A board of directors extends the network of your champions. As such, you will want to identify board members that will be engaged in your mission, influential in the community, willing to connect you with others and inclined to donate to the cause. Executive leadership of your partner hospitals is a good place to start. Other important board appointments are the Executive Director of your local medical society, specialty care community physicians, primary care physicians, pharmacy and service club representatives, as well as legal and financial experts.
Be sure to have policies in place for your board members. While Doctors Care does not have rotating seats on its board due to the strong need for hospital leadership to be constantly engaged, some organizations may find that having a limit on the amount of time one can serve on the board (or in a specific board position) keeps everyone engaged and eliminates the possibility of overburdening anyone’s commitment. Regardless of your unique situation, establish a policy, make it the law and live by it: boards function better within a clearly-defined structure.
Additionally, we encourage subcommittees to leverage strengths and connections of board members. At Doctors Care, we have a “Taskforce for the Future” committee that meets biannually and focuses on strategic planning. The board members on this committee, well-versed in the directions that health care is moving, help determine the path Doctors Care will take to accommodate future changes in the needs of our population. By engaging board members on a level which excites them, or in which they have expertise, you are giving them the opportunity to guide your organization.
Most importantly, you will want to ensure that board members understand their fiduciary responsibility to uphold the organization. In other words, board members should be fully “bought in” to your organization to the extent that they make a meaningful annual gift (i.e., board members should be your major individual donors). Also consider adding key individual donors to your board if they are not on it already; if someone is willing to give you a large sum of money, they are obviously bought in. So engage them and ask them questions, and they will likely be more than willing to support your future vision.
Finally, include a patient story at each board meeting. Nothing solidifies commitment to a cause like actual, real life evidence of your work.