How to Succeed on a Nonprofit Board

Monday, August 28, 2017

How to Succeed on a Nonprofit Board

Late one night, not too long ago, one of us got a phone call from a desperate executive director. The nonprofit he led was on the verge of bankruptcy. Over the years, the organization had thrived as a government provider, but a number of its big contracts were ending. For a long while, the executive director had been convinced the providers would renew. After all, they had done so innumerable times in the past. But as a new federal administration took over, it became clear the contracts were ending for good.

During the call, he took full responsibility for the situation. But he also couldn’t help questioning whether his board—filled with successful businesspeople—should have been more on top of things. In particular, he felt the board’s treasurer, a well-known CFO of a big corporation, wouldn’t have missed a looming crisis like this at her own company.

Ultimately, the nonprofit didn’t fold. But the crisis stressed relationships up and down the organization, and within a few months, the treasurer resigned. It was everybody’s loss.

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