Building Good Relations with Board Members: Start Early, Seek Regular Input, Inspire Trust

In your experience, how have you had success in fostering a good relationship with your board members, especially your board chair?

Mike Glover, MS, ACE
Tahoe (CA) Chamber

I think the key is the word “relationship” and understanding that your board members are volunteering their time to enhance their relationship to your chamber, and to you. Getting to know what your board chair hopes to accomplish during their tenure and helping them reach that goal is one of the best ways to forge a solid working relationship that will help you both be successful.

If I have had good relationships with my board members and board chairs, it stems from being genuinely interested in them and making their time on the board a good experience.

Jim Johnson, CCE, IOM
Pearland (TX) Chamber

I believe a good relationship starts early in their term. I do my best to have a sit down with one board member each month to strengthen the personal relationship. I also host a standing meeting with the board chair and chair elect each month. It gives us time to discuss pending projects or reports in an informal setting.

Blair McGary
Executive Director
Summit County (CO) Chamber

I am looking for transparency and ultimately, trust, with my board and board chair. I try to be very clear and calm when communicating with my board. I consistently try to think through all aspects of a project or request to ensure that I am prepared and reassure the board that the project has been well thought out at the staff level. If a question comes up that I am unsure about, I communicate that and if necessary, follow up.

Setting realistic expectations and not overpromising is important. By regularly meeting expectations, if not exceeding, we are able to build trust and ultimately a strong, functioning team.

Mike Neal, CCE, CCD, HLM
Tulsa (OK) Regional Chamber

From my perspective, it’s all about engagement — early and often. Proactively and consistently seek the input and counsel of your board members on matters of importance to your community. Volunteer leaders are busy, and their time is at a premium. When they commit to help an organization, they want to feel confident they can actually make an impact.

No CEO is looking to just be a seat filler for a nonprofit. Engaging board members early and often reassures them that their expertise is valued and appreciated. It also ensures that their expertise is being fully leveraged for the benefit of the organization.