Board goals define how the board will add value to the organization this year. They’re the mutually agreed upon priorities that outline what will be accomplished, by when, and by whom.
They should include substantive goals for how you will support the work of the organization, and should also include your own board development goals to evolve your governance capabilities.
Boards have very important jobs to do and very little time to do them well.
While the required legal and compliance work usually finds a way to get done, the more challenging or longer-term areas of focus that make the organization better won’t get done without intentional and strategic goal setting. That’s why your board’s goals are so integral to achieving success as an organization.
Board goals can –and should — be both operational and aspirational.
Your operational goals are typically tied to the operational elements of your organization that happen year after year. They’ll include conducting an annual audit, approving state-mandated policies, signing off on the monthly financials and other foundational elements that your organization will do year over year. Many of these will directly tie to your charter agreement..
Your aspirational goals are often the things the organization will get to once they have effectively achieved the operational goals. Aspirational goals may span the course of several years. Any aspirational goal that is too lofty will quickly be dismissed.
If your board is just starting out, and especially if you are in the early years of your first charter it’s ok to be focused almost 100% on the operational. In fact, we recommend it. Over time, your board will evolve. You’ll go from focusing on the operational and reactive day-to-day business of being a board, to have freed up the time and mental space to think big.
Board goals are not the CEO’s goals.
Your board’s goals will differ from your CEO’s goals. Combined, they’ll help strengthen your board-CEO partnership and help your governance team to meet the organization’s goals.
Your board should have active, engaged committees completing substantive work in between board meetings. Each committee’s work should be guided by a set of board-approved goals. And the committees’ goals, collectively, are your board’s goals. Board goals articulate how the board will add value to the organization this year while the CEO goals articulate the metrics-driven management-level work for the year.
Meanwhile, the CEO’s goals articulate what the CEO is expected to deliver each year. They focus on organizational performance metrics, and often tie directly back to your charter, your accountability plan with your authorizer, and to your annual CEO evaluation. For example: teacher hiring, satisfaction, and retention; parent satisfaction; or test scores.
Your board’s goals help strengthen your partnership with your CEO.
Your goals help define the board’s responsibilities, drawing a line where governance ends and management begins.
They ensure alignment on strategic direction between the board and CEO. You’re operating jointly on decisions, not assumptions.
Many areas of the organization’s work depend on the board’s involvement. The CEO can’t do it all. Your goals give your CEO confidence that the board is committed to being a valuable asset to them and the organization, and makes it easy for the leadership staff to see the board’s progress on its share of the work.
Here’s an example of how the board and CEO goals complement each other.
Your charter might lay out a goal to close the achievement gap between different cohorts of students.
In order to meet this charter promise, you’ll need to expand programming. And in order to do this, you’ll need to increase funding. So you set a measurable organizational goal of raising $30,000 for that new programming.
Grant writing and institutional fundraising is a management function and belongs to the CEO, or a development staffer reporting to the CEO. So the CEO’s goal could be to raise $20,000 via grants and institutional fundraising.
Meanwhile, a board traditionally is responsible for fundraising from individuals or the community as a whole — so individual trustees reaching out to members of the community, or the board organizing a gala or similar fundraising event. The board might set a goal to raise $10,000 from individual donors, each trustee contributing in a specific way.
Board goals play a major role in results.
Board goals must be set strategically and executed as designed. Only through action, and a balance of CEO and board goals, will your board achieve both your operational and aspirational goals.