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July 9, 2020
 
A Guide to Nonprofit Board Success Shows the Way
Book - A Guide to Nonprofit Board Success
Nonprofit success critically depends on the active, enthusiastic engagement of board members, but too often those invited to serve on boards may not fully understand their role and responsibilities, which A Guide to Nonprofit Board Success: Answering the Call of Leadership remedies.

Author Cindy Jarboe, who has consulted and served on nearly 100 nonprofit boards, provides an expert, exhaustively detailed guide that prospective, new—even veteran—board members will find invaluable.

Being invited to join a nonprofit board is an honor and speaks to the esteem with which the organization holds the individual. But before stepping to the plate, prospective board members owe it to themselves and the organization to fully understand what they're getting into.

Jarboe advises soon-to-be board members to accept the role only if they are passionate about the cause, understand its financial condition, and have a clear view of the time and potential financial demands it will make on them. She presents a comprehensive set of factors that potential members should assess, but "at the end of the day, your gut should tell you whether this is something you want to do," she writes.

To help board members keep the demands of the role in perspective, Jarboe offers level-headed advice to help prevent them from feeling overwhelmed. For example:
  • Board meetings. Preparation is key. Review materials sent out in advance. Ask questions about things you're not sure of.

  • Committees. Which to serve on. Role of chair, board members, and staff.

  • Finances. Understanding the fiduciary role. Understanding financial statements. Establishing budgets. Setting relevant policies.

  • Raising funds. Understanding that it’s a year-round effort. Different roles board members can play.

  • Planning. Thinking strategically. Reviewing the mission and vision. Setting goals and metrics for checking progress.
Boards are responsible for ensuring that their organization achieves optimal performance, and that includes them. As Jarboe writes, "High-performing boards never accept the status quo. They pursue continuous improvement. In order for the organization to continuously improve, the board itself must continuously improve."

To get there, she lays out how boards can effectively assess themselves, providing check lists for self-evaluation by board members and what she calls a board knowledge assessment to guide board discussion about finances, risk, governance, succession planning, and strategic planning.

Beyond providing practical guidance on board membership, Jarboe includes sage advice on how board members can become great leaders. First and foremost, they need to take care of themselves, which includes balancing work, community, family, and oneself. They also should personally get to know all aspects of the organization and listen to what staffers, volunteers, and other stakeholders have to say about it – and be able to address disagreements to ensure positive outcomes.

In outlining best practices of effective board leadership, A Guide to Nonprofit Board Success will also help guide other organizational leaders, e.g., executive directors or presidents, in their relations with their board.

A Guide to Nonprofit Board Success: Answering the Call of Leadership is available from ABC-CLIO.

Reviewed by Peter Lowy

February 2020
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