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Top 9 Nonprofit Board Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

August 25, 2022

Common board mistakes include steering away from your mission statement, ignoring your bylaws, conflicts of interest and more. Learn how to avoid nine common mistakes here.

Don’t let your board’s effectiveness suffer, avoid these 9 all too common board issues:

  1. Steering away from your Mission Statement – If your mission doesn’t remain top of mind it is easy to lose focus of the true purpose of the Organization. A mission statement should tell the public why the organization exists, who it serves and what needs it is meeting. Every decision that the Board makes should advance the organization's mission and purpose. Board members are ambassadors of the organization and should be able to effortlessly repeat the mission inside and outside the board room. If you are serving on a non-profit Board, consider asking the last time the mission was updated.
  2. Board Members who lack commitment – Every board member must participate in a meaningful way. Do certain members miss meetings and fail to participate in discussions? You may have to re-evaluate. Board members are ambassadors of the organization and should be able to effortlessly repeat the mission inside and outside the board room.
  3. Conflicts of interest – Make sure all decisions are being made with the Organization’s best interests as a first priority. Conflicts of interest and unethical motivations are a hindrance to your Organization’s success. Nonprofits are targeted many times when they appear to have incurred inappropriate benefits from relationships with directors, officers, or trustees. A conflict of interest policy will ensure that your nonprofit is in compliance with a specific set of rules, which could include perhaps a procedure saying that persons who have a conflict of interest in a certain matter will be excused from voting on that issue.
  4. Multiple voices – Differing opinions need to be resolved in the boardroom. You want your community to see a united team. Board members are ultimately responsible for the sustainability, financial viability, and program success of the organization. The Board members should be able to repeat the mission to support the organization outside the board room in the community.
  5. Micromanaging – It is the board’s duty to hire a responsible and competent Executive Director to steward your Organization, let them do their job and only intervene if necessary. A successful chief executive ultimately results from a strong, supportive, and collaborative relationship between the CEO and the Board. It’s helpful to think of the CEO as the Captain of the ship. The entire organization will take explicit and implicit direction from this person.
  6. Lack of term limits- Change is good and new board members can help the organization thrive. Set reasonable limits for officers and board members. Your officers' and directors' terms may be up for renewal, and you might want to elect new leaders. Here are a few questions to consider: Has the Organization considered diversity in recruiting new members? Are there specific skill sets or advisors that would assist the Organization to achieve its upcoming goals for 2022? Does the board represent or have representation for the community that it serves?
  7. Ignoring your Bylaws – It is the board’s responsibility to make sure the bylaws are being followed as written and to update when and if necessary. It is an excellent practice to review the by-laws annually to ensure that the Organization is in compliance with its governing documents. A couple of governance matters to consider: Should the Organization consider term limits? Does the board of directors need to change the frequency of its meetings? Does the Organization need to increase or decrease the size of the Board of Directors?
  8. Lacking a Board self-assessment – Self assessment can help with the board’s team spirit and more importantly, its accountability. The Board should know what the organization does and what its impact is. Monitoring results help guide the future programs that the organization chooses to stop, start, and keep doing.
  9. Lack of board giving – While all board members can bring different benefits to your organization, it certainly shows commitment to the Organization if all board members make a monetary contribution annually. Many funders will ask this when your organization applies for grants as well.

Is your board being hindered by any of these issues? Our Non-Profit team is always available to help with board education, please contact us with questions.

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