December 15, 2018
 
Hands-on Solutions for Nonprofit Boards

While there’s never enough time for nonprofit board members to learn everything they need to know, good resources exist, and one of the more accessible is The Best of the Board Café, a compilation of easy-to-read-and-digest articles that deal with the full range of board issues.

The Best of the Board Café is an organized collection of columns written by Jan Masaoka for a newsletter that goes by the same name. Directed toward nonprofit board members, each article—usually only two or three pages in length—addresses a specific issue and provides a solution drawn from hands-on experience.

This book comes at an important time for the nonprofit sector. Federal and state legislatures are increasing their scrutiny of nonprofits, even whether they should continue to enjoy their tax-exempt status. At the same time, nonprofits continue to proliferate at a high rate. The bottom line? The need for effective governance and management has never been greater.

Starting with the responsibilities of board members, the book speaks to the key issues nearly all of them will confront during their term in office, including:
  • Relating to the executive director
  • Setting and implementing strategy
  • Board continuity
  • Board organization and governance
  • Structuring board meetings
  • Financial accountability
  • Fundraising
Case in point: Many nonprofits today are evaluating their strategy in light of resource constraints coupled with greater demand for services. But that’s not the only time to engage in a strategic planning process. Other triggers include a perceived need for greater organizational focus or when core values, goals, and programs haven’t been examined in a long time.

The Best of the Board Café outlines elements of a typical strategic planning process, when to consider engaging an external consultant, and, most importantly, discusses the board’s role in strategic planning – which it defines as the intersection of governance and management.

Masaoka is nothing if not an optimist. She notes that “community nonprofits and people—the overwhelming majority of the nonprofit sector—are the ones doing most of the work, coming up with the most innovative ideas” and are “the vehicles through which we take care of our communities and act for social change.”.

She adds, “We break new ground (unlike foundations) and take personal risks (unlike funders). As community nonprofits, we do more than provide services. We are part of, and we lead movements, for social change. And we hold ourselves accountable to our constituencies.”

Nonprofit board members have a weighty responsibility. This book lifts some of the burden off their shoulders.

The Best of the Board Café is published by the Fieldstone Alliance.

Reviewed by Peter Lowy
February 2011

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