Best Practices for Ensuring Board Member Success

Best Practices for Ensuring Board Member Success

August 16, 2023

The success of an association relies heavily on the inner workings of the organization and its leadership. Board members play a significant role in this as they hold influence in making changes and decisions on behalf of the organization's members while helping shape the association's trajectory. By supporting their transition into leadership with helpful resources and a solid framework, they are set up to perform their responsibilities with excellence. Try the following techniques to support understanding and encourage active participation among all board members, current and future.  

Set the tone

Are your association’s mission and values clearly conveyed? Do you have a defined mission statement? Are your goals listed out and easily accessible? Each board member needs to have an internalized understanding of what your organization stands for in addition to what your core goals are, as all their decisions should be driven by this. 

In addition to understanding the organization itself, board members should be taught what the conduct expectations are, both among members and as representatives of the organization in their personal lives. On the same note, ensure you explain what the expectations are as far as leadership and discussions. While we want to assume everyone will be courteous and respectful of others, it’s a good idea to give specifics of what’s allowed and what’s not so that everyone on the board feels safe and free to express themselves in a welcoming environment.  

Take time to train 

Assuming people have the skills and knowledge necessary to lead could result in grey areas and confusion, ultimately resulting in frustration. Help board members understand their specific role and grasp their fiduciary duty to protect the organization's assets and use funds responsibly. As a part of onboarding, train each new board member on the bylaws, despite if they’ve been a volunteer or held other positions within the organization since they’ll now be upholding them with an entirely new perspective.  

Regular orientation sessions can clarify and reinstate important responsibilities. And as new issues arise, make a point to meet and ensure everyone is on the same page about how to approach similar instances moving forward. You can also offer optional courses for those interested in developing their knowledge either about the industry or leadership skills in general.

Drive the focus 

Craft board agendas that connect to the strategic plan, reducing the time spent on reports by sharing them in advance. Highlight plan goals and include the mission statement to guide discussions. This will ensure that board discussions are strategic, focusing on high-level goals rather than getting lost in operational details. If they already have a clear idea of their roles and responsibilities, that makes discussions run more smoothly since board members will be less likely to try to discuss issues outside their realm of responsibility 

Manage without controlling 

Be sure to still allow your board members to embrace their roles and provide a sentiment of trust in them. Micromanaging the board will only drive more frustration, whereas allowing for freedom and responsibility will leave them feeling empowered. If they don’t feel they can make any decisions without your guidance, they’ll likely begin to checkout, assuming leadership will make the decision or override their own, potentially shutting down what could be productive conversations.  

Communicate consistently 

Keeping your board members in the loop not only allows them to plan better and make more thoughtful decisions, but it provides a sense of inclusion. They’ll begin to feel more a part of the bigger picture, fueling meaningful input and purpose-driven discussions. A helpful tool is an association calendar that includes all events and meetings, made accessible to everyone in leadership.  

Encourage socialization 

Many board members may begin to feel disconnected from members or even from each other, leading them to feel less invested in the organization. Encourage board members to attend opportunities like leadership happy hours where all positions of leadership can gather and connect, as well as attend member events so they can get to know the members and vice-versa. It’s easier and more enjoyable to lead people you have an understanding and compassion for, rather than vague names on a roster.  



Associations depend on invested governing boards and volunteer committees. By implementing these practices, associations can pave the way for enhanced board participation, more productive meetings, and impactful decision-making that propels their mission forward with purpose. Implement these approaches to enhance board engagement and foster effective leadership. 



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