12 Practices of Highly Effective Nonprofit Boards

What makes your nonprofit board effective?

That’s a big question with lots of important best practices, guidelines, and legalities to answer it.  Way more than what can be covered in one blog.

In this blog, we’ll help you avoid one of the most common mistakes of nonprofit boards and the practical ways to avoid it.

We call it the Booster Club Syndrome.

For those of you outside of the USA, Wikipedia has a good definition of Booster Clubs:

Booster Clubs are organizations in schools…generally run and organized by the parents… and by athletic supporters and fans at colleges… Its main function is to develop support for the student program and raise funds to supplement shrinking public support as result of budget cuts.

Booster Clubs certainly have their place, especially among schools and performing arts organizations.

However, for your nonprofit ministry to be stable and have the capacity to grow, you must have a rightly functioning board with members equipped to govern effectively. The problem is few people have had any training or coaching to prepare for the role.

For your nonprofit ministry to be stable and have the capacity to grow, you must have a rightly functioning board with members equipped to govern effectively. The problem is few people have had any training to prepare for the role. Share on X

Are you victim of the Booster Club Syndrome?

How do you know if your board of directors has fallen victim to the Booster Club Syndrome?  We’ve created a quick Self-Check for you to evaluate which best describes your board.


Booster ClubGoverning Board
Most of our members are parents/grandparents of students/performers.

Or, most of our members are related to our Founder or close friends.

Our members are committed to our mission, but the majority are not directly connected to the people who primarily benefit from our ministry (such as students, clients, performers).
We make decisions based on our preferences for our children/performers or based on our Founder’s wishes.We make decisions based on a 3-5 year Strategic Plan that has been created with input from the Board and Staff, and adopted by the Board.
We do the same thing year after year because “We’ve always done it that way.”

We are not growing or expanding our impact.

We are open to new ideas and new ways of resourcing and fulfilling our mission.
We do not have written By-Laws that govern our meetings and decisions, including term limits, position descriptions, and process for identifying new members.We have written By-Laws and every member has a copy.

We follow our By-Laws in all decisions.

We do not have Board term limits.

We have no published way for new people to know how to serve on the Board.

We have term limits with a process for identifying and confirming new members.
We rely on one person to keep the financial records.All members are informed of financials.

We have one person who is bookkeeper, and a separate unrelated person who reviews for accountability.

We have financial policies in place, including check writing, gift acceptance, etc.

Most of our fundraising is sales driven…auctions, candy sales, event tickets, food booths.

If we don’t raise enough money through our fundraisers, we are in financial trouble.

Our fundraising is driven by relationship, with only a few events to help raise awareness and/or create new connections to develop into strong relationships.
We make decisions based on who has the loudest voice or strongest personality.

We don’t evaluate what we do by a stated measurement of success.

Our ministry experiences a lot of crisis, drama, and urgent needs.

We use our Strategic Plan to make decisions and evaluate the success of what we’ve been doing based on the indicators we set as a team.

We have a process in place for regular review and revision to anticipate changing needs or respond to changes outside of our control.


Booster or Governing Board?

How did you do?  Did you identify some changes you need to make?

If your board mostly sounds like the Booster Club description, then it’s probably time to have prayerful, candid conversations with your Chair, and then the rest of your members.  As a team, you might identify the top three changes you need to make to actively grow into the kind of governing board that will increase your mission impact.

Don’t Shoot the Messenger

Let’s be honest, it’s often easier to have someone from outside your ministry deliver the message that change is needed and to identify the practical steps necessary to take your board to the next level…especially if the message needs to be delivered to a founder or long-standing Chair.

We’re here to help.  Whether you are a startup or well-established ministry, we’ll walk alongside you, so your board is engaged, energized, and effective.  The NonProfit Authority–Board Coaching

Give us a call/email and we’ll discuss your specific needs.


Other Resources


Online Course: Certified Development ProfessionalStrategic Planning


Online Course:  Certified Development ProfessionalLeading & Organizing

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