Three Signs Your Association Board Isn’t Effective

As an association board member, you show up to the meetings, participate and sometimes you even spend hours preparing in advance.

But is the Board on which you’re serving effective? Is the time you’re taking away from your family, your business, and your life making a difference– or wasting your time? Here are a few simple things to ask yourself –or your Board colleagues – to evaluate your efforts.


1. Success is?

There should not be a question mark here. Every organization has a mission or a purpose. What the organization does daily helps reach this mission or further this purpose, often using some type of operational plan. The Board must define what success looks like so everyone knows when you’ve arrived. The goal is not usually one “thing,” but rather a succession of “things” that are stepping stones to the final goal.

An effective Board not only identifies the goal, but also figures out how to measure progress toward the goal or these stepping stones along the way to success. Otherwise, how do you know where”‘there” is and when you actually arrive?


2. Do we truly understand how to use our resources?

To do whatever the organization does, you need time and resources. Resources are people, money, buildings . . . anything necessary for the organization to carry out its programs or deliver its services.

Board members are stewards of the organization’s resources. To be effective, Board members must be knowledgeable about the resources and objectively able to look how to best use these resources.

Using available data, including the metrics for success, Board members can most effectively decide how to use organizational resources to meet the mission. It is also the Board’s fiduciary – and fiscal – responsibility to ensure the best use of the organization’s resources.


3. Do our meetings matter?

No one enjoys just meeting to meet. You’ve seen YouTube videos spoofing meetings and conference calls.

Boards are responsible for setting the direction of the organization. To ensure that your Board time is well spent, link each discussion issue or agenda item back to the organization’s mission/purpose, goals and/or plan of action. The majority of Board meeting time should focus on strengthening the organization, not revisiting decisions, rehashing work already done by other volunteers, or coming up with ideas that don’t move the organization closer to its goals.


Effective Boards should:

  • Define success and identify milestones to monitor progress toward goal(s).
  • Monitor organizational resources to ensure these resources are being used effectively.
  • Focus meeting agendas and discussion time to strengthen the organization.

Ask yourself if your Board does these three basic functions. Better yet, have the Board take an anonymous self-evaluation every year and review the feedback together. The results will identify where you should be spending your time to be most effective in your important roles for the organization.

If you can’t answer these questions, it’s time to step back and spend some time on Board development or governance for the organization.