Improving Leadership in Nonprofit Organizations

By ,     Dec 1, 2011
President & CEO of California Science Center

Jeffrey Rudolph

NAS team

This post was the result of the efforts of several members of the staff

Riggio and Orr capture the substance of the Kravis-de Roulet Leadership Conference focused on the nonprofit. Several themes are addressed including change in and transformation of nonprofits, the special nature of nonprofit leadership and the ways in which ideas and actions are interconnected. The scope of the conference was broad, including many challenges faced by nonprofit leaders, e.g., board management, staff motivation, leadership development and program evaluation. The book is intended to be a guidebook for leading nonprofit organizations rather than a handbook of nonprofit leadership or management. This book’s essays are designed to stimulate a nonprofit leader’s thinking and to point out new directions and new ideas for leading that are all well-grounded in theory, research and practice. The essays prompt questions rather than prescribing answers.

Jay Congar’s essay on governance as leadership, “Transforming Nonprofit Boards—Lessons from the World of Corporate Governance,” will be of particular interest to the executive directors of cultural organizations. Congar builds on Peter Drucker’s advice in Managing the Nonprofit Organization: “Over the door to the nonprofit’s boardroom there should be an inscription in big letters that says: Membership on this board is not power, it is responsibility. Board membership means responsibility not just to the organization but to the board itself, to the staff, and to the institution’s mission.” There are four corporate governance areas that Congar believes offer lessons to nonprofit boards: board size, boardroom evaluations, assessments of directors’ capabilities and efficient formats for board meetings. His advice about leveraging the resources around the board table includes descriptions of key knowledge areas that should be present in any well rounded board. He also emphasizes the need not to waste busy people’s time with poorly designed meetings.

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