Follow Social Velocity on Google Plus Follow Social Velocity on Facebook Follow Nell Edgington on Twitter Follow SocialVelocity on Linked In View the Social Velocity YouTube Channel Get the Social Velocity RSS Feed

Download a free Financing Not Fundraising e-book when you sign up for email updates from Social Velocity.

10 Traits of a Groundbreaking Nonprofit Board

By Nell Edgington



Again and again, I’ve heard people say that innovation will never become part of the nonprofit sector — that nonprofits are too set in their ways. Or that the sector is too broken to emerge anew. And a particular area of dysfunction that people point to is the volunteer group that leads the nonprofit sector: the board of directors. But that attitude is unacceptable. There is great danger in dismissing the nonprofit board. The new Social Velocity e-book released today, “10 Traits of a Groundbreaking Board” sets that attitude on its head.

Sure, boards tend to be inefficient, dysfunctional and broken. Yet there is tremendous potential for innovation. Indeed, without innovation at the board level, the broader movement to solve social problems is doomed.

A groundbreaking board can lead the reinvention of the nonprofit sector. A groundbreaking board demands more from itself, its nonprofit and the sector as a whole. It leads the nonprofit it serves to greater financial sustainability, more effective use of resources, and ultimately more social change. Through its excellence, a groundbreaking board can transform the nonprofit they serve, the community the nonprofit impacts, and ultimately the sector itself.

This 28-page e-book examines the 10 traits that define a groundbreaking board. Each of the 10 chapters of this book describe in detail how a groundbreaking board operates:

  1. Defines Itself: The board as a whole decides what it should do and how.

  2. Assembles the Right People: A groundbreaking board doesn’t leave recruitment up to chance or circumstance.

  3. Drives Strategy: A groundbreaking board leaves the day-to-day operations of their nonprofit to the staff and instead grapples with the big picture, strategic, visionary questions of the organization.

  4. Ensures Mission, Money & Competence Alignment: A groundbreaking board ensures that the nonprofit they serve is positioned for greatest success.

  5. Craves Impact: A groundbreaking board shows up because they care deeply about the change their nonprofit is making in the world.

  6. Raises Money: A groundbreaking board understands that every single board member must be responsible for helping to bring money in the door.

  7. Wields the Money Sword: The groundbreaking board continually analyzes the financial model of the organization and monitors the ability of that model to deliver on mission.

  8. Pursues Excellence: The groundbreaking board never rests on its laurels, but constantly strives to improve itself and the nonprofit it serves.

  9. Builds the Organization: A groundbreaking board never stands in the way of organization building, in fact they are their nonprofit’s biggest advocates for that critical support.

  10. Asks Hard Questions: A groundbreaking board understands the harsh realities of the nonprofit sector and is honest and transparent about the state of their nonprofit.

It doesn’t have to be so hard. The nonprofit board can be reinvented and in so doing become a powerhouse for social change.

Download the e-book.

Photo Credit: haydnseek

Learn more about nonprofit innovation and
download a free Financing Not Fundraising e-book
when you sign up for email updates
from Social Velocity.


About the Author: Nell Edgington is President of Social Velocity (www.socialvelocity.net), a management consulting firm leading nonprofits to greater social impact and financial sustainability. Social Velocity helps nonprofits grow their programs, bring more money in the door, and use resources more effectively. For more information, check out Social Velocity consulting services and clients.


Tags: , , , , , , , ,


4 Comments to 10 Traits of a Groundbreaking Nonprofit Board

David Henderson
March 7, 2012

I used to be skeptical of the importance of a non-profit board, thinking their primary (perhaps only) purpose was that of organizational cheerleader and fundraiser. So wrong!

Getting organizations to incorporate outcomes metrics in decision making requires more than fancy software or econometric techniques (those things might not be required at all). Instead, cultural change is at the center of creating an outcomes driven organization. After bumping up against a wall time and again trying to spark such change in organizations, I’ve come to realize there are two pressures staff responds to – funders and the board.

Executing a data driven organizational culture starts with a high level strategic commitment to managing to outcomes. Your point number 3 is precisely the right place where this conversation should start within organizations. Moreover the board can provide strategic continuity as staff turns over, ensuring a long-term commitment to data oriented decision making.

Steve Shulman
March 8, 2012

Wonderful. The 10 points are specific action items and the word “governance” appears nowhere. Too frequently we think of boards as passively sitting around listening to reports about what’s been accomplished rather than actively setting the expectations and providing the wherewithal to let the organization make a difference.

[...] But that attitude is unacceptable. There is great danger in dismissing the nonprofit board. The new Social Velocity e-book released today, “10 Traits of a Groundbreaking Board” sets that attitude on its [...]

[...] Download the e-book.                  Photo Credit: haydnseek                    Link to original article [...]

Leave a comment