Strategies for Board Engagement

Having an engaged and committed board of directors is essential for the success and sustainability of Community Health Centers. Having a board of directors that provides governance and oversight is a requirement described within the Health Center Program Compliance Manual (Chapter 19-Board Authority and Chapter 20-Board Composition). Although a requirement, the goal for all Community Health Centers is to have a board of directors that function beyond the required authorities. Functioning beyond required authorities ensures positive outcomes for patients and communities served.  The following strategies can assist with increased board engagement:

    1. Aligning board composition with community needs: Requirements for board composition ensure that patient board members as a group represent the demographics served within the service area, and that non-patient board members have relevant skills and expertise to support board governance. Recruiting board members that have a deep understanding of the local community, cultural diversity, and healthcare challenges can ensure that decisions are made with a comprehensive understanding of the community served. Developing a board matrix can demonstrate that the board has a diverse set of skills and experience needed by the community health center.

    2. Board member training and on-going mentorship: Serving on a Community Health Center board is vastly different from a generic non-profit organization. It is vital to remember that individuals asked to be on the board may not have any prior experience or knowledge of Community Health Centers or the health center movement. Some may have inaccurate information regarding what a Community Health Center is. It is important that comprehensive education and training sessions are provided for board members to familiarize themselves with unique aspects, such as reading a financial statement, understanding clinical and risk management quality metrics, reviewing what a scope of project is along with corresponding forms (Form 5A, B, C). Provisionment of training should not just occur at the initial board meeting, but should be provided monthly or quarterly. Monthly board meetings can incorporate “mini trainings” on various aspects of the program requirements. Finally, the board of directors may want to assign a “board member buddy” or mentor to assist new board members for a period of time to help with the transition onto the board.

    3. Leverage technology and communication for collaboration: It is essential that board members receive board packets at least 7 days in advance of the meeting. Having information ahead of time will allow board members to review the packet, come prepared with any questions and be ready to discuss the information. The mode in which information is provided to the board should reflect the learning style of the board. Utilizing technology and platform tools may be one method to ensure documents are received in a timely manner. Embracing technology will also be one way to overcome logistical barriers. If board members have difficulty with various technology platforms, ensure that board members receive appropriate on-going training. Finally, remember that the board must receive information in order to support decision making abilities.

    While this is not an inclusive strategy list on board engagement, evaluating board performance allows the board to identify strengths and areas for improvement on how to improve engagement. This requires time on behalf of senior management and board members to tailor strategies that work. If a strategy doesn’t work, it’s ok to try again and find a solution that does. Together, board members can ensure that their health center mission and vision is fulfilled while maintaining compliance with federal requirements. 

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