Most camps have a board of directors. Some function as an operations board, others as a governing board. Either way, the executive director of the organization is charged with answering to the board of directors.
This relationship is critical to the success of the organization. The board has fiduciary responsibility for the organization and the employment of the executive director. Therefore, the executive director needs the board of directors to support the mission through the budget and engagement with the organization.
Nine times out of ten, the executive director has great respect and appreciation for their board members and is genuinely happy with the relationship. Camp board members are known to be awesome people with generous hearts and powerful skill sets.
However, there are a few things that most often pop to the surface when I am talking to executives about their board members — things that executives wish their board members did more of or better.
Asking board members to do these things better is not for their convenience or entertainment; it’s for the organization’s good.
Camps have a way of attracting board members with a background with the camp. That means they have been a camper, staff member, or donor to the organization. With that comes incredible buy-in and ownership, along with the nostalgia and memories of their own experiences. It’s both a blessing and a curse.
It is a blessing because camp board members are invested in the organization’s mission in profound ways. It can be a curse, however, if board members get stuck in the past and limit their understanding to what the organization has been, not what it is becoming.
Executive directors should be actively working toward a future vision. They need their board members to shape and affirm that vision!
Be a Strong Advocate for the Organization
Board members are most often chosen because they have the right skills to lead the organization AND the right network to make powerful connections outside the organization.
When an executive director sees and hears a board member sharing the organization’s work with their friends, families, and professional networks, it is such a joy. They want board members who are proud of their work and share it with others!
Review the Executive Director
The board is responsible for the hiring and supervision of one person only: the executive director. In this role, it is the responsibility of the board to do this well — in good and bad times.
Every board should be providing an annual review of the performance and compensation package of the executive director. When boards do this effectively, we see stronger executive leadership, longevity, and relationships.
It is the board’s responsibility to identify and cultivate other leaders who would be good board members. We encourage boards to have a matrix defining board members’ primary strengths/skills in order to see gaps that need to be filled.
Most executive directors would love if the current board members introduced potential board members and helped get them excited about the organization.
Prepare for the Meetings
“Come prepared” is a simple request, but a lack of preparation is a big complaint of many executive directors. When board members show up to meetings without reading the prepared materials and doing the work requested of them, the schedule and mission suffer. It’s also just plain frustrating.
The executive director’s responsibility is to provide materials before the meeting that will set the agenda up for success. It is the board member’s responsibility to read them and come prepared with thoughts and questions.
If You Are an Executive…
How are you doing at giving your board what they need to do these things well? Are you asking for what you need? Are you communicating well?
If You Are a Board Member…
Consider these things. How are you doing? What can you do more of or do better?
If you need help developing a stronger board/executive relationship, let’s talk!