Strong Boards = Strong Nonprofits

Posted on by Wendy Liscow

I can’t think of a single nonprofit organizational challenge that wouldn’t be improved by having a strong board of trustees who are fully aware of their roles and responsibilities and implements them with wisdom, respect for staff roles, and confidence.  Can you?

Imagine this scenario:  There is a financial crisis and our country plunges into a recession. People are losing their jobs.  Nonprofits are losing both public and private funding sources, yet their services are in greater demand.  A strong board will have a strategic plan and/or have done strategic scenario planning and be able to respond with alacrity.

Imagine you have a weak Executive Director, there is no organizational growth and staff members are unhappy (but they aren’t leaving because of the aforementioned job crisis, so the work environment is growing toxic).  If  a strong board is in place, it  would administer an annual executive review and provide feedback. If improvement doesn’t follow, the board will make a leadership change.  The effective board would have a succession plan in place.

Imagine a nonprofit organization is not meeting earned and unearned revenue objectives, or its expenses are far outrunning income.  An effectual board will ask staff to analyze every program’s balance between serving mission and bringing in revenue.  They will make sure the overall balance works for the organization.  Laura Otten, Executive Director of the LaSalle Nonprofit Center, and our lead partner in the Dodge Foundation’s Board Leadership Training Series can tell you how do this!

Technical Assistance Workshop 2011 2012

OK.  Now it is your turn.  Think of a recent organizational challenge.  Got it in your head?  Now imagine what you could do if you had a strong board to help you solve that problem.

The Dodge Foundation can help you get the board that you need to build organizational capacity.  We encourage our grantees to bring a team of staff and board to our 2013-14 Board Leadership Series beginning October 12.  But the sessions fill up fast, so we recommend you get your leadership team together and register soon.

If you aren’t yet convinced that investing time into board and organizational growth is worth it, please take a moment to read Peggy McGlone’s wonderful article about Peters Valley Craft Center, a Dodge grantee that has attended the series over multiple years bringing new trustees as they come on the board. This practice has paid off handsomely!

In the article, executive director Kristin Muller and board members Ed Brannon attribute their fiscal and organization turnaround to their attendance at the workshops. “Boards try to run the organization rather than focus in on the long-term health of the institution,” Brannon said in the article.  He added, “Dodge’s experts train board members how to be good board members. Here’s what your role is, here’s what your role is not. Here’s how successful organizations work, and these are things that don’t help, don’t work.”

We hope you will join us for our board series this year.  We make a money back guarantee (okay, okay, the workshops are free) that you will gain important new tools to grow and develop your board.  We promise if you invest the time and effort, you will see positive growth in your board.

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