the different personalities that will be manifested in the board meetings. Never make hasty decisions—if you feel like you’re being pressured to make a decision, don’t. Wait until you have had time to clearly think through the alternatives and the consequences of that decision.

Be reasonable in taking on responsibilities. It may be generally true that if we want something done, we shouldn’t ask someone who is doing nothing to do it. But each person has his or her limits. Volunteer boards have to share the load, and the consequences of one person dropping the ball could be significant in terms of organizational impact. Pray and seek counsel, especially from your spouse, before accepting a board position and before taking on responsibilities. If you see that you can’t really be an active participant because of other commitments or lack of zeal, please resign, don’t hang around.