Nonprofit Board Oversight of Brand and Reputation

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 do you believe is the board’s role with respect to a nonprofit’s brand reputation and relationship with the public at large?

There are the institutional responsibilities like signing a conflict-of-interest statement which all of our board members do and follow through on a handbook that the Annenberg Foundation has for employees. Technically three out of four of our board members are compensated, so they are actually employees of the Annenberg Foundation and shall adhere to the handbook that each employee of the Annenberg Foundation would follow. Certainly, they are well aware of that and take it as seriously.

The other thing that is unique from where I sit is that it’s pretty hard to find somebody in Los Angeles and in some of the major cities and capitals of the world that don’t know what the Annenberg Foundation is. We have an added responsibility because of the wide reach of this organization, and I feel that responsibility very strongly every single day. We are very prominent in our giving in Paris and in London. There is a rich history of the Annenberg Foundation in Washington D.C., corridors of power. Very few people don’t know what the Annenberg Foundation is and so there is a great responsibility by all of us, and particularly me as the Executive Director of the Annenberg Foundation.

It also is a responsibility, of course, of the Chairman and the board. I will tell you that the Chairman of this board, the current chairman who is the daughter of the founder, takes this very seriously. She always says, “It only takes one thing to spark a real problem for all of the good work that’s been done for 30 years.” So, I know how seriously she takes it. I certainly take it seriously because buck stops here; although, she and I argue sometimes that it stops where she is. It truly is the responsibility of everyone, from the Chairman, right on through the board of trustees, right on through the organization, to maintain the extraordinary brand that the Annenberg Foundation has had for 30 years all over the nation and all over the world.