What does being a finalist for this award mean for you and your organization?

As a finalist, it is an honor to have the recognition and affirmation of the quality of our board and its practices. We firmly believe that a strong board directly influences the positive outcomes and results of the organization overall. America’s Charities has been recognized the past four years as one of the 50 best nonprofits to work for, and being a finalist for this esteemed board leadership award demonstrates that we strive for excellence in all we do, including our board practices.

What have you learned through the application process for the Board Leadership Award?

The application process gave us an opportunity to reflect on the evolution of the organization and our board practices. The board has fully embraced its role in setting strategy, oversight (and not management) of operations and continually improving our board recruitment to strengthen and embrace a diverse and robust board. Building and sustaining a successful board requires a great deal of thought, time and effort. Our recruitment focuses on seeking a diversity of skills, experiences, backgrounds and perspectives – and the quality of our board discussions and decisions are a direct result of that.

What advice would you offer for other organizations/board members striving for excellence in board leadership?

We have found that excellent board leadership is built on the foundation of focused board recruitment, cultivated board leaders, open communication and thoughtful engagement. Board recruitment begins with an understanding of the skills, expertise and backgrounds you need on the board. It is a year-round effort with an even flow of board directors cycling off and coming on board – we typically have 1-3 directors moving off and coming on to the board each year. Candidates should come from the board and their network (and their network’s network) – do not rely primarily on the CEO, though he/she has an important role in the process. This helps expand our pool to ensure we are reaching a diverse audience of candidates.

During recruitment, it is important to have an eye on future board leadership as well. A board is only as strong as its officers and committee chairs. A good practice is ongoing succession planning for the chair and committee chairs so transitions are smooth and new leaders are adequately prepared for their role.

Open, respectful and frequent dialogue between management and the board is imperative. Communication should happen regularly and frequently – not just at board and committee meetings. Our CEO and Chair meet regularly with a focus on thought partnership and keeping each apprised. This has helped strengthen the leadership bond. In addition, the CEO meets with each director individually outside of board meetings to

help maintain the connection to the organization. Management also provides a monthly board update highlighting key metrics, activities and results of the prior month.

This communication helps deepen the level of board engagement. We place a high value and expectation on this, as it has contributed to our overall organizational outcomes and results. Board directors are expected to be prepared, ask insightful questions and offer their expertise and informed perspective. We also engage directors in ad hoc task forces focused on key topics throughout the year.