10 Essential Roles of Foundation Board Members

As a board member, how can you make sure you bring your best to the table and bring out the best in your foundation? If you understand and embrace these 10 essential roles, you will help ensure that you are fulfilling your duties with wisdom and clarity — and doing your part to advance your foundation’s mission.

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10 Things Every New Foundation Board Member Should Know

This easy-to-use guide for new foundation board members provides an introduction to tools and knowledge essential in the first years of service on the board of a foundation.

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5 Ways to Mind the Philanthropy Shop Mindfully

Mindfulness is simply knowing what you are doing while you are doing it. CJ Callen lists five ways foundations can get off of the “mindless” treadmill and be fully present.

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7 Advocacy Tips for 2017

Advocacy is an important tool for your nonprofit to achieve its mission! It can take many forms—public education, litigation, and even lobbying—and there is no “one size fits all” approach. These tips can help your organization start the new year right.

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Annual Board To-Dos

What’s on the agenda for your board this year? Are you covering the bases of good governance? Below, we offer a checklist of annual board to-dos—prepared for foundations that are up and running (not start-ups). *This content is available for Exponent Philanthropy members only  

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Assessing and Advancing Foundation Transparency: Corporate Foundations as a Case Study

This article explores the mix of forces explaining variability in good-governance standards and practices by charitable foundations. A six-drivers framework for explaining improved foundation accountability and transparency is proposed and discussed in the context of a country study. Those drivers are: regulatory pressures, self-regulation, demands for information from donors and other relevant stakeholders, societal pressure derived from scandals, emulation, and third-party assessment. A simple tool for assessing foundation transparency internationally is proposed and then applied to corporate, endowed, and fundraising foundations in the U.S. and Spain. Foundations’ financial structure compounds with institutional factors to influence the stage of development of Read more

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Benchmarking Foundation Governance

On a typical foundation board, what are its members’ most common areas of expertise? How common is it for an original donor — or a family member — to sit on a board? To what extent are board members involved in grantmaking? There are lots of questions out there about foundation governance. Yet there has been little data about foundation boards’ structures and practice. In surveying foundation CEOs as part of a larger benchmarking study, CEP worked closely with BoardSource to design and include questions related to governance to collect and bring to light new data on foundation boards. Benchmarking Read more

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Beyond Compliance: The Trustee Viewpoint on Effective Foundation Governance

Beyond Compliance is based on the largest-scale research on foundation boards ever conducted and builds off CEP’s earlier governance report, Foundation Governance. This report reveals the foundation trustee perspective on effective governance, which despite the variety in size and function of grantmaking boards, has five essential factors. MORE The report offers data and findings to help trustees and CEOs utilize foundation governance optimally, with information ranging from racial composition of boards to the amount of information board members read.

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Board Chair & Chief Executive Partnership

This infographic outlines key leadership duties that factor into a strong relationship, including: governance and management responsibilities, board and staff development, and shared tasks and outcomes.

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Board Recruitment Matrix

Plan for the future of your organization. This tool, taken from The Board Building Cycle can be used by organizations interested in assessing their current make-up or by those preparing to recruit new members. The matrix helps track: areas of expertise and leadership qualities demographic information community connections

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Board Self-Assessment for Community Foundations

A community foundation board has a particular responsibility to identify emerging issues in its community, set funding goals or priorities accordingly, and determine when or if the foundation should act as a leader and convenor. BoardSource’s board self-assessment tool for community foundations is designed to meet the unique needs of a community foundation board by assisting in strengthening the board’s governance practices as well as its ability to respond appropriately as opportunities and challenges arise within its community. It is based on BoardSource’s standard BSA and includes questions on grantmaking and community leadership, funding and public image, and stewardship and Read more

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Board Succession: From Planless to Inspired

Does your grantmaking organization have a succession plan in place? If you’re struggling with succession—or haven’t dealt with this tricky topic on your board—you’re not alone. In our most recent member survey, we learned that 27% of members have completed their plans, 29% are working on one now, and 39% plan to complete theirs in the future. I probably don’t need to tell you that a sound succession plan approved by your board is very important. Things happen, and simply having a plan in place can make everyone’s life much easier if something were to happen to you or another Read more

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Case Study: Greater Milwaukee Foundation: Built for Leadership

Embedded in this case study are three Cool Tools that community foundations can access via the click of a mouse: Milwaukee’s “Good to Great” strategic plan Criteria for selecting leadership projects Metrics used to assess the Foundation’s leadership efforts Read the case study to learn more about: Building a board for leadership Operating from a values base Aligning staff Engaging donors and other co-investors Funding community leadership Increasing impact

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Challenges and Strategies for Family Foundations With Geographically Dispersed Board Members

This article, based on interviews with leaders of 10 family foundations, investigates the impact of geographic dispersion on governance, administration, decision making, and grantmaking activities. The greatest challenges for family foundations with dispersed boards involve assembling an appropriate staff, ensuring strong communication between staff and board members, and focusing the organization’s mission. Maintaining family board member interest in the foundation’s geographic area and bridging and strengthening ties between generations were also concerns. In order to maintain family legacies, all case-study foundations found unique ways to overcome challenges and were deliberate in ensuring that board members stayed actively engaged in the Read more

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Competencies for Chief Executive Officers of Private Foundations

This pilot document attempts to codify the job functions of the private foundation CEO and the skills and knowledge needed to perform these functions, referred to as competencies.

