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TOOL 21 Review - Board Member Annual Affirmation Statement

By John Pearson

We Failed to “Date” a Board Prospect and Now We Have a Loose Cannon!

Al Newell succinctly turns the “problem” of board member engagement upside down with this biblical insight and mandate:

“Sustaining motivation is better understood as a by-product as opposed to a goal of itself. It is my experience that if you pursue discipleship with volunteers [and board members], motivation will follow. If volunteers see the fulfillment of their role as ‘obeying and serving God’ rather than serving you or your [organization], it will cause motivation to swell.”

TOOL #21: BOARD MEMBER ANNUAL AFFIRMATION STATEMENT

Share this document with board prospects to communicate your high commitment and generosity standards. Plus, require re-commitments annually from all board members.

Tool #21 in the new resource, ECFA Tools and Templates for Effective Board Governance, is one of four tools in Part 6, “Ideas for Better Board Governance,” in this jam-packed 272-page resource. This tool is another “add-water-and-stir” template for educating and obtaining annual affirmation from your board members—categorized within the three board hats: Governance, Volunteer, and Participant.

The tool can be used two ways:

  • Current board members: ask them to review and sign this document annually (example: every January) to affirm their ongoing commitment, as board members, to your ministry.
  • Prospective board members: ask them to review these high standards (including generous giving)—in advance of your asking them to serve—and then upon election to the board, ask them to affirm this annual statement of commitment.

Why is this important?

Recently, a CEO called me and whined about a new board member—fast-tracked onto the board. No cultivation, no orientation, no “six steps to recruitment,” and—with no background or passion for the ministry—he was quickly becoming (shall-we-say) a loose cannon (google the term!). So, I asked the CEO four questions:

  1. Did you review Tool #1, “The Pathway to the Board,” with your board members and this prospect, including the six recommended steps?

  2. Before the board member fast-tracked his friend onto the board—prematurely, did you or your Governance Committee invite board members to submit a “Board Member Suggestion Form,” per Tool #2? (That would have educated all board members on your agreed-upon board member criteria.)

  3. Did you use the template in Tool #3, “Board Nominee Orientation: Table of Contents,” and have a prospect orientation session—using the 31-tab binder—BEFORE you proposed marriage (board service)? Really—you proposed marriage on the first date?

  4. Did you screen the 10-minute video, from the ECFA Governance Toolbox Series No. 1: Recruiting Board Members—Leveraging the 4 Phases of Board Recruitment: Cultivation, Recruitment, Orientation and Engagement? (Note especially the in-the-trenches board story, "The Shortest Board Term in the History of the World!")

You’ve already guessed this CEO’s responses to my four questions:

  1. No!
  2. No!
  3. No!
  4. No!

There’s a better way—and it starts with creating the Board Member Annual Affirmation Statement. The template also includes a one-page calendar listing future board meetings (and the important agenda topics at each meeting) for the next 12 to 24 months.

Guarantee! Implement these board best practices—and guaranteed—this will be the first time that your board prospect has ever received such a comprehensive overview of your ministry. And during this important “dating process,” explain why—after your Governance Committee’s due diligence, prayer, and discernment—the committee is meeting with your prospect: What the prospect might bring to the board, and how the board/ministry might enrich your prospect’s life and service.

But caution! If during the dating process, you pick up signs and signals that this person may not be a good fit (or a loose cannon), you can move on—and you will have saved yourself untold angst and sleepless nights

Order the tools book from Amazon by clicking on this title: ECFA Tools and Templates for Effective Board Governance: Time-Saving Solutions for Your Board, by Dan Busby and John Pearson. The book gives you full access to all 22 tools and templates—formatted as Word documents so you can customize the tools for your board’s unique uses.

BOARD DISCUSSION: Sometimes the reason boardroom attendance is dismal—is because the agenda is dismal. Check out the template for the board meeting schedule on page 241 of Tool #21—which lists key agenda items and decisions for future meetings. How’s the attendance at our board meetings—and do we engage board members and leverage their insights and strengths, or are board meetings one-way speeches?

MORE RESOURCES: In Lesson 14 for the Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom Blog, Bruce Johnson writes, “Discerning, cultivating, and vetting who would be a good board member is one of the most important responsibilities of the CEO and board members. And high on the qualification list is knowledge of governance and the role of the board and board members for your organization.” Read his guest blog, “If You Need a Board Member, Recruit a Board Member.”

 

This article was originally posted on the “Governance of Christ-Centered Organizations” blog, hosted by ECFA.
John Pearson, a board governance consultant and author, was ECFA’s governance blogger from 2011 to 2020.
© 2021, ECFA and John Pearson. All rights reserved.

 


This text is provided with the understanding that ECFA is not rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from an accountant, lawyer, or other professional.

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