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How Board Members Can Influence Decisions. Illustration by Janet Levinger.

Build Trust and Focus on Values

As a board member, it is important to understand your role versus the role of the staff and the executive director. Every board struggles to find the right balance. Boards have fiduciary responsibility; they are legally responsible for the organization. They determine the vision and mission of the organization, they select and manage the executive director or CEO, they make sure the organization has adequate resources, and they set key strategies and policies. Board members should not be making daily decisions about programs or communications. That said, an organization often asks an individual to join their board because they have… Read more

Start Executive Sessions and Board Training Before You Need Them. Illustration by Janet Levinger.

Start Executive Sessions and Board Training Before You Need Them

This blog touches on two important topics: executive sessions and board confidentiality. When I have chaired boards, I instituted executive sessions at every board meeting. Often the executive session is at the end of the meeting and gets cut short or cut completely. If this happens occasionally, that’s okay. But prioritize leaving enough time for thoughtful conversation at most board meetings. I structure executive sessions in two parts: The first part includes the CEO but not the rest of the staff. During this part, the CEO can communicate about staffing, financials, legal issues, plans not ready to be announced, or… Read more

Big Red Flag: You Don’t Have to Do Anything

In my first blog, I wrote about a great trusting relationship between a board chair and ED that allowed a nonprofit to transform itself and have much greater impact. My second post talked about the impact of strained relationships between board leadership and the rest of the board. In this post, I describe an organization that found itself at great risk because no one was paying attention. But by implementing some processes and hiring consultants, the board chair was able to get back on track and start the fun part of being on a board – strategy. How One Board… Read more

Lack of Transparency Erodes Trust. Illustration by Janet Levinger.

Lack of Transparency Erodes Trust

For my first blog, I shared a story about a board chair who stepped up to help the Executive Director (ED) in time of important and impactful change. The organization successfully survived the change because of the trusting relationship between the board chair and the ED and because the board deeply supported the ED, going far beyond what they thought would be expected. For my second blog, I am sharing two stories by the same individual who notes that when a board chair or executive committee become too powerful, trust erodes. This individual shares their ideas about trust, transparency, and… Read more

Changing Course for More Impact

For my inaugural post, I decided to share a positive story. An inspiring young ED had a vision for increased impact. But making it happen required an experienced board chair as co-leader. This story hits on many topics: the role of the board in managing the ED, the role of the board chair vs. the ED, and the need for a generative board to support change. Underlying all was a strong, respectful, and trusting relationship between the board chair and the ED. Read more