The Key to a Great Foundation Board

Developing a successful board of directors is no small task. In my
experience, many advancement officers find themselves devoting a great deal
of time to working with their foundation’s Board of Directors (board). It
goes without saying that this group is pivotal to the success (or failure)
of your college’s mission, so investing time working with them makes sense.
While many books have been written on developing and working with a board,
I want to focus on one key issue that I believe makes all the difference
between a highly effective board and one that only goes through the

It all comes down to expectations. The best way to improve the performance
of your board over time is by setting clear expectations with prospective
members before they commit to joining. Doing so is not complicated, but it
must be done in a direct and clear manner. Here are a few expectations that
tend to be glossed over (or ignored all together) during the recruitment

  • Expectations around giving (both personal and corporate gifts)
  • Description of their role (and why it matters)
  • Calendar of meetings and attendance expectations
  • An honest assessment of your colleges challenges, strengths and
  • Length of term and term limits (if any)
  • Anything that you know you will be asking of them once they join the

I realize this list is neither comprehensive nor new to you. The point,
however, is that we have all been guilty of underselling expectations.
Whether it is intentional or not, we create two problems by doing so. The
first problem is that the board member ends up being surprised when the
time comes for them to fulfill the requirements of the role, which often
leads to frustration on both sides of the table.

The Key to a Great Foundation Board

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