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5 Ways to Strengthen Your Board

by Molly O'Connell

Has the nonprofit board outlived its purpose? What is working well about this model and what is distracting us from our missions? These are questions that over 100 nonprofit executive directors and board chairs gathered to discuss on November 20th in Bath, at MANP’s inaugural Executive Leadership Forum.board graphic

As event facilitator, Mary Ellen Jackson, Executive Director of the New Hampshire Center for Nonprofits challenged the group, “Is it realistic to ask [volunteers] to come around a table 6-10 times a year and know the organization well enough to be able to make critical financial, strategic and governing decisions?”

While there may be inherent challenges to the board governance model, it is a construct that brings passionate individuals together for the common good, which is a strong foundation on which to build. From the vigorous and wide-ranging conversation  at the forum emerged the following themes about recommended board development.

1. Keep mission front and center.

When the course is not clear, your mission can help focus conversation and provide a framework for decisions.

Bring the discussion to your board:

2. Get the right people in the room, and ensure they can contribute.

Passion is important, but to be truly effective, boards need members with the experience, skills and insights that are most aligned with an organization’s strategic goals.

Bring the discussion to your board:

3. Nurture the Executive Director/Board relationship.

This is a complicated, but critical relationship. Boards and CEOs that do not create a productive working relationship do a disservice to the organization’s mission.

Bring the discussion to your board:

4. Foster new leadership on the board and in the organization.

With up to 75% of Executive Directors retiring in the next ten years, and only 14% of board members being under 40, boards and organizations are both facing a leadership crisis.

Bring the discussion to your board:

5. Be open to new ideas, and willing to have challenging conversations.

Boards are leading our organizations through challenging times, and there are tough conversations ahead.

Bring the discussion to your board:

Not all boards have the same challenges: what resonates for your board? In 2015, commit to bringing a few of these questions to your board table so we can all continue the conversation about how organizations can make the board model most effectively serve our missions.

MANP’s next Executive Leadership Forum will be on April 16, 2015 in Waterville, and early bird discounts are available until January 30th. Join nonprofit leaders from around the state for engaging conversations that inspire change.

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