5 Tips for Effective Communication with Your Board


October 19, 2023

Imagine you are a CEO, joining a new association for the first time. You’re doing your due diligence to learn everything behind the scenes of the organization, but during the process uncover something bad. The association is in the red, financially. Slight panic ensues, but you know where you can go to get the answers: your board.

You call an immediate board meeting to discuss everything in more depth only to discover that the board is in the blind, as well. Why didn’t the board know? How could they have not been informed of inter-workings of the organization?

For an association to achieve its mission and goals, communication between the members and leaders of the organization is crucial. The board plays a vital role in providing guidance, oversight, and support to the organization, and clear and open communication is essential to maintain a strong partnership. If you find yourself in the hypothetical position I outlined above, then consider these 5 tips to make sure your organization is on the right foot when communicating with your board. 

1. Recruit the Right People

Effective boards are composed of individuals who collaborate well, understand their roles, and work together to achieve the organization's goals. A good way to identify potential candidates is by using a referral network or asking for recommendations from current board members. Make sure to have a diverse group of people on the board, as having a variety of perspectives will help ensure that all aspects of the organization are considered.

A strong leadership team is essential for effective governance. It is important that members understand their role in relation to the organization’s mission and vision, as well as its capacity needs.

2. Establish Regular Communication Channels

To ensure effective communication, it is important to establish regular channels for board members to stay informed about the organization's activities and progress. This can include regular board meetings, email updates, newsletters, or a dedicated online portal. These channels should allow for two-way communication, enabling board members to ask questions, provide feedback, and address concerns.

In addition, the organization should adopt a clear communication structure that clearly defines who is responsible for what in terms of communication. For example, this could include a communications director who is responsible for sending out regular emails and newsletters to board members.

3. Clear and Concise Reporting

Recognize that board members have diverse backgrounds, expertise, and levels of familiarity with the nonprofit sector. Tailor your communication to meet the needs and preferences of the board members. Some may appreciate detailed reports, while others may prefer summarized information or data visualization. Understanding the preferences of individual board members will help in delivering effective communication.

When sharing information or updates, provide sufficient context to help board members understand the broader organizational context, challenges, and opportunities. Ensure that board members are aware of the impact of their decisions and how they align with the nonprofit's mission and strategic objectives.

4. Encourage Collaboration and Engagement

Effective communication involves active participation and engagement from both the board and the association staff. Encourage board members to actively contribute during meetings, ask questions, provide input, and offer suggestions. Creating an atmosphere where all voices are heard and valued helps to facilitate open and honest communication.

While the board's primary function is governance, it can also serve as a valuable resource for collaboration and problem solving. Encouraging board members to collaborate can help them develop a better understanding of one another's strengths, weaknesses, and styles. This will help them work together more effectively when making decisions for the organization.

5. Regular Evaluation and Improvement

Create a culture of feedback and involvement. Encourage board members to share their thoughts about how well the organization is functioning and what changes could be made to improve its effectiveness. Provide opportunities for them to provide input into strategic planning, fundraising efforts, and other areas where their opinions can make a difference. Regularly evaluate the clarity, relevance, and impact of the communication to enhance and improve board communication.



By implementing these tips to effective board communication, associations can strengthen their relationship with board members, foster collaboration, and ensure that the board is well-informed and engaged in decision-making processes. Effective communication enables the board to provide the necessary guidance and support for the organization's success, all while eliminating the panic factor that we discussed earlier. 

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