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10th July 2017 Sara Lock

Quick guide: effective boards

By: Sara Lock


This simple toolkit will help you develop a board equipped with the skills and perspectives you need to achieve your mission and vision.

When operating effectively, your board of trustees helps keep your organisation on track. It focuses on your mission and makes sure your organisation is doing what it was set up to do.

Boards oversee the financial and legal health of your organisation and can play a vital role in fundraising.

The most effective boards bring together a diverse range of skills and perspectives that can help you achieve your mission and vision.

Board members need to be engaged and understand their role in order to help your organisation achieve its ideal future.

Board exercise #1
what does your organisation need?

  • Think about the skills and expertise you need to support your staff team and secure your organisation’s future — what are your priorities and what would help you achieve them?
  • Think about your target audiences — who are you trying to reach and how could they be represented on your board? Would involving representatives in decision-making help you achieve your vision, mission and audience objectives?

Board exercise #2
what skills do you have and what’s missing?

  • If they haven’t already, ask your existing board members to fill out a brief skills audit and chart their collective skills.
  • Identify any gaps in skills or perspectives by comparing your board’s collective skills with those identified in exercise #1.

Addressing gaps
developing the skills you need

If there are significant gaps in the skills and perspectives you require to help drive your vision and mission forwards then it may be time to embark on board recruitment.

However, if your board is already at full capacity, you will need to take a different approach.

Arts Council England’s Catalyst building fundraising capacity programmes have shown how investing in board training can increase board skills and engagement. If you have a full and highly engaged board, consider whether investing in board training could help you fill your remaining skills gaps. It could be a great way to reward the time board members commit to your organisation and expand their skills and expertise at the same time.

Gov.co.uk also suggests teaming up with another charity to share board expertise. If your governance structure restricts you to 10 board members at a time, you may find it difficult to find all the skills and perspectives you need within 10 people. Chat to other organisations that you work with and see if they have a similar problem. If you both have different skills gaps, building an agreement that allows you to call upon each other’s boards for advice could be mutually beneficial.

Download the full guide to continue:
Quick guide: effective boards (PDF)
Skills audit template (Word)

| Published:2017

Smart tags: board trustees recruitment

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