What Makes Effective Head Start Boards
Among non-profits, The Head Start Program is unique in that its Board structure and activities are mandated by the Federal Government. However, despite these regulations, each Board has a unique dynamic that can vary greatly between programs.
The Gravely Group specializes in training Boards on how to better communicate internally and externally. Often, hiring an outside consultant can give a fresh perspective to uncover problems in communication and efficiency. The consultant is often able to solve problems in a few weeks that some Boards may have been struggling with for years.
MassNonProfit.org recently shared an article “Observations on What Makes Effective Boards.” I think with careful consideration, we can use the author’s observations to reinforce some important strategies for strong Head Start Boards.
From the article:
- The Board’s Functions Are Strategic and Defined:
- The board president is the external representative along with the executive director.
- The board vice president supports the president and executive director on operational issues.
- The executive committee and one or two other “rising stars” make up a strong core group.
- Directors understand financial statements and are involved with budgeting and audits.
- Directors are representative of the membership and are not homogeneous.
- Board nominee recruitment is guided by skill sets needed at the board level (finance, policy, etc.).
- Board nominee recruitment is also guided by personnel needed (key member, influential community representative, etc.).
- The board has an organized and detailed orientation for new directors.
- The board includes professional development on its agenda for board meetings.
- The board conducts an annual self-assessment and acts on items identified needing improvement.
- Directors have a succession plan for hiring a new executive director.
- Directors act as hosts, rather than simply attendees, at all organization-sponsored functions.
I’d like to draw particular attention to three points highlighted by the author: Representation, Recruitment and Professional Development.
Representation & Recruitment – Ever heard that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts? A diverse board is a strong board, one that represents a variety of complimentary skill sets. Boards can often make the mistake of unintentional homogeneity. The Gravely Group can teach you how to strategically design a Board that makes sense for your program, including recognizing valuable skills sets in individuals as well as “making the sale” to potential members for why Board engagement is important and valuable for them.
Professional Development – Once you’ve recruited a diverse Board that is representative of the membership, it’s important to engage those members in professional development activities early and continually. Professional development activities not only make the Board better, but the value provided to the members themselves make them more likely to stay engaged. It is vitally important to develop and maintain a professional development training curriculum for Board Members.
Of course, it’s no secret that a strong Head Start Board is essential for a strong Head Start Program. Let The Gravely Group help you make it happen.