This is the sixth in a series of posts on effective Board of Directors work (or Board of Trustees, Council, etc.) Some of these posts will be primarily for those new to board work while others will be for those who are trying to improve and professionalize the quality of the work of their organization's board. If you’d like to receive them in your inbox as they are published, sign up at the end of this post.
My last blog post focused on effective on-boarding of newcomers to your board or council. One of the best ways to help new board members start off strong is by providing them with a central place to find the basic information they will want and need. Historically, these have been printed board handbooks, but over the past decade or more, they have largely migrated to a digital format that is easily accessible to all current board members through a password protected website or board governance platform. Whether housed in a 3-ring binder or stored in the cloud, the core contents are the same.
In addition to the board handbook being helpful for newcomers, even long-time board members and key staff will find this set of documents to be a handy reference throughout the life of their service.
Board handbooks are as unique as the organizations they serve. There are some items that are only appropriate for public companies, others for any for-profit company and some that are for not-for-profit organizations only. I have put together a sample Board Handbook outline below. While most organizations will probably find that almost everything in this outline is appropriate, there will undoubtedly be some deletions and additions, based on your organization’s unique needs.
A Sample Board Book Outline:
The basic roles and responsibilities of our Board:
Current Reference Materials:
Policies & Procedures:
This board handbook outline may seem daunting at first glance. But, even for very small companies or not-for-profit organizations, you probably already have some of these items in file folders or scanned; they simply need to be pulled together, organized and shared. Start small and develop a plan to build a comprehensive board handbook over the coming months.
Like any collection of information, some of the contents in your organization’s board handbook will need to be updated more frequently than others. It is important to determine not only when each section needs to be updated, but who has responsibility to do so.
One last note, it may be prudent to have your legal advisor review your board handbook before you launch it just to make certain that there isn’t anything included that he or she would advise you against distributing in this format.
Beth A. Lewis
© Getting2Transformation 2019
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