WHO SHOULD BE ON THE BOARD?
The board should be composed of a diverse group of individuals who are interested in working toward the organization’s mission and have the particular skills that will help to contribute to a well-run organization. For instance, you may want to seek out people with financial, marketing, or legal backgrounds. You may want to consider bringing on someone with an entrepreneurial
background, or someone who is proficient with emerging technologies. You may
also want to recruit members who have influence in the community, work at similar types of organizations, or are representative of the community you are serving. Having this collective knowledge from the beginning will help you make informed decisions. You will also find that as your organization matures, your board composition needs may be very different from those of your founding board. The role of the board tends to change over time as the organization
develops and matures. Early in an organization’s life, the primary need for the board may be individuals who are prepared to give a great deal of time and energy. Later, you may find that as paid staff are brought on, the board focuses primarily on the governance functions of the organization and is less involved with the smaller details of bringing the organization up to speed.
HOW BIG SHOULD THE BOARD BE?
Boards can vary in size from three to more than 50 members. Each state has regulations that determine the minimum size of the board, but the optimum number of people who sit on the board should be determined by the needs of the organization. Assess the list of tasks that the board needs to accomplish and plan your board around the jobs that need to be done. There should be enough meaningful tasks for the board to accomplish without leaving board
members feeling overburdened or uninvolved.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD THE BOARD MEET?
As with the size of your board, the number of board meetings each year should be determined by the work that needs to be accomplished. For logistical and practical reasons, larger boards often meet less frequently, leaving much of the work to the board’s committees.
Regular attendance at board meetings is one of the individual responsibilities of board members. Your organization’s bylaws should include an attendance policy that clearly states the number of meetings that can be missed by an individual board member before he or she is asked to leave the board. Develop an annual schedule of meetings determined a year in advance. Circulate clear and thorough information materials, including an agenda, to all members
two to three weeks before each meeting. Maintain complete and accurate minutes of all meetings, and keep meetings brief and well focused. An organization’s bylaws should also state the number of board members required to constitute a quorum. Without a quorum, the board is unable to conduct its official business.
WHAT KIND OF TERM LIMITS SHOULD BOARD MEMBERS SERVE?
There are no hard-and-fast rules for determining board members’ tenure. Many organizations
do, however, limit members to two consecutive terms and require a hiatus of one year before a
board member may be reappointed. Many organizations also stagger terms of service so that
one-half or one-third of board members are elected every one or two years for terms of two to
six years. Such policies encourage institutional renewal because a board can profit from the
experience of veteran board members while welcoming the fresh perspective that new members
offer. Board members on hiatus can remain active in committee service or serve in an
advisory capacity. Term limits are a painless mechanism for rotating inactive or ineffective
members off the board. These policies should be written into the organization’s bylaws.
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