1. Staggered elections. By replacing only some of the board during an election year, you can maintain the knowledge transfer needed for continuity while bringing in new members with new ideas. You can determine how many members will be elected in a particular year in the bylaws.
2. Have an annual board retreat with some built-in fun. Go play laser tag, attend a sporting event together, do some team building exercises, find something fun to do! Bringing the board together only for work will not build the bonds of trust and accountability needed to accomplish the nonprofit mission. Change it up from time to time and include some activities that help the board get to know each other as people.
3. Set term limits. After a period of time, a board member should no longer be able to serve on the board. This helps prevent entrenchment of one particular way of doing things in a nonprofit board. It helps avoid the “we’ve always done it this way” kind of thinking that can make a board become stagnant. You can find other ways to keep board members engaged with the nonprofit even after their term limit clock has tolled.
4. Have board requirements that fit your mission. You can require in your bylaws that a percentage or number of your board members meet a certain standard or have a specific background and it can be tied to the mission of your nonprofit. For example, if your nonprofit is a community development center serving a particular neighborhood, you can require a specific number of board members be residents of that neighborhood. Think about the type of board member that understands the problem well enough to help you address it in unique and innovative ways and get them on your board!
5. Have clear expectations and a means for removing members. It is also important to outline what you expect of your board members in the bylaws. How many meetings can they miss before being removed? What are other grounds for removal and what kind of vote is needed to remove a member i.e., majority or unanimous, etc.? If someone isn’t holding up their end of the bargain as a board member, you need a clear way to measure it and a mechanism to hold them accountable.