Downtown Board Membership for “Dummies”

Ok – let’s start with the title. If you are being asked (or currently on) a downtown Board of Directors there is very little chance that you are, in fact, a dummy. You’re likely a smart, talented, and driven person who wants the best for their community, and specifically your downtown. However, if you’ve never been on a board before, or you’re new to a Main Street board, there are a few things you’ll probably want to know.

Let’s start with some basic ones:

  • Check personal at the door – you’re there to make decisions that will benefit the downtown, and occasionally these may conflict with what will benefit you personally or your business. These are tough decisions, but when you put the organization and community first, you will win in the long run.
  • Let the Executive Director be the Executive Director – just because you are on the board doesn’t mean that you need to watch over every step the director takes. You’ve hired this person to oversee the day-to-day operations, trust that they will handle that and let them serve you as a business.
  • Pay attention to the finances. Help make sure the organization has a solid financial foundation. If you see opportunities for funding, substantial savings, or ways to stretch dollars say something.
  • Advocate for the organization! Whether you are telling your neighbor, your councilman, or customers in your business. Let them know about all the great things the organization is doing and how they can help!
  • Ask, Ask, Ask! You aren’t expected to know everything. Too many times I’ve had board members come up to me after a meeting and ask about something. Usually it was a term or lingo we throw around that they didn’t know, or something about a report they didn’t understand. You are probably not the only person with the question, so don’t hesitate to ask. If your motive is to understand (and not to stick it to someone or have a gotcha moment), it’s a great opportunity to stop and make sure everyone understands the issue

You might think those are pretty basic, and you’d be right. You’d also be surprised how often one or all of them are overlooked or ignored. The board is better when all the members are informed and engaged, and those basic tenets are a good start.

Board Membership for dummies