Priceless Board Members

posted by
Jessie Singer
Executive Director,
American Lung Association
in California

A philanthropist recently asked me, knowing that I’d be looking for new Board Members soon, what types of people I was in need of. He mentioned business CEOs, lawyers, university presidents, HR professionals, marketing gurus, etc. etc. As I sat there and thought for a moment, waiting for one/all of those to jump out at me, I realized that none did. There is something I am looking for in a perfect Board Member that no one can buy (with any financial amount), it’s not something that is needed in a certain type of position nor is it a certain skillset. I am seeking a Board Member who has passion.

Some Board Members can give lots of money, whether it be their own or that from their company, and come with tremendous financial support. Other Board Members feel that their knowledge base or background is sufficient because they are bringing new skills to the organization. The best Board Members, in my opinion, are the ones who bring passion about the nonprofit’s mission and are willing to share this with others.

Sharing passion is something that you can not equate to any financial amount. These Board Members can make introductions to companies, open doors to new sponsors and recruit top-notch volunteers. They do this by sharing their connection to the organization with others and once their passion oozes, it’s hard to stop this contagious feeling. People want to be around others doing great things, right? Well then send these Board Members out in the community because people like hearing from volunteers sharing a story, rather than a staff member pitching for money.

Four Important Lessons from a Nonprofit Board Nomination Process


posted by
Ryan Johnson

Vice President, 
Publishing and Community
 for WorldatWork

My term on the board of a national nonprofit professional association recently came to an end after more than 5 years—including a year as the chair of the board, and a year as immediate past board chair. Per the by-laws, the immediate past board chair leads the nominations process for incoming board members. That process concluded in late spring and I have to admit that I learned some lessons along the way. I hope this blog post helps someone who may someday face the same issues that I faced.

Lesson #1. It might be obvious, but: get on it early.
Our by-laws stipulated the precise make-up of the nominations committee: a total of seven people. What was evident immediately is that coordinating the schedules of seven people plus an executive director—even for a phone call—is very difficult. This process will take longer than you think, regardless of how well organized you are.

So, you’re thinking about serving on a board. Now what?

posted by
Shawn Rudnick,
Board Member
YNPN Phoenix

Serving on nonprofit boards has been some of the most rewarding and frustrating work I have ever done. It gives you a chance to have significant impact on the direction of an agency and issue you are passionate about. I have experienced the amazing work they can do when they at their best, as well as felt the disillusion when they don’t. While I’m no Yoda in the wisdom column, I hope I have picked up a couple tips that could be useful for those looking to serve or already working on a board.

We will start with a bit of a shocker. It’s a job (no really, it is), and like any job it deserves the proper time and energy required to do it right. The agency you are assisting is no less deserving of your best than your employer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting you go Office Space on your employer. Living off Jack’s “Value Menu” isn’t desirable, but your board work shouldn’t be kicked aside out of convenience either. So, make sure you understand the time commitment (about 16 hours a month) and alert your employer of the new commitment.  Employers can be supportive of this work when they realize the benefits in terms of skills and increased moral that can come with service.

Building Better Boards in 10 Easy Steps

posted by
Todd Hornback,
Director of Community Life
DMB Associates, Inc.

"Your board is your destiny." You could have heard a pin drop when this simple, yet elegant answer was given to an apparently complex question.

When fundraising legend Jerry Panas was the featured presenter to a small group of nonprofit CEO's and board chairs in Phoenix, those in the room hung on his every word. I mean, why wouldn't they? Mr. Panas has raised something like a gazillion dollars through the years. In fact, with over thirty years of proven fundraising success, he certainly knows a little something about that complex question: "So, what is the board's role in fundraising?"

Your board is your destiny.

It's brilliant. It's brilliant because it's so true. It's also brilliant because it's compelling. Whatever your past accomplishments, whatever your organizational journey, be assured that the makeup of the group sitting around your board table is a direct precursor to where your organization will end up — for better or for worse.

Your board is your destiny.

It's shocking to me how many nonprofit boards are unaware of the power and importance they possess. Worse, some are outright shirking their primary responsibilities, leaving all faith (and important decisions) in the hands of their CEO. I mean all due respect to the abundance of massively talented leaders in the nonprofit community. But left alone, even the most successful CEO's could be creating an unsustainable enterprise. Without broad-based community support, an abundance of boisterous stakeholders, and support from multiple consumer markets (all work that should be driven by the board), organizations with leadership models containing narrow distribution of meaningful roles do not survive over time.

Your board is your destiny.

Board development is the most important work of the nonprofit enterprise. Yet, it is largely under-valued, under-resourced, and under-appreciated for its potential. So, here it is. Developed over the past decade with broad support and inspiration from a variety of friends, trusted colleagues, and published wisdom: Board Development 101 — Building Better Boards in 10 Easy Steps:

When Documenting Your Best Efforts Is No Longer Enough: Stakeholder Involvement in Results-Oriented Program Evaluation

posted by
B. J. Tatro, Ph.D.,

   ASU Lodestar Center
NMI Instructor /
B. J. Tatro Consulting

You meticulously record what you do. You report on exactly how many people you served, where, when, and how. In the past, this might have been adequate, but no more. Today, nonprofit organizations need to be able to show the results of their efforts. And the demand for accountability isn't just coming from funders either. Board members, consumers, community members, and staff alike want to know if the services provided are making a difference and if the results really outweigh the costs.

So, how do you move beyond reporting on activities and outputs? How do you project short and long-term outcomes that are realistic, important, and feasible to measure?

The answer is not "let the grant writer do it!"

The most effective method for doing this, in my experience, is to work collaboratively with key stakeholders, including those who will be involved in and impacted by the program. Ask them what they hope and expect will be different as a result of implementing the program, and how they would know success if they saw it. (In fact, this step should really precede design of the program.)

Research Friday: The Board Chair and the CEO: When is a Team Relationship a Team ... Really?

posted by Pat Lewis,
Senior Professional
in Residence
ASU Lodestar Center

Welcome to Research Friday! As part of a continuing weekly series, each Friday we invite a nonprofit expert from our academic faculty to highlight a research report or study and discuss how it can inform and improve day-to-day nonprofit practice. We welcome your comments and feedback.

"None of us exists independent of our relationships with others. In each of these relationships we are different, new in some way." [1]

The relationship between a nonprofit Board Chair and the CEO is an incredibly important one. I have found no studies that dispute this. In fact, it ought to be a fun, exhilarating, rewarding experience for both members of this important leadership team. So, are we accomplishing this goal?

ASU is a research university that puts significant effort into true academic research. However, there are times when simple surveys produce very meaningful information — and can provide the basis for deeper research projects. And it is a simple (and small) survey upon which this blog is based.

The Organization for Nonprofit Executives (ONE) recently performed a survey of its members to help gather information for my presentation on the Board Chair/Chief Executive relationship. Thirty-two CEOs responded, and the results were extremely informative, leading to the greater question of how often this relationship is fun, exhilarating, and rewarding. The answer? For the CEO, not as often as one might imagine.

When asked their feelings about this relationship, approximately 1 in 4 CEOs responded with very positive statements (paraphrased) such as:

  • Chair is supportive and helpful.
  • The challenge? Keeping up with the Chair.
  • Chair is very busy, but very accommodating.
  • Relationship built on mutual trust and respect.