Creating Synergy Between Nonprofit Staff and Boards


The effectiveness of a nonprofit organisation often hinges on the relationship between its staff and board of directors. When these two groups work together harmoniously and there is synergy, they can drive the organisation towards achieving its mission more effectively and efficiently. However, fostering a productive and synergistic relationship requires deliberate efforts from both sides. Here are several strategies staff can employ to create and maintain synergy with their boards.

1. Clear Communication

Clear and consistent communication is the foundation of any successful relationship. Staff should ensure that the board is regularly updated on key developments, challenges, and successes. This can be achieved through:

  • Regular Reports: Provide concise and informative updates on program outcomes, financial status, and strategic initiatives.
  • Board Meetings: Prepare detailed agendas and background materials in advance of board meetings to facilitate informed discussions.
  • Open Channels: Encourage ongoing communication through emails, newsletters, or an online portal where board members can access up-to-date information.

2. Define Roles and Responsibilities

A clear understanding of roles and responsibilities helps prevent misunderstandings and ensures that both staff and board members can focus on their respective areas of expertise.

  • Role Descriptions: Develop comprehensive role descriptions for both staff and board members that outline their specific duties and expectations.
  • Orientation Programs: Conduct orientation sessions for new board members to familiarise them with the organisation’s operations, culture, and their governance role.

3. Engage in Strategic Planning

Involving board members in strategic planning fosters a sense of ownership and commitment to the organisation’s goals.

  • Collaborative Sessions: Organise workshops and retreats where staff and board members can jointly discuss and develop strategic plans.
  • Shared Vision: Ensure that both parties have a shared understanding of the organisation’s mission, vision, and strategic priorities.

4. Leverage Board Expertise

Board members often bring a wealth of experience and skills that can be invaluable to the organisation.

  • Skill Utilisation: Identify the unique skills and expertise of each board member and find ways to leverage them in support of the organisation’s needs.
  • Task Forces and Committees: Create specialised committees or task forces where board members can apply their expertise to specific projects or initiatives.

5. Cultivate Relationships

Building strong, personal relationships between staff and board members can enhance trust and collaboration.

  • Social Events: Organise informal gatherings and social events to foster personal connections and camaraderie.
  • One-on-One Meetings: Encourage regular one-on-one meetings between board members and key staff to build rapport and understanding.

6. Recognise and Appreciate Contributions

Acknowledging the efforts and contributions of board members can motivate them to remain engaged and committed.

  • Public Recognition: Highlight board members’ contributions in newsletters, on the organisation’s website, and at events.
  • Personal Thanks: Send personalised thank-you notes or small tokens of appreciation to board members who go above and beyond in their roles.

7. Provide Training and Development

Investing in the professional development of board members can enhance their effectiveness and engagement.

  • Workshops and Seminars: Offer training sessions on governance, fundraising, and other relevant topics.
  • Resource Materials: Provide access to resources, such as articles, books, and online courses, to help board members stay informed about best practices in nonprofit governance.

8. Facilitate Open Dialogue

Creating an environment where open dialogue is encouraged can help address issues before they become major problems.

  • Feedback Mechanisms: Implement regular feedback loops where both staff and board members can share their thoughts and concerns.
  • Safe Spaces: Foster a culture where differing opinions are respected and healthy debate is encouraged.


Creating synergy between nonprofit staff and boards is an ongoing process that requires intentional effort and commitment from both sides. By fostering clear communication, defining roles, engaging in strategic planning, leveraging expertise, cultivating relationships, recognising contributions, providing training, and facilitating open dialogue, staff can build a strong, collaborative relationship with their boards. This synergy not only enhances the functioning of the organisation but also propels it closer to achieving its mission and making a greater impact in the community.

In summary, the collaboration between nonprofit staff and boards is vital for the organisation’s success. When these two groups work together effectively, they can create a powerful force for good, driving the nonprofit towards its goals with greater efficiency and impact.