Vital Nonprofit Work – 5 Ways to Strong Boards

I spend much of my working hours consulting with nonprofit organizations. In recent months many of those hours have focused on how to improve, and in one case completely rebuild, the board of directors. I also worked for nearly 20 years in leadership and management roles in two nonprofits, and had the privilege and challenge of working closely with those organization’s leaders.

In addition, since 1993 I’ve also served on five different nonprofit boards. I’ve experienced myriad situations ranging from completely non-functioning and dysfunctional boards to very high-functioning boards. While board development and leadership can be challenging and frustrating, it also can be fun, fruitful and very rewarding work.

Over these 25 years I’ve seen five elements come to the surface as basics for board success, which ultimately leads to thriving organizations. Here we go:

  1. Governance. Things like maintaining accurate minutes, using conflict of interest and whistleblower policies, financial oversite (including approving a sound budget, reviewing the executive director’s performance and compensation, annual audits, filing your IRS 990, document retention, gift acceptance policies), are all sound governance issues that will strengthen the organization and maintain an accountable and transparent ethos.
  2. Give. Board members should be recruited with a high expectation that they will give. Give advice. Give time. Give money, and all in generous fashion. Boards should be highly strategic and relentless about who they ask to join their leadership team. The work of nonprofits is vital and is deserving of engaged, experienced and generous people.
  3. Get. For some members their connections might be their most valuable asset to leverage. What matters and is needed? Community connections? Other donors? Corporate sponsors? Volunteers? Legal advice? Leveraging these connections, while avoiding conflict of interest, can be game-changing for an organization.
  4. Go. The best board members can tell the organization’s story based on first-hand experiences. If you provide clothing and shelter to the homeless – volunteer at the shelter. If you’re a trustee at a university – attend concerts, lectures, alumni events, meet professors and students who benefit from scholarships and research grants. Genuine engagement leads to passion and motivation.
  5. Get Off. This is crass, but if board members aren’t doing some or all of the above four points at a high level, then they should make room at the board of director’s table for someone who’s capable of serving at a high level.

The world is a much better place because of high functioning nonprofits. Over 10% of our U.S. population works in a nonprofit. If you add education (schools and colleges) this adds an additional 5%. They provide a support and backbone to our society by educating our children and adults, and they provide health and human services to millions over people with varying needs.

One amazing fact is that these organizations are governed by volunteer boards! This work matters. You just may be the person who needs to join a board…or resign from one. You can help a worthy nonprofit rewrite its story ending so it’s more powerful, meaningful and filled with hope. To read this on my website.


This blog shares perspectives on how you have the ability to create new story endings that are meaningful, powerful and filled with hope. Is your organization needing to change its culture or create a transformation plan? That’s what I help organizations do…I facilitate culture changing processes that help organizations achieve greater impact. Also, I provide leadership coaching to help executives and aspiring leaders become the fullest expression of who they’re intended to be.

If you're looking for coaching or consulting services, contact me -

@beckerbits #leadership #vision #culture