Building A Better Board

DNA-15.307.3515_Blog Building an Effective Board_3

Event: Shine the Light Nonprofit Forum

Keynote: Susan Meier, Meier and Associates in Washington, D.C.

Panel: Scot Baddley, YMCA of Greenville, Chandra Dillard, Furman University, Kathy McKinney, Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd, P.A.

Who Was There: More than 125 Upstate nonprofit leaders and board members

Location: Kroc Community Center

Topic: Board leadership for nonprofit organizations

Susan Meier, principal at Meier and Associates, brings more than 25 years of governance and nonprofit experience to her work. From 2004 to 2011, Meier served as the vice president of consulting and training for BoardSource, the nation’s premier governance resource for nonprofit organizations. She works collaboratively with nonprofit executives and board leadership to identify governance challenges and opportunities and to implement proven strategies to address a broad array of governance issues.



I always say, “If you’ve seen one board, you’ve seen one board,” because no two boards function exactly the same way.

Recruiting a High Performing Board

Know what skills, personalities and influences you are seeking and why. Be proactive and build an ongoing pool of candidates. An effective board recruitment process begins with cultivating prospects and recruiting members, follows with engaging the members, continues with providing leadership opportunities for the members, and ends with renewing/rotating members. Board-building is an ongoing process.

Engaging a High Performing Board

How do you keep good board members? Be the kind of board that will attract them — high performing! Three key elements to engage a high-performing board: Make meetings matter, re-frame the work of the board and ask catalytic questions. Efficiently handle the “business of the board” at the meetings to make them more effective, and then spend most of the time on issues of the greatest importance.

A board should manage only two things: the executive director and itself. A board that works together has the confidence to as the tough questions and push the organization to its highest performance. What can you expose your board to that will expand their understanding of what you are trying to do?

Working in Constructive Partnership

The success of the executive director and the success of the board are interdependent upon one another. Trust between the executive director and the board emerges when there is a high degree of accountability. Encourage open, candid communication and define role clarification and respect.

Three Modes of Governance:

Fiduciary: oversight, what are we going to do?

Strategic: planning, how are we going to do it?

Generative: sense making, why are we going to do it?

Governing a board requires framing the right problem, asking the right questions and ensuring the right results.

Final Thoughts

A small board of highly engaged members is always better than a large board with “deadwood” on it.

Shine the Light Nonprofit Forums is an annual series of educational workshops presented by DNA Creative Communications. These seminars in nonprofit management include fundraising help , strategic planning, branding exercises and leadership development. The sessions are designed for nonprofit professionals, executive directors and board members to provide insight and training in operating a healthy nonprofit organization. Since its launch in 2010, more than 1,200 participants and 375 nonprofit organizations have attended a Shine the Light Nonprofit Forum event.


Publication by; The Greenville Journal 

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