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8 Attributes Of An Outstanding Nonprofit Board Chairman

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An outstanding nonprofit board begins with a truly great board chair. Why? The chair is the leader and sets the tone in so many critical areas.

It would be easy to list 50 or more key attributes of the best board chairs. I have chosen to weigh in with my personal top eight. The eight attributes listed below have had the largest impact on the success (or lack thereof) for the numerous nonprofit boards I have had the privilege to serve on.

Key Qualities for Effective Nonprofit Board Leadership

1. Personal Commitment to the Nonprofit

There must be passion for the mission that is backed up by the devotion of time, energy and funds. Those funds should be their own personal funds as well as their family foundation or business if they exist. Yes, it also means being willing to ask others for a financial commitment too!

2. Exude Enthusiasm

Many would link this second attribute to the first, however I fervently believe it must stand on it’s own. This is due to how infectious such a spirit can be and the monumental impact it can have on getting key tasks completed by others. Plus, it just makes every meeting so much more fun!

3. Ability to See the Big Picture

This attribute is there 100% of the time for every great leader. How else can you suggest how to position other board members and volunteers without big picture knowledge?

Seeing the big picture is also a must for making sure a strong strategic plan is in place and being used to it’s fullest.

4. Is Not “OVER” Committed

We have all heard to achieve anything in the fastest manner assign it to the busiest person in the room. Unfortunately, this breaks down at some point and worse yet details and deadlines start slipping.

This is particularly difficult when it comes to fundraising duties since being associated with or chairing too many nonprofits can water down results. There just needs to be a proper balance and it should be taken into consideration when nominating a chair.

5. Relationship Magician

As a chairman of any board, but perhaps even more importantly a nonprofit board comprised of volunteers, making relationships work well together is essential. There are going to be issues that arise whenever volunteers are asked to be accountable or to work together.

The best chairs seem to have a knack for blending diverse backgrounds and personalities together in order to achieve results. In my opinion, doing so is truly magical!

6. Results Oriented

This attribute is essential to moving the mission forward of the organization. Every good strategic plan will have deadlines and projected results. Making those come to life and succeed requires an orientation focused on results.

The tricky part is balancing this attribute with one above it. The same methods of communication and motivations work differently on various types of people.

7. Huge Rolodex

Please excuse the ancient metaphor, but nothing else seems to sum up the best that know not only the most people, but also the “right” people to help at anytime or place.

Obviously, this is vital for funding the mission. You will also see it coming into play almost every aspect of a strategic plan.

Lastly, recruiting other volunteers and board members is often a matter of who knows who and who believes in who…

8. Existing Mutual Respect with the CEO/Executive Director

This attribute goes beyond the relationship magician outlined above. Both individuals will be working closely together and nothing can replace mutual respect being in place for this to go smoothly and efficiently.

When such mutual respect is not in place it is nearly impossible to overcome in the quest for success.

There, now you have my favorite eight attributes for an outstanding board chairman. Hopefully, your current board chair has all or most of them at their disposal.

Did I miss any that you think are just as important? Let me know in the comments below!

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