What Is a 21st-Century Board?

            “Actionable nuggets of wisdom,” was my favorite expectation of those expressed by a 50+ audience for a Foundation Center program I facilitated on Thursday, September 22, called “What is a 21st Century Board?”  The following panel of seasoned board members and nonprofit professionals offered just that:

  • Norma Fogelberg, Board Development Chair, San Francisco Zen Center; Transformational Strategist to the nonprofit and business community; www.normafogelberg.com
  • Kristin Rothballer, Board member, Tyler Rigg Foundation, Exhale, Edventure More; Program Director, Tunitas Creek Ranch


            Their nuggets included:

  • On what a 21st-century Board is: Shared leadership with staff; nimbleness and flexibility; a diversity of personalities and a combination of unique skills and interests; personal connection to mission; intentional development of youth leadership for Board.
  • On the qualities of a 21st-century Board member: Courage and the ability to lead; self-awareness; knowing skills, strengths and what, as board members, they can really give or not give; emotional intelligence.
  • On recruiting 21st-century Board members: organization needs to have good reputation — well respected, even if there are difficulties… what group doesn’t have difficulties, especially these days?; have necessary tools when talking to potential board members — role and responsibilities, be able to talk about performance to demonstrate that your Board is high-performing; know what your current board’s key attributes are and what’s missing to recruit people who will fill gaps.
  • On how a 21st-century Board chair leads: clarity about roles: Board, staff, board chair; Board chair should constantly scan organization: does it have what it needs to achieve impact, fulfill its mission… is it accountable to mission, community, funders?; Board chair should ask themselves, what can I do to support this organization to be successful?; Board chair drives accountability starting with clear expectations in the recruitment process, following through and communicating when expectations aren’t met.
  • Resources recommended by the panel and participants:
  • The Networked Nonprofit, by Beth Kanter
  • Here Comes Everybody, by Clay Shirky
  • The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations,  by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom
  • Harvard Business Review: http://hbr.org/  
  • Stanford Social Innovation Review: www.ssireview.org
  • Big Gifts for Small Groups, by Andy Robinson
  • Next Generation Organizations: 9 Key Traits – January 2011 (http://www.compasspoint.org/nextgenorgs) by Marla Cornelius and Tim Wolfred
  • Bill Ryan, Harvard Kennedy School, I missed the specific recommendation here, perhaps its: http://sic.conversationsnetwork.org/shows/detail3209.html
  • Best of the Board Café, Jan Masoaka
  • The Board Building Cycle, Boardsource, Boardsource.org
  • Board Member’s Book, Brian O’Connell
  • Governance As Leadership, Richard P. Chait
  • Governing Boards, Cyril Houle
  • Nonprofit Boards That Work, Maureen K. Robinson, www.BoardSource.org
  • Secrets of Successful Boards, Carol Weisman
  • Ultimate Board Members Book, Kay Sprinkel Grace
  • Boardsource.org
  • CompassPoint.org