Board Chairs Need to Prepare

In a recent survey* of 645 Board chairs of nonprofit organizations, 51% said they had NO training for their leadership role.


As the top volunteer at a nonprofit, the chair must be ready to lead in a variety of different situations and the chair should have a good understanding of effective governance. A chair must be able to handle people with skill and diplomacy, build consensus, and communicate with many different stakeholders.  A chair must be able to lead, solve problems. chart new territory, and act in the best interest of the organization.

How does a chair get this training?

Mentorship from a previous skilled chair is one of the best ways. If that is not available, there are resources online (e.g. BoardSource), local workshops (e.g. Hodges Center for Nonprofit Excellence for those of you in Southwest Florida), and consultants who can deliver specific training or coaching for the chair or the entire board.

Look ahead. Who will succeed the current board chair? If you don’t have any good (and willing) candidates on the board for future officers and for chair, find new people who will be able to learn the organization and who also have the skills to lead. Provide training opportunities for future officers and chairs.

If you are thinking that this takes too much time and effort, think about what can happen if you end up with a really bad board chair. There are several types, from the bully who does not build consensus but makes decisions on his or her own, to the invisible chair who really doesn’t have time to be chair, and comes unprepared, if at all. There is also the terminator, who feels the only way to make his mark on the organization is to fire someone (often the CEO or the Development Director), causing harmful turmoil for the organization.

See my archived articles for more on board recruitment and effective governance.

* Study conducted by the Alliance for Nonprofit Management in 2016.

About Susan Suarez

I am a nonprofit management and fundraising consultant. I have 30 years experience in the philanthropic sector including senior level positions in management, fundraising and grantmaking. I started consulting in 2003, working with local nonprofits and with community foundations nationally. My experience as Executive Director of Eden Autism Services Florida, President of the Community Foundation of Collier County, Vice President of Marketing and Development for the Community Foundation Silicon Valley, and Development Director for the American Red Cross in Palo Alto, CA provides a deep background in philanthropy and management to benefit my clients.
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