A shot down a boardroom table with several business people sitting at the table and clapping while smiling.

What makes a great board of directors ‘great’?

December 15, 2021

In the not-for-profit world, a board of directors refers to the group of individuals responsible for governing the organization. Together, their governance creates a tone at the top of an organization that is disseminated through management, employees and volunteers.

A good board of directors will effectively operate an organization; a great board of directors will inspire and drive its success.

Whether not-for-profit, public or private enterprise, when searching for your next board members, here’s six considerations for making a board of directors great:

1. Diversity

Ensure your board has diverse representation. Consider ethnicity, age, gender, social and physical diversity and members from the LGBTQ+ community. Diversity leads to different thought processes, provides richer cultural insights and offers a broader range of expertise and innovative ideas.

2. Passion

A great board member is passionate about the cause—whether they’ve used the services provided in the past, have a deep commitment to the community or just really believe in the betterment the organization is providing—a passionate board member is an engaged board member.

3. Commitment

Going hand in hand with passion, when looking for board members, you need people that are committed. This means showing up to meetings on time, not missing meetings, showing up prepared to meetings and contributing to the meetings.

4. Forward-thinking

A great board focuses on developing, maintaining and driving a strategic plan for the organization, while providing support and insight for an organization’s management. Board members should be leaders, not managers, in that they help others understand the vision and drive the goals of the organization.

5. Term lengths

Most boards have maximum term lengths. By enacting maximum term lengths, you’ll have a mix of veteran and new board members. It’s essential to the organization to keep things fresh by cycling in new board members for new ideas and new connections.

6. Governance policies

Set clear policies around board member responsibilities and behaviour. This provides a way for board members to be accountable to themselves and to others, and establishes the expectations for how the rest of the organization should be managed.

While the qualities above are not an all-inclusive list, they’re a starting point to make your board great. All these qualities together can help to create a board of individuals that are ambassadors for the organization both while at meetings and while out in the community.


Article written by Amy Duncan, CPA, CGA.