Let's start a conversation: How can boards be most effective? What lessons — good and bad — have you learned from your experiences?

Blog

Hiring a New CEO or Executive Director

Hiring a new CEO or Executive Director is one of the most important jobs – if not the most important job — for a board. You are hiring the person who represents the organization, sets its direction, and motivates its staff and stakeholders. As I interviewed board members around the country, the significance – and the difficulty – of making the right decision came up over and over. So, I am going to dedicate several posts to this topic. And I am going start with a story of a successful CEO search – one where several years down the road,… Read more

Define Roles and Engage Board Members

I was told about a board where the ED worked very hard for months on a strategic planning document. The ED worked with staff and got input from community partners. Board members were not part of the process. When the ED brought the final plan to the board, they tore it apart. I share this story often. People join boards because they are passionate about the mission and want to add value to the organization. Organizations spend a lot of effort identifying board members with great skills such as finance, communications, marketing, and fund raising. And then there is this… Read more

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