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How to Be an Effective Board Chair

What is the role of a board chair?

There are different duties when it comes to being a board chair. Namely, governance and operating responsibilities. Board service is a privilege – you’re not exclusively a headpiece, a fundraiser, a boss, or a partner. And another role is helping to create a strong board – often with the existing members. Ultimately, Board Chairs are responsible to provide leadership, sustain the work of, govern, and help provide strategic fundraising for the organization.

Ensure you have enough time dedicated to your role

Whether you have a governing role or working role on the board (or some mishmash of the two), being chair is a huge time commitment. Talk to the previous board chairs to evaluate how much time the role will likely take and set that time aside in your schedule so you can fulfill the duties. Different board chairs will put in different effort. And people only have so much bandwidth (even you).

Know Robert’s Rules

Despite being a small piece of the puzzle, it deserves its own. It may seem small, but knowing Robert’s Rules (and having a competent secretary) will assist in your governing of a nonprofit. This is something that’s expected, and when it falls away, it’s usually a sign that something else isn’t right with the board.

Know your Executive Director (or CEO) and all other board members

First and foremost, it’s important to remember that a position as a board chair is typically temporary, while those of a board member and staff may not be. It’s important to build a rapport with both the staff and the other board members. This means regular and open communication. Remember that you’re only good as the people you surround yourself with. And if they are lacking in certain areas, its your role to ensure that they grow in them – and be open to growth yourself.

Set your own goals to accomplish during your time as chair

The time that you are board chair is a time of growth for both you and the organization. You should have a few distinct goals that you want to accomplish during your time as chair. Like any goal, there should be realistic deliverables and milestones. When your time as chair is over, you should be able to feel proud and accomplished with what you’ve achieved in the role.

Qualities of a good Board Chair

· Passion for the mission

· Perspective when it comes to decision-making

· Empathy and ability to listen to other stakeholders

· Clarity with their intentions

· Knowledgeable about the organization and the role

· Tactful when communicating with others

· Inspirational and able to lift others up

· Strategic when it comes to fundraising and next steps for the organization

· Objectivity in their role

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