Top Qualities of Effective Board Members

top board member qualities

Behind almost every effective and impactful nonprofit lies an even more powerful and successful Board of Directors.

In many cases, the Board is the driving force behind an organization. They provide advice on strategies and planning. They guide you through issues and roadblocks. They offer resources that otherwise may have been inaccessible. Basically, they’re there to benefit your company and make your job easier.

However, if your Board members are combative or inattentive, they can actually hinder your progress and make your job that much more difficult. Recruiting helpful, insightful Board members is key to ensuring the continued success of your nonprofit.

But, how can you know that someone will make an effective Board member? What sort of characteristics should you look for? You’re in luck! We’ve rounded up some top qualities of valuable Board members to help you sort through your candidates and build a knockout team!

Specific Expertise

One of your Board’s main responsibilities is to provide guidance and advice on all aspects of your nonprofit. So, aim to put together a Board that offers expertise in a variety of topics and areas.

Before piecing together your Board, determine what sort of professions and knowledge would directly benefit your mission.

  • Do you need someone from the legal field to walk you through complex issues?
  • Would an accountant be helpful to you?
  • Could you benefit from having a marketing expert as a resource?

Don’t hesitate to get specific and list out detailed subject areas. Are you hoping for someone that specializes in small business finances or only B2B marketing? Put that on your list!

When putting together your Board, imagine you’re putting together a puzzle. Take a look at all of the qualified potential Board members, and group them by subject matter expertise. Then, pull out all of your top-choice candidates, while attempting to achieve a balance of varying proficiencies. This will help you focus on assembling a well-rounded Board that will be helpful with many different aspects of your nonprofit.


If you’ve ever worked with a Board member that was unpredictable and unreliable, you already know how frustrating that can be.

Having Board members that are dependable and consistent is crucial. You need your members to regularly attend all scheduled meetings and show up prepared, so that you don’t need to waste the first half of your meeting familiarizing them with the information that was previously sent to them.

Actively engaged Board members will read the agenda ahead of time, sort through any relevant documentation, and show up to the meeting with their questions, comments, and ideas ready to go.

You also want to make sure that your Board members are willing and able to accept different tasks and assignments. This is especially important if you’re a nonprofit with a smaller team of regular staff members, as you may need your Board members to take care of something that you don’t have the resources for. Your Board is there to provide assistance, so make sure that you can depend on them to do so.

Good Character

When finding Board members, keep in mind that they’ll be representing your nonprofit out in the community. Whether you expect a great deal or very little from the members of your Board, one thing you should absolutely require is that they’re upright and honorable. You need to be able to discuss confidential information in your meetings without fear that it could be leaked to the public or media.

Also, ensure that your Board members maintain positive reputations in the community. The actions of your members will reflect back on your nonprofit. So, make sure you’re confident in your Board members’ decisions and public personas.

Community Connections

While you want your Board members to uphold positive reputations in the community, it also helps if they’re well connected.

Your members will be out networking and promoting your social good project on your behalf, and it’s an added bonus if they already have a captive audience to spread the word to! They can use their connections to benefit your nonprofit, including garnering community support, organically marketing your nonprofit and even attracting more attendees for your events.

Having well connected Board members also opens the door to additional resources and opportunities. If you need assistance with a special project or are looking to recruit volunteers, your Board members’ networks provide an even bigger pool of assets for you!

Team-Oriented Attitude

Of course, you want someone that brings innovative ideas and strong opinions to the table. However, you also don’t want that person to be a steamroller that dominates every conversation.

Search for Board members that possess a positive, collaborative attitude so that your meetings always have an atmosphere that is supportive and encouraging of new ideas.

Also, aim for members that are skilled communicators. They’re comfortable taking the floor, but are also excited about listening to others’ thoughts. They’ll also know how to provide criticism without being hurtful or condescending.

Building a qualified, active, and engaged Board is key for developing new ideas and strategies, resolving complex issues and ensuring the continued success of your nonprofit. Look for these qualities when assembling your Board, and you’re sure to have a great team behind you!

Photograph by Olga Berrios.

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