Defining the Board’s Role in Strategic Planning

As we work with nonprofit organizations around the country, we are reminded again and again that the people sitting around the board table have the capacity to be the sail that helps drive an organization forward, or the anchor that holds it back. The manner in which the board of directors engages in the strategic planning process has significant implications for how the organization moves into the future. The question, of course, is how to steer individual board members, the board as a whole, and ultimately the organization, in the right direction?

The consulting team at iBossWell is deeply engaged in the Nonprofit Center for Excellence (NPCE), a community of practice sponsored by the Association for Strategic Planning. Denise McNerney is an ASP board member and NPCE chair. Lynne Brown plans, promotes, and has facilitated First Mondays, the monthly “community conversation” hosted by the Nonprofit Center. Each month, nonprofit strategy leaders and managers from around the world log into an open forum and take on a different topic about strategy creation and implementation in the nonprofit sector.

On May 1st, 4:00-5:00 pm US Eastern Time, the group will be exploring the board engagement conundrum. What is the appropriate role of the board in nonprofit strategic planning, and what are some effective practices for guiding that engagement?

Among the questions we’ll be discussing:

• The Carver Model of board governance suggests that boards are responsible for setting the strategic direction of a nonprofit organization, and staff is responsible for implementing that direction. Do you agree? Should staff have a role in defining this direction? Why or why not? What do you do if board and staff have differing visions of the future and how the organization should get there?

• In his book, “The Strategic Board” one of the “realities” author Mark Light points out is the limited amount of time most board members have to devote to their board work (20 hours/year vs. 2080 hours/year a full-time staff member spends.) Given this reality, what is the best use of the board’s time in relation to strategic planning? How have you engaged board members in the planning process?

• Many nonprofits, and many nonprofit board members, have no or limited experience with strategic planning. What should they consider before starting the process? What resources or tools might be helpful to them?

We invite you to add your voice to the discussion. First Mondays forums are open to all. Participation is free, but registration is required to attend. Learn more about the Nonprofit Center for Excellence and the First Mondays events here.

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