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Nonprofit Risk Management Center's Tip of the Month: Getting Your Board’s House in Order

by Jessica Lantos

This year each month’s tip from the Nonprofit Risk Management Center is focused on individual components of a nonprofit. The intent is to provide inspiration and suggested steps to help trustees, staff leaders and volunteers become more organizationally savvy.   

 January’s tip: Getting Your Board’s House in Order

Effective nonprofits boards are essential to mission fulfillment, yet many nonprofit boards continue to operate on a “wing and a prayer”—just barely able to get the job done. Nonprofit CEOs, working in partnership with their volunteer boards and committees, are in the pilot’s seat when it comes to empowering outstanding governance practices by the board. Remember that:

  1. The board’s principal responsibility is to guide and monitor the values and goals of the organization. Ineffective boards simply rubber stamp the plans of a staff or volunteer leader. Effective boards revisit the values and goals of the nonprofit on a regular basis and guide the realization of the nonprofit’s mission. CEOs must encourage and support the board in this important work.
  2. Every board member has legal and moral responsibility for providing thoughtful oversight. Two of the most important steps a CEO can take to empower the board is to schedule training on the review of financial statements (you can’t oversee what you don’t understand) and encourage tough questions from the board. Acting as if questions from the board are an insult will extinguish healthy boardroom discussion and increase out of the room conversations about the CEO’s performance. At some point those conversations may turn to the nonprofit’s need for new staff leadership. 

One thought on “Nonprofit Risk Management Center’s Tip of the Month: Getting Your Board’s House in Order

Claudia Raessler says:

As part of my volunteer activities I sit on a national non-profit board that has recently undergone a great deal of transition. One of the resources I recently reviewed as a tool to educate both existing and new Board members is from Independent Sector/Board Source – the Principles Workbook Steering Your Board Toward Good Governance and Ethical Practice. Another resource on non-profit managment that appears to have some excellent materials is LaPiana Consulting at Although not directly on point to the issue above – their November 2009 Report, Convergence and How Five Trends Will Reshape the Social Sector is worth a review.

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