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Make it Habit: 3 Things That Set Highly Effective Boards Apart from the Rest

What High-Performing Boards large front cover I’ve seen countless articles lamenting the lack of engagement from board members at various organizations. Most have tried to shed light on how to not only keep boards from being bored, but on how they can be effective in carrying out their important strategic roles in organizations. In a recent article for Association Now’s annual Volunteer Leadership issue, Beth Gazley, an associate professor at Indiana University and co-author of What Makes High-Performing Boards (ASAE Foundation, 2013), highlighted key data points from the book that  benchmark governance practices of the highest performing boards. Among the more than 1,500 associations that participated in the study, only 170 ranked in the top 10 percent based on the performance measures outlined, which included how well boards assess and report on their activities, the areas of responsibility in which CEOs rate their boards the highest/lowest, and ability to attract members with the right competencies. According to Gazley, three things set the top 10 percent apart:
  1. A strong strategic orientation. High- performing boards were twice as likely to invest substantial board meeting time to strategic considerations.
  2. A culture of self-assessment and accountability. These boards were twice as likely to set board-level performance goals for themselves, almost twice as likely to invest in board development activities such as mentoring and training, and twice as likely to engage in formal or informal board self-assessment.
  3. Healthy attention to board member recruitment and development. They were also more likely to recruit new board members broadly, by, for example, soliciting nominations from outside the board rather than depending on CEO nominations. They were more likely to screen prospective board members and to hold competitive elections rather than voting for a single slate.
While there may be some room for improvement, most boards strive to be successful in these areas. However, they may not know where to begin in the process of making themselves more effective. Gazley suggests that this conversation begin at the committee level so that someone or some group has ownership of the process.  “Your board’s governance or board development committee is the best place to begin,” she writes. “The role of this committee is to ensure, through training and support, that all board members are equipped to perform fiduciary duties.” She also draws a connection between effective boards and healthy association cultures: “And keep in mind that just having the conversation starts a form of strategic thinking and active learning that also supports a healthier association culture.” Her emphasis on the role that committees can play in starting strategic conversations reaffirms my confidence in our decision to build strong committee management functionality into Fonteva For Associations. Fonteva For Associations makes creating, tracking and managing committee access a simple process. We wanted to make it easy for associations to:
  • Communicate with entire committees.
  • Track, publish and distribute committee documents and minutes.
  • Create individual committee calendars and discussion forums.
With this functionality in place, our customers can focus on facilitating the strategic conversations that will make their boards highly effective. Related Content 3 Factors for Association Management to Consider When Determining Board Size

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