Hands-on solutions for nonprofit boards

A must-have resource for more efficient, effective and successful board development.

The Best of the Board Café is one of the most well-worn books on my shelf. As an educator with Michigan State University Extension, it is the first resource I reach for when beginning a project with a non-profit board, although most of the materials could also be applied to any board structure.

What makes it so useful?

  • It is easy to use and well formatted.
  • It is easy to read and as stated in the contents: it’s short enough to read over a cup of coffee.
  • It has many lists and poignant questions about board-related issues.
  • It has a liberal reprint policy.
  • Most of all, it is a useful and relevant informational resource.

After looking at the table of contents, anyone affiliated with boards will find something with which they identify. Chapter one starts with defining board-related terms and how to use the book. It continues with chapters on governance; board responsibilities; relationships within a board, hiring, performance reviews and firing an executive director; strategizing, such as assessing, planning, mergers and going out of business; board management, like handling board members who won’t do anything or how to get rid of a difficult board member; board composition and recruitment; officers and committees; holding good board meetings - packets, agendas and invigorating board meetings; fundraising – easy ways for the board to get started with fundraising; financial accountability – budgets, insurance and loans; and a brief synopsis of the overall role of nonprofit organizations in society.

The following three examples are derived from the ‘eleven cool ideas for finding hot new board members’ listed in Chapter six, Composition and Recruiting.

  • Read the local paper, especially for the profiles of community leaders. When you see someone intriguing, send that person a note commenting on the article and asking if he or she would be interested in getting involved as a volunteer board member.
  • Pick 3 or 4 local organizations where you do not know anyone, but wish you did. Meet with the board president or executive director over coffee and suggest that your two organizations recommend to each other board members for limited terms as a way of establishing organizational links and strengthening ties in the community.
  • Take out a help-wanted ad for a volunteer board member in your own newsletter, in a neighborhood newsletter or other publication in the community your board serves.

Not only is this book useful, but the affiliated online newsletter offers a regular stream of practical articles, archives and other worthwhile information for the nonprofit board member or director.

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