These“Trustee Tips” should be helpful to you in your new role:
Attend board and special meetings as required. These meetings provide critical face-to-face time with other members, but they also allow new members to observe the group dynamic and isolate hubs of leadership.
Be on time.
Be visibly prepared.Review materials and research CAREFULLY before meeting and always make at least one serious contribution. Make sure that everyone knows you are prepared, with such techniques as highlighted info or notes on particular issues. Make clear to your colleagues that you’ve done your homework, but avoid offering miscellaneous information or random questions just to prove how clever you are.
Ask significant questions that are fundamental in nature BEFORE the meeting.
Honor your commitments. If you say you will do something, do it. And do it in timely fashion.
Be informed and engaged in the organization and its subject matter.
Broaden your value to the board by not just participating in your area of specialization.
Participate in the social activities of the board. Do not show up just for the meetings and leave immediately when it is over.
Mix in with other trustees…don’t stay in one group, whether it’s racial or the people you are comfortable with…get to know ALL trustees.
Watch your seat. See if there’s a power section of the board table and gravitate toward that neighborhood, but also try to rotate yourself around the group to build relationships. There are cliques, there are leaders, and then there are other directors who aren’t pulling their weight.
Appearances count, particularly for the new woman on the board. Let fashion moguls wear the micro-items to work. Fun, edgy, or sexy outfits that may now be acceptable in your office still lack boardroom gravity, and it's never casual Friday in the boardroom. Dress professionally always.
Do not forget your posture. Confidence begins with sitting up or standing straight, with chin up, chest out and a smile.
Don’t answer your cell phone or check hand-held gadgets in the meeting or when dining.
Don’t talk with food in your mouth when dining and take small bites.
Don’t ignore an invitation. Accept or decline within 24 hours if possible.
Acknowledge your emails, calls and letters when appropriate…in this case, silence is not golden.
Have ideas and opinions about subject matter and be ready to give them when asked.
Separate your personal and professional email addresses….sending an email to a business office that is from email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com will hurt your chances at employment or any other opportunity.
You can often negotiate the annual and capital giving expectations if you are in a position to leverage a smaller contribution on your part by getting support from others, e.g. your company.
Quality is more important than quantity—do not say “yes” to multiple board assignments if you do not have the time or the resources to be successful.
You do not have to be the African American or Hispanic viewpoint on everything. However, you are a person of color and certain responsibilities come with that. You are expected to ensure that our voices are heard and that there is full inclusion in whatever ways are appropriate for your board or committee.
Establish working relationships with current board members in a variety of ways whenever possible.
Realize that you don’t know everything, and capitalize on every opportunity to learn.
Expect to be in the “minority” on board decisions once in a while and accept the majority decision graciously. The time to voice your opinions about issues is before the vote is taken.
Be flexible and willing to compromise.
Be a good listener.
You only have one vote. Your issues can only be successful if you convince two, three or four (depending on the size of your board) other board members to vote with you.
Your role is to establish policy and set goals. It is up to management to run day to day operations.
Avoid micromanagement, while making sure you understand the big picture.
Assume your position with an open mind. Abandon preconceived notions and hidden agendas, including opinions on management and constituents.
Have a clear understanding of the organization’s finances. Ask lots of questions.
Be passionate about your organization, making sure everyone you meet hears about your nonprofit frequently.
Be polite and courteous. The boardroom is like the U.S. Senate, where politicos may frankly view their fellows as venal morons but will always refer to each other as "my esteemed colleague."
Respect authority, and each other. Direct confrontation or ignoring seniority and titles in the board meeting is taboo, even if you know that something being said is blatantly wrong. Save it for a personal chat after the meeting.