April 27, 2023

5 Warning Signs Your Nonprofit Board Needs An Expert

If you’re like the intelligent nonprofit CEOs I work with, you work closely with your board to share the load and upgrade your organization. But sometimes, results fall short.

Your board’s still not where you want them to be.

This video shares 5 client stories about times that make all the difference. Use these stories to measure whether it’s time for a board’s expertise.

Video cover: Does Your Board Need An Expert? 5 Cases to Know

Transcript of Does Your Nonprofit Board Need an Expert?

If you’re like the smart nonprofit CEOs who I get to work with, you are working with your board to make them into full partners with you to lighten your load and really help your organization to get to the next level. But sometimes your best efforts are not enough. Your board’s still not where you want them to be. In fact, they may be off track. So I want to share with you five client stories about times that their interventions were really, really smart—so that you can maybe measure whether it’s time for professional intervention or an expert at your nonprofit.

Example 1: Struck and Circling Boards

Nick’s board was stuck. In fact, the nonprofit where he served really had been stuck for more than 20 years when he arrived. The challenge was there were two conflicting ideas about who the organization should serve and how it should be done. And they all got along. They all made it work, but there was always this underlying sense that people were paddling in the opposite directions.

If your board is stuck on the same thing and cycling? Call in an expert.

Example 2: Worried and Uncertain Boards

Zara’s board was anxious and confused. Not only had they experienced some mission drift and had a question about an ongoing project that they had gotten themselves in the middle of, They had hired Zara She was the first female nonprofit CEO in the organization’s history.

Behaviors were that were a problem where—they were calling Zara weekends, nights, all over–really in her job, as well as like “Oh, what do we do about this big project we’ve taken on?”

If your board is anxious or confused about their roles, it may be time to call in an expert.

Example 3: Boards that Fail to Partner

Katherine’s challenge with her board was they were playing, “Let’s put Katherine in the hot seat every month.” It was very uncomfortable. So, if you’re finding that your board’s playing gotcha or you feel like, “Gee, I am like in the hot seat like all the time,” it may be time for you to call in a professional for an intervention.

Example 4: Boards with Big Choices

Another time to call on an expert that you may have already thought of or assumed naturally is when you have a big decision. And that was the case of Jennifer. Her organization was looking at a growth opportunity. They had recently grown. And they really didn’t know whether it was time to solidify what they’d done or move on to the next phase of growing. With that in mind, we worked with them not only to refine how they worked as a board but to have them know that they had made a good solid decision—look at all the options, look at the risk of each option, and make a plan based on their best thinking.

Example 5: Boards that Bring on Headaches

James literally was getting a migraine after every board meeting. And so having some board stress where you’re anxious and maybe don’t sleep the night very well afterward is normal. But getting sick physically or mentally is not healthy. So if your board’s literally making you sick, it’s definitely time to call in a professional.

Yes, it’s very smart for you to continue to work with your board, providing great orientations, expert training, brilliant articles. Everything you can do to get your board on track to partner with you. They have a lot that they need to learn and help to do.

But when those efforts don’t work or stop working, stop doing the same thing! Find an expert to help you because it doesn’t have to be lonely at the top, and your board meetings don’t need to be the worst thing on your schedule.


For more board insight, explore Karen’s Nonprofit CEO Library.

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Need more help with your board? Karen is available for a mini-consult and more. Click to email or here to chat.

Karen Eber Davis

Karen Eber Davis provides customized advising and coaching around nonprofit strategy and board development. People leaders hire her to bring clarity to sticky situations, break through barriers that seem insurmountable, and align people for better futures. She is the author of 7 Nonprofit Income Streams and Let's Raise Nonprofit Millions Together.


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