A Nonprofit Board Member’s Lessons Learned from a Tumultuous Year

Drexel University’s Gupta Governance Institute and Grant Thornton’s biweekly Nonprofit Directors Dialogue Miniseries features nonprofit leaders and board members as they share insights and strategies for turning today’s challenges into tomorrow’s successes.

What is your biggest takeaway as a nonprofit board member from the events of 2020?

I view the board and my role as a board member in that we should be a stabilizing force and we should be additive. The organization as a whole, typically the CEO and their senior staff, have the right mix of people and they’re focused on the work at hand. I would argue that a board should be supplemental to that and should push them in all the right ways while giving them an opportunity to take some more risks.

We should be a sounding board and a net, if you will. In times of crisis, like we are in now, maybe we need to dig in a little bit more. I will say on the positive side, for all the nonprofit boards that I have sat or that I sit on, not only have I gotten to know the staff better during this period, but I’ve gotten to know my board colleagues better.

I think that will put us in a better position as we move forward in ‘21 and ‘22. You start to see who is really in it, and in the work, and wants to be at the table, and maybe who should give up their seat for somebody else. I’m not saying that’s a negative thing. I think it just clearly starts to separate people in terms of what they care about and where they can add value, and I think that’s a good thing for both individuals and organizations.