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


Unclear Roles Lead to Conflict and Chaos

A board member, who went through a traumatic founder transition, shared the story with me. In the organization’s early years, board members took on many staff roles and the ED and Board Chair were the same person. As the organization matured, the founders struggled to transition their roles. This led to personality conflicts, lack of accountability, and ultimately the resignation of both founders. Clarifying Roles Is Essential As told by a Board Member somewhere in the US I remember when our nonprofit — which focused on special needs kids — was just starting out. It was founded by a couple,… Read more

Having Good Intentions Is Not the Way to Diversify Your Staff

A colleague described her journey around diversity. She learned that despite her husband being black, she really did not understand what it is like to live as a black person in this country. But she did know that her organization, which served a diverse population, would have more impact if it had a diverse staff. She shared this story of how she made that change. I Am Married to a Black Man, But I Was Still Clueless As told by a nonprofit CEO somewhere in the U.S. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are near and dear to my heart because I’m… Read more

Maintaining a Relationship with Former Board Members

I was chatting with a colleague who dedicated herself passionately to organizations as a board member. For many, she had served nine years – three, three-year terms. She volunteered in countless ways for these organizations, introduced them to donors, brought on additional board members, helped with strategy, and much more. After investing so much time and creativity, she knew it would be a letdown to leave the board. But she also understood that it is good to bring in new ideas and fresh perspectives.  So, when her terms were up, she graciously stepped down, continuing to be a donor. To… Read more

Keeping Your Board Engaged Post Pandemic

During the pandemic, many boards naturally and organically became more involved as members helped navigate the crisis. At one level, boards simply monitored finances more carefully. At the other extreme, board members took on operating roles when staff were ill or caring for family. And the pandemic impacted different organizations differently. For some, demand for services increased; for others (think arts organizations) usage plummeted or stopped altogether. In all situations, board members appropriately leaned in to help the organizations they loved survive. For several years, board members got used to being pretty hands-on.   But what happens now as we… Read more

Handling a CEO Problem with Empathy

In this post, I share the story of how one Board Chair – and board – managed a problematic situation with a new CEO in a sensitive way. Trust Your Gut if Something Seems Wrong with Your CEO As told by a Board Chair somewhere in the US I was Board Chair of a medium-sized nonprofit in a midwestern city. The organization had been around for decades and was very impactful. We had a lot of support from local corporations, foundations, and big donors. Our staff were – and still are — amazing and have built trusting relationships with the… Read more