The responsibilities of nonprofit boards extend beyond managing and providing oversight on finances. Human capital is also one of an organization’s major assets, and having a human resources professional as part of the team can be a huge strategic advantage when dealing with the tricky personnel issues. Check out the these 10 key ways that Human Resources professionals can lend their skills to board service in meaningful ways. Then visit our Board Service Hub for additional resources and to sign up for our free webinars open to corporations, nonprofits, and marketing professionals.
The following is adapted from the free book download Human Resources Literacy for the Nonprofit Sector: Why HR Professionals Make Great Board Members.
1. Preach the gospel of talent management plans.
Nonprofits are often notorious for working on a shoestring staff, which can lead to burnout and high turnover. HR professionals can guide the organization toward developing a talent management plan to help it identify the human needs of the organization and build capacity for recruitment, retention, and professional development for not only employees, but also interns and volunteers.
2. Find access to HR pro bono resources.
Nonprofits can use HR pro bono resources to assist in board recruitment, performance management, and staff development for the organization. Having an HR professional on a nonprofit board can ensure these valuable engagements are properly scoped, screened, and supported.
3. Counsel the chief executive during personnel crisis situations.
The role of an executive director is a stressful and isolating one. HR professionals are well-positioned to take a much-appreciated advisory role to help chief executives make informed decisions, especially when it comes to to the human resources of the organization.
4. Change management.
Change happens; what matters is how you deal with it. That’s where HR professionals can be of particular value: managing the confusion, anxiety, and stress that inevitably follows an organization’s growth.
5. Serve on the governance committee.
Governance committees are a relatively new feature of nonprofits board, but their responsibilities fall closely along the specialties of the HR professional: recruitment and orientation strategy and self-evaluation of strengths, challenges, and weaknesses. It’s a natural fit for HR professionals seeking to offer expertise and guidance to a nonprofit.
6. Leverage the talents and skills of board members.
Half the battle in achieving a mission is having the right people to carry it out. Hopefully a lot of thought went into assembling a board, and the benefit of having an HR professional as part of that team is being able to help each member build expectations and fulfill unique roles within the organization.
7. Help with hiring and, when necessary, firing the chief executive.
Having a strong chief executive is critical to the success of an organization. The responsibility of finding the right candidate for the job or assist in transitions in the position ultimately falls to the nonprofit board. This requires knowledge of the legal landscape, professional tact, and strategic thinking–areas where HR professionals excel.
8. Help with management and regular assessment of the chief executive.
Chief executives are people, too: they need feedback and assessment to ensure they are professionally on track with meeting goals. The board serves this function, and an HR professional can make sure these evaluations are done regularly, sensitively, and confidentially.
9. Help develop compensation philosophies and policies, and determine chief executive compensation.
Nonprofit executive compensation is a touchy subject that is carefully scrutinized by stakeholders and regulators. HR professionals are familiar with the delicate balancing act between organizational goals, benchmarked trends, and human emotions and can be invaluable to a nonprofit board during this process.
10. Help lead the board through a self-assessment process.
Self-assessment is a necessary exercise to ensure the nonprofit board remains accountable for its actions but can be a tricky thing. A successful one must focus on organizational goals and performance, but also remain sensitive to people’s feelings and emotions. Navigating these challenges may be just the job for an HR professional.