Posts Tagged ‘Kay Grace’

In the board room with Walker and Grace

Since we’ve been talking about effective boards so much recently, I thought it would be helpful to compile some advice from two of our Page to Practice™ expert authors on boards. They complement each other well, reinforcing the main points and going deeper in different areas. With two lifetimes of experience, Julia Ingraham Walker in A Fundraising Guide for Nonprofit Board Members and Kay Sprinkel Grace in The Ultimate Board Member’s Book give it to us straight.

Primary function

Walker insists the board members are leaders and role models who carry the mission forward through communication, giving, fundraising, advocating.

Grace calls board members “keepers of the mission,” like Walker. She emphasizes board members should not be managing daily operations, but ensure all resources are used effectively. She also asserts, “Development, or relationship building, is the most important role for a board member…If all board members were committed to developing relationships, fundraising would not be a challenge.”

Role of board members vs. staff

Walker states, “Boards are reflective of their leadership. The best boards have active, involved leaders who encourage board engagement in the nonprofit’s fundraising activities but stop short of micro-managing the development operation. Open communication, sharing of goals and mutual respect between the board and staff are also big factors in forming strong board relationships.”

Walker gives a clear distinction between the board and staff:

The board members are the leaders who represent and communicate the mission and vision of the organization.
The staff supports the board’s directives and implements the programs.
The board with its fiduciary responsibility needs to ensure all activities feed into the mission and vision, are transparent and accountable, and have no conflicts of interest.

Grace focuses on a positive relationship between the board and staff as well:

Communication between the CEO and board is critical to set clear expectations. The CEO runs everything but has to report to the board, so an honest relationship is critical.
The board should not get involved with the staff too intimately or there will be a feeling of “too many bosses” and it will strain the relationship with the CEO.

Watch for next week’s blog when we’ll compare and contrast the two authors’ views on recruitment, fundraising and donor motivation. You can download either of these book summaries at the Summary Store or subscribe to CausePlanet for access to the entire library of titles and live author interviews. For Grace’s book, visit and for Walker’s book, visit


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Donations follow high performing boards

According to board member, Chris Boskin, “A U.S. Trust study found that among high net-worth donors–those with $5 million or more in assets–one of the top four determinants of where they contribute money is respect for the organization’s leadership.”

Stability, growth and impact: Think of the board members you know and the organizations they serve. Now ask yourself who’s raising more money. In the nonprofit world, contributions are king. Donations follow the high performing boards. These boards have core attributes that author Kay Grace underscores in her book, The Ultimate Board Member’s Book, below. When these competencies are in place, Grace says there is stability, the opportunity for growth and the potential for impact. In her words, “Work gets done.”

• Understanding boundaries
• Respecting each other and staff
• Mastering the mission
• Communicating the vision
• Living the values

Recruit with a rudder: Without an organizational plan, board recruitment suffers from irrelevant professional guidance. Recruitment must be a direct response to the organization’s strategic plan.

Four steps to enhance the recruitment process: 1) Your board members shouldn’t leave brainstorming exclusively to the board development committee (a.k.a. nominating committee). Everyone should be a source for nominating ideas. 2) Fellow board members outside this committee should recommend, not recruit. Respect for the process will protect the board and the candidate from any well-intentioned mismatches. 3) Fellow board members should also participate in the recruitment process by getting to know recruits through coffee, lunches, tours, etc. 4) When someone’s officially on board, other board members should reach out. Even if there’s a “board buddy” or mentor program, they should let the new member experience what a friendly organization you have. You don’t want diligently recruited and worthwhile board members to feel disconnected.

What’s in a name? Everything. According to Grace, the board development committee is the most important committee on the board because it determines the vitality of the board, scope of talent and future of the organization. Furthermore, Grace recommends calling this committee “board development” rather than “nominating” because the proper fulfillment of duties extends far beyond nominating names. It includes preparing a policy plan and procedure for recruitment, soliciting potential candidates from fellow board members, preparing a slate and enlisting those elected, running board orientation, shepherding new and flailing board members, and spearheading the board evaluation process.

See also:

The Ultimate Board Member’s Book

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