Typically, the first board of directors consists of a minimum of three people. This usually includes the owner/founder or the first president. Check the appropriate governing legislation or accreditation guidelines to determine any regulations related to board size.
As the venture grows and becomes more complex, additional board members are brought in. Each will bring to the board a special background that adds value to the total board. Key elements of the operation may require board members to have familiarity or expertise in areas such as research, marketing, fundraising, law, and finance, as well as knowledge of the relevant industry. A pattern of backgrounds needs to be developed to ensure that the board is balanced and valuable.
The bylaws of the venture should set a maximum number of directors and the board must endeavour to maintain this level. Try to ensure that the number of board positions is an uneven number, to avoid the problems that might arise from a tie vote.
When boards get too big, members find it easier to miss meetings. They also find it difficult to hold a reasonable discussion wherein everyone interacts. This situation can lead to the formation of subcommittees of the board where certain directors have greater expertise on a certain issue. This is the usual reason for establishing an executive committee that includes a few key board members. It is easier to get this group together more often. Nevertheless, subcommittees have the potential of lessening the effectiveness of the board. So the general rule is to create few subcommittees, but to have them for at least audit and compensation, and to utilize there the independent (that is, non-management) directors.
Council on Foundations. (2006, January). At Issue: What is the Best Size for Your Board? Retrieved September 29, 2009, from