June 2021
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Build a Board Development Committee

Bob Harris, CAE

 Nearly every organization has a nominating committee.   Its task is to prepare a slate of candidates for an election.  
 Some committees are diligent about their task, seeking nominees, vetting them, and submitting a slate.  Others are just happy to find persons to accept seats at the table.

 Expanded Roles
 
Organizations are transforming nominating committees to have year-round purpose.     They are changing the name from nominations to Board Development Committee (BDC).
 
Usually, a nominating committee disbands after proposing the slate of candidates. 
 
The BDC has year-round responsibilities.  After nominations, they continue efforts that improve governance, assess leadership, and develop future leaders.
 
“Continuous board development is important to every organization.  Directors have to think beyond their terms of office, looking around to consider “who’s next?” and having initiatives in place to develop future leaders,”  explains Vicki Farmer, IOM, CAE, executive director at the Arkansas Optometric Association.
 
Make best use of the BDC with a variety of responsibilities:
 
Nominations – Responsible for identification, vetting and submission of a slate of qualified, willing candidates.   They should be armed with the leadership manual and strategic plan to advise prospects of their duties.   The nomination process should be carefully managed to avoid surprises or political upheavals.
 
Orientation – After the elections and installation, orientation is essential.  The BDC can assist in designing a board development curriculum and speakers.  Some organizations refer to their annual orientation as  “refresh and blend” to meld new and seasoned directors.
 
Board Strengths – Directors bring talent.   It is said they contribute TTT – time, talent, and treasure.  The BDC may analyze the strengths and weaknesses of a board.   For example, an organization may need to add a financial expert on the board, a marketing pro, or a technology guru.  The BDC can develop a matrix of desired skillsets.   After needs are identified, a “Call for Volunteer Leaders” can be published. 
 
Evaluate – Boards evaluate the CEO, strategic plan progress, and budget performance.   They should also evaluate their governance.  This is done at the mid-point or towards the end of a term, to identify potential for making improvements.  Because staff usually do not conduct the board self-assessment, there is a role for the BDC to design the assessment tool, tabulate the results, and implement improvements. 
 
Structure – Governance reviews are conducted to periodically analyze board size, governing documents, and meeting protocols.  The BDC can lead a governance review or work with a consultant to enhance governance. 
 
Leadership Pipeline – Intentionally develop volunteers through a leadership program.  Curriculum may include understanding finances, committees, board roles, rules of order, project management, and interpersonal communications.  A well-designed leadership academy draws aspiring persons willing to serve. 
Strategic Plan Champions – A strategic plan benefits by having a person (plan-champion) or a group to monitor and report on progress.  The BDC can take on the role of being the strategic plan champion. .
 
Elevate the role of the nominating committee to have year-round value by transforming it to a board development committee.
 
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Note:  Bob Harris, CAE, provides free governance tips and tools at www.nonprofitcenter.com.