May I stress the need for courageous, intelligent, and dedicated leadership… Leaders of sound integrity. Leaders not in love with publicity, but in love with justice. Leaders not in love with money, but in love with humanity. Leaders who can subject their particular egos to the greatness of the cause.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Your organisation or charity’s board needs to have a good blend of skills and an attitude of service and commitment. It’s important that no one simply sees it as:

  • A favour to you (you might have to do a lot of favours back, or their heart might not really be in it).
  • An opportunity to build their CV or gain skills. 
  • A chance to be ‘important’.

When you sign up a board member, it is important for them to recognise the commitment that they are making. To this end, it makes sense to make sure that, before you appoint them:

  • You send them an outline of their role and the organisation’s expectations.
  • They complete an application form.

After you appoint them:

  • They sign a document committing to serving the organisation and including any rules or code of conduct you have agreed to.

Ensuring board members can work together well

It helps to:

  • Have clear meeting rules: frequency, who attends, how many trustees are needed for a quorum, dealing with conflicts of interest, and agreeing to meeting dates well in advance.
  • Establish a work calendar for the board (for example, you might agree that your December board decides the budget and that your July board considers the training and development needs of the board).
  • To set up a time-limited working group or a ‘task and finish’ group to focus on a specific issue from time to time. Be clear about what its remit is.

Reflection Questions

  1. How do you currently recruit board members?
  2. What information do you give them when they start? Do you have any written guidelines or legal obligations?
  3. Are they aware of their responsibilities? Are they committed?
  4. What would say the Strengths and Weaknesses of your board are? Do you need people with different skills?
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