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Your Engine of Impact: Board Governance

Governance is a crucial component of any nonprofit’s success. It’s also one of the hardest aspects of nonprofit leadership to get right. We have observed this truth firsthand over many years of conducting due diligence on a wide range of nonprofits, first for the Henry R. Kravis Prize in Nonprofit Leadership and now at King Philanthropies. And research buttresses this observation: In a survey of nonprofit chief executives and board chairs conducted in 2015 for the BoardSource report “Leading with Intent,” respondents on average gave nonprofit boards a grade of B-minus in overall performance. Indeed, many people in the nonprofit sector simply assume that ineffective boards are par for the course. This sort of negative thinking all too easily becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy—one that we firmly reject.


7 Ways to Keep Your Nonprofit’s Board Engaged

The members of your board of directors are not just donors. They’re people, too. They didn’t join your nonprofit’s board to ask their friends and family for money, but because they care about your mission. While they are on the inside, they still need to know they are valued and making a difference.


Evaluate Your Board Meetings

I had just started my consulting relationship with Asheville School. It’s a very special high school in Asheville, North Carolina.

The meeting ended. But something happened that I had not been warned of. I was called on to give a 15-minute critique of the Board meeting.


Four Questions to Ask Every Prospective Board Member

Often in our haste to meet a deadline for recruiting board members, we whisk through the interview process or forego it entirely, relying on what we know about individuals through other connections or word of mouth.

Even when we believe we’re thorough, we tend to focus on the obvious rather than broach topics that are often better predictors of successful board service.


Four Board Behaviors Requiring Mr. Fix-it

In my book, What Every Board Needs to Know, Do, and Avoid, I make clear that the success of a board is determined in part by its collective ambition. It is easier to create a great board if you strive to be great.


The Importance of Training Your Board

If we think we can send board members out to fundraise without giving them tools, we might need some analysis. What are we thinking?! It’s a license for complete failure, and the proof is in the pudding. Time and again our board members fail to partner successfully with staff to develop the organization’s resources because we never show them how or provide the training.


Helping Your Board Spring to Life


Every organization dreams of recruiting and retaining a board of visionary planners,
generous investors, willing askers, and passionate pragmatists.

Despite these yearnings, too many boards are assembled without a strategy. Board selection is pushed by a date when a “slate” must be presented. Frenzied phone calls result in the inappropriate recruitment of people who may be well intentioned but not able to propel the organization to the next level.


Five Questions Every New Nonprofit Board Member Should Ask

Congratulations, you’ve just been appointed to one of the more prestigious nonprofit boards in your community! You’re really excited, because you have a passion for the organization’s mission and have heard nothing but great things about it. But after the warm glow cools down a little, you realize the pressure is on—how are you going to make your mark and really contribute to the organization? Start with asking the executive director or board chair these five questions and let their answers guide you to success.


Six Ways Boards Are Critical to a Nonprofit’s Brand

Nonprofit board members know they must oversee their organization’s finances, governance, and major initiatives. But an overlooked area of responsibility is maintaining the strength of their organization’s brand. Boards of organizations large and small must keep their organization’s brand healthy, vibrant, and free from liability. To do so, board members must:


What an Interim CEO Should Expect from the Board

In a previous post I discussed a board’s expectations for an interim CEO. But the interim should also have expectations and set them with the board before engaging in an assignment. Not all successful CEOs (or presidents or executive directors, whichever term an organization uses) will be effective in an interim role. Taking over during a leadership transition is a much more fluid and, at times, more demanding situation than heading an organization as its permanent CEO. With the proper level of cooperation between the interim, staff, and board, however, an interim leader’s tenure can be a positive experience that moves an organization forward while a search is underway for the next CEO.