What Makes a Functional Board of Trustees?

When we talk about organizations and business management, we are really discussing a massive topic. To have a successful organization, be it non-profit or otherwise, you have to have an elected group of people in charge of the management of the business. We typically call this group of people a board of trustees. If you are coming into this conversation from outside the business world, you might not be familiar with what role the board of trustees plays as well as what makes them effective at what they do. To help familiarize you with this key concept, we will break it down below.


As we discuss what comprises a great board of trustees, understand also that we are referring to the board of directors. These two phrases tend to be used interchangeably as their goals are essentially the same. Before we dig deeper into that concept, we have a great example to showcase such as these board of trustee members. Looking over the collection of individuals on the page, one thing should quickly become clear to you. To serve admirably as a member of a board of trustees, you should be experienced in your field while also having the accolades to back it up. While credentials are important to board members, they aren’t the only important aspect of their job.


The board of trustees is typically going to be charged with making sure that the organization is operated in an optimal way. The board will typically be regulated by the bylaws that had been established by the business in question. From there, the board will be broken down into different committees so that they can target specific tasks while simultaneously dividing and segregating power, thus ensuring that everyone has a clear voice at the table.


If you have ever heard of a board of trustees before, what did you envision in terms of their size? It is easy to fall into Hollywood tropes when discussing corporate organizations and the boards that run them, but that isn’t fair to the people involved with the work. A traditional board of trustees can have anywhere from three to thirty people sitting at the table. These people will ideally be passionate about their industry, committed to improving their corporation, and willing to collaborate with one another to accomplish their goals. As more people are added to the board, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep things organized and group-focused. For that reason, an effective board of trustees must also be able to reach mutually beneficial agreements with one another even on divisive topics. You will often find that boards are responsible for holding funds, assets, and property “in-trust” to protect them via their fiduciary duty.


As you can see, there is a lot that goes into operating a board of trustees. The perfect board will be collaborative, experienced, and ready to work together for the good of the company as well as the shareholders that have entrusted them with their finances. That doesn’t sound too hard, does it?