Joining a Nonprofit Board: What You Need to Know provides a perspective of nonprofit boards from academic business experts Marc J. Epstein and F. Warren McFarlan. While it is intended for new and experienced nonprofit board members, it is focused on those leaders with a business/for-profit background who serve or are about to serve on a nonprofit board.
In the preface, the authors state that the heart of a nonprofit board’s role is the building and monitoring of the mission, its very reason for existence. Chapter two delves into this, explaining that the mission statement provides the context for evaluation of investment decisions as well as proposals for expansion or curtailing of services. They describe the mission as a “living process,” and illustrate the importance of a far-reaching vision with a case study of Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Mass., an organization that adjusted their mission to address competition from a nearby hospital merger that threatened their very existence.
Other chapters cover performance measurement, financial strategy and oversight, board structure and role, and the complex partnership between the leadership chairman and CEO. Each section provides useful exhibits and figures that convey complex ideas (i.e. the Mission Effectiveness Models on p. 53-54) and pose sample questions that can be used for board performance assessment and board chair self-evaluation.
If you are about to join a board, perhaps the best advice is to skip to the final chapter “You As a Trustee.” There, you’ll find 13 questions to ask yourself: some easy, some complicated. This chapter asserts that “because your reputation and the organization’s reputation will become intertwined over time, it is particularly important to be diligent in advance.” The authors conclude that while for-profit board members are appropriately compensated for being able to deliver value-added products to the world, the role of the nonprofit board member is not a commercial but a “giving” relationship, and one that is spiritually and emotionally rewarding.
Marc Epstein and F. Warren McFarlan are faculty members of the business schools of Rice and Harvard University respectively and have written numerous books and articles on sustainability, governance and social enterprise. Joining a Nonprofit Board (John Wiley, 2011) is available at Foundation Center libraries under call number 610 EPS.
Catalog/Reference Librarian, Foundation Center
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