As defined by the National Council of Nonprofits, “board members are the fiduciaries who steer the organization towards a sustainable future by adopting sound, ethical, and legal governance and financial management policies, as well as by making sure the nonprofit has adequate resources to advance its mission.”

However, board members don’t always understand that this is their role and responsibility. And that lack of understanding can roll up as part of a wider set of dysfunctions that take away from the board’s ability to make an impact. In essence, what we’re talking about here is good board governance which, simply put, is the process of making and implementing decisions. As my colleague, Corey Masson has said before, “good board governance should be responsive to the present and future needs of the organization, exercise prudence in policy-setting and decision-making, and ensure that the best interests of all stakeholders are considered.”

To achieve good board governance there are a number of elements that a nonprofit board needs to address. These elements help underpin the fundamental characteristics of good board governance which are accountability, transparency, responsiveness, effectiveness and efficiency.

Effective collaboration and communication 

The interaction of board members doesn’t end when the meeting is adjourned. Successful boards encourage ongoing collaboration and communication between their members year-round. They also encourage communication with their wider stakeholder group including volunteers, members of the public, counsel and donors.

Effective collaboration and communication drives accountability. It ensures that everyone is on the same page when it comes to defining the vision and mission of the organization and when it comes to monitoring the goals that will help achieve that mission.

Communication is also critical for getting your message out there. There is real value in being able to communicate real-time information versus what’s in your board report. It’s called transparency and transparency builds trust, and trust builds loyalty from existing stakeholders, and new ones, such as potential new board members.

The ability to look inwards 

In a previous blog post we talked about how important it is to conduct a board management self-assessment.

There are many strategic benefits to conducting a board assessment including:

  • Providing clarity on the roles and responsibilities of the board members and board as a whole.
  • Assessing progress towards strategic plans, goals and outcomes.
  • Avoiding unnecessary board conflict.
  • Identifying skill and knowledge gaps.
  • Fostering alignment and agreement on the boards vision and mission.
  • Increasing accountability of the board and its members to each other and key stakeholders.

Diversity of thought and experience 

Your audience is diverse and that means that to meet their needs and ensure that your mission and vision is aligned with their requirements, your leadership needs to be representative of that diversity. Board diversity has very much come to mean different demographics of gender or ethnicity. And while ensuring your board is inclusive of those and more demographic groups, it is also important to ensure that your board is diverse in its skill set and experience. That goes beyond what’s on your board members resumes. It requires some creativity in the recruiting process and ongoing management by your board chair to ensure that you have the right mix of talent, skill, background and experience to achieve diversity of thought that is representative of those that you represent or look to help.

Digital savviness

The world has gone digital. It’s where your key stakeholders live, how you get your message out, how you recruit new members, and it’s how your board needs to operate. For many nonprofit boards the move to digital can seem daunting. In reality, you’re probably already on that path. If you’re using email to communicate or google docs to share documents, you’re already using digital tools and you’ll already know that using those tools can save you time and money in comparison to tasks such as the manual printing and delivery of board packets.

What you might not be aware of is that there are purpose-built board management tools like NXTBoard’s board management platform that can help you streamline processes, drive accountability, defeat dysfunction and achieve outcomes.

Board management software can help you run more efficient meetings, get everyone on the same page when it comes to their roles and responsibilities, make task management simple and it can even help with creating, adopting and monitoring goals that align with the vision and mission of the organization. And because it’s purpose built for board members, it’s simple to use. More often than not, no complicated integrations are necessary and the best board portal vendors provide implementation and ongoing customer support.


Boards that look to incorporate all these elements into their business level strategy will see better results and achieve better outcomes for their organizations.