Volunteers join an organization's board, learning their responsibilities during an orientation and from experienced leaders. To help them perform, and to set them up for overarching success, give your board access to key organizational "tools."

The following tools are the systems, controls and processes needed to ensure successful organizational outcomes.

The Mission Statement

Anyone who serves on a board should be able to communicate the organization's statement of purpose or mission. It will frame nearly every discussion and decision. Be certain your organization's mission statement is visible and the driving force at board and committee meetings. The mission may be supplemented with vision and values statements.

The Strategic Plan

It is the roadmap for several years; the G.P.S. — Goals, Priorities and Strategies. The plan keeps the board and committees working as a team in the same direction. When new ideas and motions are proposed, consider how they fit within the plan.

The Bylaws

The relationship between the board and membership is described in the bylaws. It will prescribe practices such as financial audits, surety bonding and rules of order. Directors will not be able to fulfill their duties without familiarity with the bylaws.

The Policies

Prior boards have adopted policies to guide actions by the current and future boards. Examples include maintaining confidentiality, disclosing conflicts of interest, avoiding risks, and investment strategies. When making decisions, determine if a policy exists.

The Budget

Be conversant with the budget — it is the board-approved tool to monitor income and costs. Be alert to the ratio of dues and non-dues income. Compare the size of the budget to the amount of savings, recognizing the board protects and makes best use of assets.

The Meeting Agenda

The agenda is a listing of topics that need to be discussed. When it is received, take time to study the topics, read reports and ask questions. At meetings, stick to the agenda, avoiding what seems like squirrel chases up a tree and into a rabbit hole. If a consent agenda is used, directors must read the reports provided in advance of the meeting.

The Committees

Most organizations have a cadre of committees and task forces. They get their authority from the bylaws and their assignments from the board. Use committees to supplement board and staff work.

The Staff

The staff works in unison with leaders to achieve results. They have the institutional knowledge and resources to help the board. Maintain professional relationships with staff and rely on the executive director or CEO to manage the association. An organizational chart depicts preferred channels of communication and authority.

Michelle Winn Larson, CAE, CMP, Associate Executive Director at the Florida Osteopathic Medical Association says, "Providing the tools to the FOMA board of directors ensures that they are informed and confident of their responsibilities."

Helpful Hint

Package the tools as a leadership manual or provide access to the governing documents on a password protected site.