What Is the Most Important Position in a Nonprofit?
Leadership makes the difference! Of this, I have no doubt.
Effective CEOs can transform an organization, and donors look to the CEO as a benchmark when considering a major investment. However, I believe that there is one leadership role more important to an organization—and more critical to its short and long-term success: The board chair.
CEOs and other staff leaders will come and go. Most positively, these transitions are when a CEO has grown to be ready for another position or realizes that it is time for them and the organization for renewed leadership.
This is when we are all reminded that the board are the stewards and hold the organization as a public trust. And the success of any CEO is deeply entwined with the quality of the board chair and the relationship between that chair and the CEO.
We have all seen board chairs perform remarkably well and remarkably poorly. More than once, I have been surprised by poor performance from a board chair who seemed to bring all the experience and knowledge into that role.
Early in my career, I was fortunate to be a young CEO and to see and be mentored by an exceptional board chair who understood strategy and the board’s strategic role—and one of his major roles was ensuring my continued development as a leader. At the same time, while we became very close friends, he never lost sight of his primary fiduciary role, which included the supervision and evaluation of the CEO.
We are conducting research on the attributes and roles of nonprofit board chairs—from higher education to independent schools, to YMCAs, to social services, to health care and beyond.
We’re asking for insight on the most important attributes of successful board chairs, as well as traits that may be detrimental to board chair leadership. In addition, we are soliciting nominations for outstanding board chairs—many of whom we will interview as a part of our research.
Please take 10 minutes to provide your insight and experience to this important research project. I appreciate your being a reader and would value and appreciate your participation. Click here to participate!
Looking for Jeff? You'll find him either on the lake, laughing with good friends, or helping nonprofits develop to their full potential.
Jeff believes that successful fundraising is built on a bedrock of relevant, consistent messaging; sound practices; the nurturing of relationships; and impeccable stewardship. And that organizations that adhere to those standards serve as beacons to others that aspire to them. The Bedrocks & Beacons blog will provide strategic information to help nonprofits be both.
Jeff has more than 25 years of nonprofit leadership experience and is a member of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.