News & Views

Inspiration, information, and perspectives from the LeadersTrust team and our partners

Theo Rigby

Paula Morris: Building Better Nonprofit Boards

Nov 15, 2014 | News

“One of the worst-kept secrets in the nonprofit world is that you’re much more likely to hear a litany of complaints about boards than affirmations.”

Paula Morris, former director of the Flexible Leadership Awards, shares how boards can become strong partners in effective leadership.

“Executives and staff tend to complain that either: a) their board doesn’t do a whole lot; or b) the board is too involved in their work and won’t get off their back. Meanwhile, some board members wonder why they’re even there if the board chair and/or the executive director make all the decisions.Sound familiar?

For the past ten years, in my role as program director of the Flexible Leadership Awards program at the Haas, Jr. Fund [now the LeadersTrust], I’ve heard a lot of ambivalence about the role of boards. But I’ve also seen how, with the right support, organizations have been able to realize the potential of their boards, sometimes to transformative effects. Take the example of the LGBTQ Task Force whose board has played a major role in repositioning the organization’s work to stay at the cutting edge of advocacy for the LGBTQ movement.

In the first edition of what we hope will be a series on the “real-world insights” emerging from our leadership development work with more than 70 organizations,  we share some of what we are learning about how boards can become strong partners in effective leadership. Our insights are not theoretical; they are based on sustained work we’ve done to help organizations take their boards from net drain to net gain.”