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Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

Hitting the Highlights: Covering Your Governance Bases

by Emily Davis, of Emily Davis Consulting

On December 5th, I had the pleasure of joining SVP Boulder County as their trainer on nonprofit governance to kick off their “Boards with Brains” series. The series is meant

BoardSource Logo to be a regular opportunity for nonprofit organizations to access best practices in the foundations of board governance. A variety of trainers will offer their perspectives on what board members need to succeed in their leadership roles. As a Certified Governance Trainer through BoardSource, I was lucky to get to nerd out on nonprofit with a great group!

We had a dynamic group of nearly 20 individuals from local nonprofits – both staff and board members – engaged in an essential conversation about board members’ responsibilities and expectations. Despite the below zero temperatures, the conversation and engagement in the room was hot, hot, hot!

Here are the top eight highlights from the two-hour intro-to-governance session. There is so much to say about board governance and we hope you will join Emily Davis Consulting and SVP Boulder County for any upcoming education opportunities on the topic to learn more!

1. Invest in Personal Planning: Be sure to sit down to think through what kind of commitments you are willing to make as an individual board member. What questions do you have for any organization before joining the board?

2. Know Every Board Member’s Responsibilities: BoardSource has developed a great list (and even a book) on the Ten Responsibilities of all board members. Know them. Love them. Live them.

3. Understand the Three Critical Board Roles: Again, this great BoardSource framework outlines the board responsibilities, which include setting the organizational direction, providing oversight, and ensuring resources. Check out Board Fundamentals: Understanding Roles in Nonprofit Governance.

4. Give Money! Every board member should make a financial contribution to the organization in addition to any time committed. Serving on a board requires a higher commitment and other donors should not be expected to give money until 100% of the board sets that example. Until utility companies start getting paid in hugs, nonprofits still need financial capital to provide services. Look up A Fundraising Guide for Nonprofit Board Members.

5. Get Crystal Clear on the Different Hats: Board members are asked to wear three different hats in any organization – Legal hat, Ambassador hat, and Volunteer hat. Be clear about which hat you are wearing, when you’re wearing that hat, and why it makes sense to wear the right hat. Check out Govern More, Manage Less.

6. Board and Executive Director (ED) Relationships are Sticky: One of the biggest challenges in any organization is learning when the board leads efforts, when the ED leads and when leadership is shared. Learning about how to avoid displacement and achieve a healthy balance is an important process. Read more in Governance as Leadership.

7. Embrace Conflict: As humans, we often want to avoid conflict, but conflict can just be disagreement which leads to more creative solutions. Refocus on what is best for the mission and the organization rather any personal agenda; this will help to get to the best solutions for your organizational goals. Read Culture of Inquiry for more info.

8. There is a lot More: These highlights about board governance are simply an introduction to the best practices in nonprofit leadership. Take time to invest in education and resources for you and your fellow nonprofit board members to become certified nonprofit nerds. Here are a few more resources to check out and continue the conversation:

What questions do you have about the basics of board governance? Do you agree or disagree with the highlights listed? Why or why not? Share your thoughts here!

You can contact SVP Boulder County or Emily Davis Consulting for copies of the slide decks and other handouts.

Watch for upcoming events and trainings from SVP Boulder County and Emily Davis Consulting.


About Emily Davis

Emily Davis2 Emily Davis is the President of Emily Davis Consulting, Fundraising and the Next Generation author; 21/64 philanthropy consultant; and BoardSource Certified Governance Trainer. Emily has over 15 years of nonprofit and philanthropic expertise. She provides consulting, speaking, and training for nonprofit and philanthropic leaders on charitable advising, communications, fundraising, and governance.

Emily serves as Board Vice Chair for Social Venture Partners Boulder County and Founding Curator for Global Shapers’ Boulder Hub. Emily has received national recognition for her service in the nonprofit community. She has her Masters in Nonprofit Management from Regis University.

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