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September 30, 2020
 
Every Nonprofit Owes It to Itself to Get Its Board on Board
Book - On Board
Nonprofit boards usually comprise different personalities, but they have one overarching goal—to make sure the organization is properly run and fiscally sound—and On Board: What Current and Aspiring Board Members Must Know About Nonprofits & Board Service aims to ensure everyone heads in the same right direction.

Written by Nanette Fridman, a Newton-based leadership coach, consultant, and trainer, On Board provides best practices to guide prospective and veteran board members, as well as executive directors, through the multi-layered, sometimes tricky, but valuable and rewarding world of board membership.

Her premise—that nonprofits are only as effective as their board—drives the content and structure of book. Noting that board members should know what is expected of them, she advocates for written roles and responsibilities and a board handbook. Some organizations ask board members to sign a commitment letter that spells out their responsibilities.

Not sure how such a letter should read? Fridman provides a sample commitment letter and checklists to use when soliciting and interviewing prospective board members (found on her website, with directions on how to access them).

Nonprofits succeed, or fall short, based on the strength and health of relations between the board and top executive, usually an executive director. Fridman advises board members to avoid micromanaging and, instead, look to the executive director to help them develop and implement a comprehensive strategic plan, adequately prepare for board meetings, and facilitate discussions.

“Nonprofit magic happens when an organization has a strong professional leader and a dedicated and engaged board and when the two have a collaborative and well-tuned working relationship,” she writes.

Board members, by virtue of their role, represent the organization to the larger community, and, not taking anything for granted, Fridman spells out how they can act as an ambassador, engage others in the organization (what she labels “friendraising”), tell their nonprofit’s story, and raise funds.

Ensuring organizational health means boards need to develop a succession process. Some boards have a formal chain of logical succession, and possibly term limits, while others are more informal. The real secret to effective succession planning, according to Fridman, is “having a strong board where everyone understands the big picture, is engaged, and knows his or her role.

“It’s a board where there are clear procedures in place. The best succession plan is having a board that regularly operates under established professional practices.”

On Board: What Current and Aspiring Board Members Must Know About Nonprofits & Board Service is available from Fridman Strategies.

Reviewed by Peter Lowy

April 2015
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