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Philanthropy Thought Leader Uncategorized

A strong, engaged board of directors boosts nonprofit effectiveness

Alicia Philipp

By Alicia Philipp, president, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta is focused on five Impact Areas, one of these is Nonprofit Effectiveness. There are many essential characteristics of highly effective nonprofits, among those is having a strong and engaged board of directors that can guide the organization and oversee critical governance matters.

Recruiting board members should be a deliberate and thoughtful process for nonprofits. A board should be diverse, not just from an ethnic or gender perspective, but also diverse in thought and skill set. Strong nonprofits look to the key skills that they might lack internally and engage board members who can provide that insight. Nonprofits should also take a long view – what are the critical issues or operational milestones you are facing in one, five or 10 years, and what skills do you need to bring on to your board to help you get there?

Other recommended practices include:

  • Board members should be active volunteers for the organization. They should have a written job description that clearly outlines expectations and deliverables.
  • Board members should operate within a clear conflict-of-interest policy to ensure that they are keeping the nonprofit’s mission in mind and not using their position for personal gain.
  • Many nonprofits have an expectation of certain contributions from board members; these could include financial contributions but may also outline specific expectations around a contribution of volunteer time.
  • Some nonprofits want at least one board member who is representative of the constituents they serve, these individuals can provide a unique perspective that balances the skills of others.

At the Community Foundation we use the same guiding principles to build our board as we expect from the nonprofits we support. This year we have added four new members to our Board of Directors: Millard Choate, Susan Grant, Jerry Wilkinson and Studie Young. These additions have all achieved business success and each has previous service on other boards. Our board members each serve a five-year term and they are added on a rotating basis to ensure seamless transitions as members roll off or on to the board.

The complete list of the Community Foundation’s Board of Directors and their full biographies can be found here. More information on the criteria that we believe strong nonprofits should follow can be found in our Checklist for Giving here.



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