There are several reasons why certain nonprofit boards struggle and I believe the top three reasons override almost everything else. Fix these three problems and you will see your board soar to new levels of impact and success.


Some boards are just not put together in a way that gives the organization its best chance to succeedNo one can doubt the motivation, desire, and dedication of board members. Their hearts are in the right place and they want to serve. However, if an organization is to accomplish its mission, it also needs the right directors–directors whose skills, experiences, talents, and networks match up with what the organization needs.


With a strategic plan in hand, the board’s composition should be reviewed. There are tools available to help committees shape a board that gives the organization its best chance to succeed. This function should not be taken lightly or under artificial deadlines. It is far better to keep one or more open board seats unfilled, until the right candidates become available, rather than t filling them with just anyone.

Some organizations maintain a list of qualified board candidates all year long so they can be recruited, evaluated, and brought on as needed. One cannot be too careful here or take this as a part time responsibility. Everyone should always be on the lookout for qualified candidates that are available and who have an interest in the organization’s mission.


Nothing may hinder a well intended nonprofit quicker than conducting ineffective meetings and poor time management. It may also be the most effective way to lose evaluable (and busy) board members who sat in meetings all day long already. Meetings must be run crisply and cover only the items a board needs or wants to know.

Almost all of the board’s “heavy lifting” should be done at committee level. Committees are where issues are fully investigated, clarified, and made ready for board presentation and disposition. Once its work is done, the committee makes a presentation to the entire board for its discussion and vote. If additional research is needed, the chair should quickly refer the item back to committee and move on to other matters. A committee of the whole board should only be used in rare circumstances.


Not having a strategy, or a plan to carry out, is a frequent problem.  A strategic plan provides everyone with a road map to where the organization is headed. It guides all decision-making, includes who needs to be hired, where to allocate resources, what projects to take on, and basically when to say yes or no. Without a plan an organization will drift and never accomplish its mission.

For more information about creating an effective Strategic Plan, and to learn about the other Nonprofit ICK FACTORS, check out the new book BREAK THROUGH the Ick Factors of Nonprofit Leadership and learn how to improve your nonprofit board and build a better organization.