Pocket Guide to Nonprofit Board Effectiveness

The adage, “Good things come in small packages” applies to How to Make Your Board Dramatically More Effective, Starting Today: A Board Member’s Guide to Asking the Right Questions, by Gayle L. Gifford. This 115 page guide is a short and provocative read that should lead to some powerful discussions. It’s also a book that I highly recommend to nonprofit leaders and board members who want to improve their stewardship. Here’s why.

My work with clients involves engaging them in “discovery”–asking questions that enable them to find workable approaches and ideas. Finding the right questions to ask is often as challenging as coming up with the right answers. The value of Gifford’s book is that she provides a comprehensive set of critical questions that nonprofit boards need to ask themselves. These questions are organized into three areas of board performance that include mission/community impact, stewardship, and board development. Each of the 34 chapters introduces a key question and briefly explains why it needs to be addressed. For example:

  • “Does our vision matter?”
  • “Do we think and act strategically?”
  • “Is our organization worthy of support?”
  • “Have we given our CEO the necessary support?”
  • “Are we prepared enough to make a difference?”
  • “Do we make policy instead of one-time decisions?”

Not all the questions Gifford asks are as challenging to answer as those I’ve shared here, but they are all purposeful in enabling board members to assess their effectiveness in areas that include governance vs. micromanaging, CEO evaluation, staff relations, board recruitment, the board’s role in fundraising, understanding financial information, and productive meetings.

Nonprofit board members will find How to Make Your Board Dramatically More Effective, Starting Today a valuable tool that can be used for new board member orientation, special board retreats, and ongoing board development.

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