Board orientation is essential. A new trustee will not automatically grasp the complexity of your charter school. You will have to guide them through the school’s history, the current challenges, and the future direction of the organization. Typically, the Governance Committee organizes the board orientation with assistance from the board chair and CEO. You may find it useful to add several trustees at one time so that you can orient them together and so that you avoid constantly catching new trustees up to speed.
To keep strong trustees on your board, the absolutely most essential thing is to tighten up your board meetings. Board meetings that continually engage strong board members are typically no more than two hours in length, keep to the previously established agenda, and focus on strategic, future-facing issues not minutiae.
Make sure that each trustee is engaged in meaningful work on behalf of the organization. Each trustee should be actively serving on a committee or contributing to a tangible project.
Provide opportunities for board members to participate in school activities. They need to come in contact with the mission to stay engaged.
Conduct trustee evaluations to gauge member satisfaction.
Conduct board retreats and outings so individuals develop rapport and feel comfortable challenging one another.
Task your Governance Committee with developing a simple annual board-building program (see tips and activities below).
Board Team Building Exercises
1. Guilt-Free Board Member Activity (see Guilt-Free Board Member sample)
- Trustees often lament that they don’t know what they are supposed to be doing month to month. CEOs wish their board members were doing more.
- Adapt the guilt-free board member sample to your board’s needs.
- Come up with an easy way to chart progress towards actions/goals at each board meeting. BoardOnTrack’s Board Goals Tracker is ideal for this.
2. Board Member Book Club
- We haven’t met a board yet that didn’t think they needed to do more fundraising. Buy each board member one or both of these books. They are fun, inspirational, and brief. Then have a 20 minute book club discussion at a board meeting.
Big Gifts for Small Groups: A Board Member’s 1-Hour Guide to Securing Gifts of $500 to $5,000, by Andy Robinson
Asking: A 59-Minute Guide to Everything Board Members, Volunteers, and Staff Must Know to Secure the Gift, by Jerold Panas
3. Read a provocative article:
Some great articles can be found at the excellent website www.Help4NonProfits.com. Look in their free nonprofit library for these and other articles.
- Riding the Horse the Way It Is Going
- Fundraising for Small Nonprofits
- Founders Syndrome
The Harvard Business Review also has great articles to use to propel board discussions.
4. Envisioning the Future
- Ask board members to think about what your organization will be like in twenty years. Pretend that you are a visitor to the future. You go to see your charter school(s). Write down what it looks like, what is happening there, who is there, etc. Then share your thoughts. Discuss how to create a bridge from where you are now to where you want to be. What is the role of the board in getting there?
5. Board Meeting Evaluation
- Evaluate your board meetings regularly.
- Rotate through the board with each board member taking a turn at evaluating the board meeting by sharing observations and feedback at the end of each meeting.
- Ask a few key questions:
- What did we do tonight to further our mission?
- How much of our time was spent reporting on the past vs. planning our future?
- Did we stick to the agenda?
- Was there equal participation by board members?
- Was this meeting effective? Why or why not?
- What could be done to improve the board meeting?