How do some nonprofit organizations develop and prosper, while others appear passive and static? Thriving and effective nonprofit boards share some important characteristics, which do not include "boring" board meetings. Enterprising and lively boards produce board meetings that guide an organization to its next goal on the long journey of mission.

In most instances, the strength of a nonprofit's board of directors and governance structure is the key to its overall success. Compelling board members and boards tend to have a strong board mission and board members who are passionate about the mission and contribute relevant skillsets.

The following three steps can help transform a "boring" board into an interesting and productive governing body.

Establish a Strong Mission

Having a clear, straightforward mission that you can communicate to your board member is very important. If this is a new organization, the founders should define a succinct mission that impacts a measurable segment of the community. If the organization has been established for a while, the existing board and management might need to evaluate the current mission statement and compare it to the operational direction that is currently in place. If mission and operations are not quite synchronized, action needs to be taken to make the two run parallel in order to provide a clear organizational objective.

Recruit Passionate Board Members

The better an organization defines its mission, the easier it is to convey that mission to potential board member recruits who can determine if they are passionate about the nonprofit's purpose. A passionate board member will be eager to provide energy and resources to the nonprofit's objective at board meetings and events, because for these members, whatever the issue is, it's personal. Whether establishing policies, creating a new program, solving an IT issue or responding to a personnel problem, a board member who is engaged brings energy and the ability to accomplish goals, objectives and benchmarks.

Look for Compatible Skills, Not Just a "Type"

Some organizations make the mistake of creating a governance structure that pigeonholes the "type" of individuals who can be board members. For example, the by-laws of a private school or college may define that over half the board be educators, or a community development corporation may require virtually all members to live in the community. Organizations need to determine the skills that can effectively be utilized to accomplish their mission. After prioritizing those skills, an organization should recruit individuals who meet the criteria and are passionate about the organization's mission. For example, a public foundation that primarily makes grants to other nonprofits would probably need a successful investment advisor to serve on its board of directors and finance committee, whereas a social service organization that receives most of its funding from government sources would most likely need an individual with significant insurance experience.

When an organization is equipped with board members who have buy-in to the nonprofit mission and purpose, are passionate about a part of the community they truly believe they can impact, and have the skills to do just that, board meetings will likely be anything but boring.

Visit to sign up for invitations to the Brown Smith Wallace NPO Speaker Series discussions throughout the year.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.