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Developing a Board

A board of directors serves a variety of roles in a network or coalition, including providing structured oversight to accomplish the goals of the group as a whole and ensuring the work is being done in the intended spirit. The board is legally responsible for the actions of the network or coalition (see Liability Issues for more information on this topic). Additionally, the board gives visibility and lends credibility to the network, with board members representing the network or coalition in their professional circles and to the community at large.

The size and makeup of a board of directors depends on the size and scope of the network; in general, the larger the network and more complex the goals and activities, the larger the board. Members are often recruited to sit on the board of directors because of their expertise and commitment to the network's mission. Tapping into existing relationships is a good place to start seeking board members, as much of the trust-building work on the front end will already be in place. Having diverse perspectives can be helpful in fine-tuning and fleshing out complex issues.

If the network is wanting to address a specific problem or concern, it is common to develop subcommittees or task forces. Board members may either volunteer or be assigned to sit on subcommittees or task forces, and if the issue in question exceeds the expertise of the board members, outside individuals with proficiency in the issue may be invited to the table. These subcommittees and task forces meet separately from the rest of the board, focusing their energy on a particular topic, and recommend actions to take on the identified issue. They report back to the full board.

Training board members is something that is often overlooked, as it may be assumed they are familiar with the responsibilities involved. Rural Health Innovations developed a detailed outline for how to conduct an orientation and other resources, which can be found in the Network Board Development Guide.

Resources to Learn More

Developing an Ongoing Board of Directors
Provides an overview of the role of a coalition's board of directors and gives tips for how to develop a board.
Organization(s): Community Tool Box