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3/23/2017 12:00 AM

Board & Administrator shares the secret to getting board meetings off to a focused and upbeat start.

Executive Director David Cook (Hendersonville, N.C.; has sound advice to get your board meetings off to a positive start: Emphasize your mission and focus on some good news.

“We are a faith-based nonprofit, so our meetings are started by a devotion that is presented by a board member selected from a rotating list,” Cook said.

Another nonprofit could start with a meditation or a thought for the day that resonates with that organization’s mission, Cook said.

Cook also is seeking approval from his executive committee to add a successful idea from the organization’s staff meetings to the board meeting agenda.

“At our staff meetings, we start with checking in—‘Good News, Family News, Frustrations/Bragging,’” he said.

“I am recommending to my executive committee that we add this to our board agenda, because some of these members only see each other once a month,” Cook said.

Another board meeting tip: For three or four meetings each year, Cook’s board has a 30-minute continuing education presentation that has been developed based on board input.

“We post our board packet at a secure location on our website, and members are responsible to go there and review materials to be discussed and to review committee/subcommittee reports,” Cook said. “This allows us to use a consent agenda, which is a great time-saver.”

“Our board meetings start at 3:30 p.m. and seldom go past 5:00 p.m.,” Cook said.

CEO Evaluation
3/3/2017 12:00 AM

Board & Administrator Editor Jeff Stratton explains why evaluating the executive director is such a challenge for board members.

Do you fear your performance evaluation by the board? Maybe you should.

Believe me, I understand why executive directors can experience chills of terror at the prospect of being evaluated by a volunteer board of directors.

The nonprofit CEO needs to face up to this cold fact: Many nonprofit board members come to the job with zero experience in evaluation of a management professional.

That makes sense, because board members are often “doers,” people who are recruited for their ability to get things done. So they run small businesses, work in churches or in the social services sector, or simply care a great deal about an organization’s mission.

These are important skills, but they really have no bearing on a board member’s ability to provide the executive director with a performance evaluation that will improve the quality of the nonprofit’s performance.

These factors, in my view, often lead to the board deciding that it needs to hear from staff members about the administrator’s performance when evaluating the executive director. This is a bad idea, for many reasons. But the biggest problem a thrown-together 360-degree performance appraisal creates for the CEO is that employees may be even less qualified to evaluate a professional than a board member!

If board members bring up the idea of evaluating the executive director by using staff input on your performance, be wary. It’s a touchy topic, but I recommend that the board use a 360-degree feedback mechanism to evaluate the executive director only if:

  1. The executive director agrees to it. The 360-degree evaluation isn’t “sprung” on the CEO by the board.
  2. The board has first demonstrated proficiency with a performance goals–based evaluation process. This is also an argument for giving the board training on the executive director evaluation process.
  3. The CEO has input into who will provide 360-degree feedback on the evaluation. Think: your upper-level managers who know what you do, people you work with and interact with in the community, and carefully screened stakeholders.
  4. The questions used in the 360-degree feedback form are mutually agreed upon by the board–executive director team.
  5. The board is able to understand “outlier” comments from a disgruntled person do not reflect the full picture of the executive’s performance.


Jeff Stratton, Editor; 515.963.7972

Board Relationship
2/17/2017 12:00 AM

How you update the board at meetings can be key to preventing micromanagement, according to this article in B&A.

What you report to your board can be crucial. It can be the difference between fending off board attempts to micromanage you and a board that focuses on the strategic “big picture” at its meetings.

Executive Director Margie Hale (Charleston, W.V.; effectively keeps her board away from the weeds by directing their attention to progress on goals with a “Strategic Plan Update for the Board” at meetings.

“The report highlights our progress with our strategic plan goals,” Hale said. The update focuses on giving the board measurable objectives, so the board is reviewing meaningful information at its quarterly meetings.

“Board members find this helpful, because they can see in a short report how we are doing with our strategic plan,” Hale said. “That helps them stay focused.”

An example of how “what” you report to the board sets the tone for what kind of relationship you have with the board. Recently, Hale had a board member serving who began his term on the board by asking the board to focus on a single policy area that was important to him.

“This wasn’t even on our agenda,” Hale said.

The board member’s singular interest created stress and tension on the board. “He would dominate meetings and couldn’t seem to understand that we wanted him on the board to focus on KIDS COUNT’s agenda,” Hale said.

Hale and her board were astonished when this board member single-handedly convened a committee to study his issue. “Fortunately, the people he was trying to recruit for this committee knew they couldn’t serve without the chair’s approval,” she said. After this setback, the board member resigned.

Hale believes that with a strategic planning process and reporting mechanism in place, this incident would not have taken place. “At the least, it would have been easier for him to understand our agenda and helped the board stay strong in the face of his aggression,” she said.

3/10/2017 12:00 AM

This resource from Board & Administrator helps board members assess their engagement level with the organization.

2/24/2017 12:00 AM

In Brian Foss and the Horatio Alger Association’s book, Governing Effective Nonprofits in the 21st Century, board members can find a wealth of practical information about serving on a board.

Below, you’ll find a terrific job description for a nonprofit board member.

A Sample Board Member’s Job Description for Any Nonprofit

  • Understand and support the mission, programs and services of the organization.
  • Accept the responsibilities of being a fiduciary of a corporation that exists for the public good using tax-exempt, tax-deductible funds.
  • Make a multiyear commitment to participate actively in governance meetings and programs.
  • Be among the first, most generous and consistent annual donors.
  • Invite new people to become involved in the organization’s work and to contribute financially.
  • Assist other governance leaders in building relationships that will help the organization fulfill its mission.
  • Be a steward of the public trust and a trustee of the organization’s mission and resources.
  • Keep the board’s work focused on governance issues, policy creation and setting strategic directions for the organization’s future in a transparent and ethical manner.
  • Keep the board focused on effectiveness in fulfilling the mission and programs, and creating an organization that is best-in-class.
  • As a fiduciary, ensure that the organization is diversely funded, approve the annual budget and monitor fiscal affairs, conduct an audit annually, have fiscal controls in place, review IRS Form 990, and plan for the financial future of the corporation.
  • Ensure the board has policies in place regarding board and staff conflicts of interest, self-dealing and transparency.
  • Understand how the organization raises its funds and approve all of the fundraising practices and external contracts for fundraising.
  • Leave management matters to the organization’s CEO and help the board and staff continuously differentiate the roles of governance and management.
  • Be an advocate and ally for the CEO, assuming such support is merited. Participate in the hiring, nurturing and evaluation of the CEO.
  • Keep the board focused on the organization’s mission.


Source: Brian Foss, Governing Effective Nonprofits in the 21st Century. Reprinted with permission.

1/27/2017 12:00 AM

Use the following exercise from The Board Doctor to assess your board’s understanding of its role.

Use the following exercise to determine how clearly your board understands its role. Identify those areas where the board lacks either knowledge or information, and make plans to find them the training they need. Remember: An untrained board is a disaster (for the CEO) waiting to happen.


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  • Meet the Editor

    Jeff Stratton

    Jeff Stratton has edited Board & Administrator since 1992. As the Board Doctor, he has advised thousands of executive directors and board members on issues like prevention of
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