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Customizable Training: Governance as Leadership: Reframing the Work of the Nonprofit Board

BoardSource offers dynamic, highly interactive governance workshops on a variety of topics for your next conference, meeting, retreat, event, or training. Each of our live training programs can be customized to meet the unique needs of your organization, to adhere to time constraints or format preferences, and to appeal to different audience sizes. The Governance as Leadership workshop takes a look at the three modes of governance — fiduciary, strategic and generative — that together enable board members more meaningful, consequential work resulting in better governed organizations. With a focus on generative thinking, the most neglected work of a board Read more

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Effective Foundation Boards: The Importance of Roles

Foundations are unique among organizations in the enormous latitude they have in determining their work and the manner in which it is done. This flexibility manifests itself particularly in the variety of roles that foundation board members can take. Most of the literature in the field focuses on best practices in board structure and processes. These are necessary in the spirit of responsiveness and legal accountability, but are not sufficient for effectiveness. Achieving role clarity, influence in decision-making and responsibility for impact are three keys to more effective foundation governance. These three attributes can be better understood and achieved by Read more

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Elements of a Strategic Plan

Nonprofit strategic planning efforts may include a variation or combination of these key elements: current programs and services, statement of mission and purposes, and financial projections. This resource explains the basic elements of strategic planning and highlights common obstacles.

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Foundation Board Basics 101

In principle, the role of the foundation board does not differ from that of other nonprofit boards, but foundation boards do have specific challenges, which we address here. A grantmaking foundation is a charitable tax-exempt organization whose primary function is to distribute funds for charitable purposes. Private foundations are typically formed by individuals, families, or corporations. Regardless of whose generosity is benefiting worthy causes, a foundation needs a governing board (or a board of trustees as foundation board members usually are called) because it is structured as a tax-exempt organization.

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Foundation Management Series

The Council on Foundations’ Foundation Management Series provides foundation boards and staff with the tools needed to benchmark their practices and operations against peers in the field. Containing data from the Council’s 2009 Foundation Management survey, the series consists of three reports: Board Composition and Compensation, Administrative and Investment Expenses, and Fiscal Oversight.

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From Generation to Generation

Family foundations are often led by family members, generation after generation. But no one is born with the knowledge to run a foundation. In order to ensure smooth transitions, or at least minimize challenges, some critical points must be addressed in the very structure and practice of the family foundation. *This content is available for Exponent Philanthropy members only

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From the Desk of the Junior Board

Perspectives from young board members. *This content is available for Exponent Philanthropy members only

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Generating Change: Investing in an Era of Nonprofit Talent and Leadership

Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy developed this paper to provide a fresh, solutions focused framework to help funders address the pressing issue of nonprofit leadership development in ways that are flexible and appropriate across the diversity of the foundation field. Because EPIP is the funder network that develops new leaders for foundations, we know firsthand how imperative it is for the funding community to invest in the next generation— and all generations—of people who power their work. We all know that foundations are only as effective as the nonprofits they support, and grantees are only as effective as their leadership and Read more

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Governance Basics – Board Structure, Committees and Delegation, and Policies and Procedures

Webinar recording

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Grantmakers’ Role in Advancing Good Governance

Grantmakers are in a unique position to strengthen the governance of their grantees and nonprofits in their communities. For grantmakers already engaging around issues of good governance, this report provides new ideas to consider and suggestions for enhancing current activities. For grantmakers that are just beginning to engage nonprofits on governance issues, this report presents the case for investing in governance and shares a variety of ways to advance those efforts.

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Handling Conflict During Board Meetings

Since nonprofit board meetings depend on interaction among people with different values, perspectives, and communication styles, conflict is likely to occur. The impact of this conflict, however, largely depends on how it is handled. Use these key tips to manage conflict in your board meetings and ensure that all board members can have candid and productive discussions.

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How CEOs and Trustees Navigate Change and Transform Foundations

Foundation CEOs and trustees share insights and personal stories related to significant paths of change and how they overcame setbacks. Download a copy and gain best practices to help you successfully lead your foundation, boards and staff.

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Nonprofit Governance Index

Since 1994, BoardSource has been conducting the BoardSource Nonprofit Governance Index, a one-of-a-kind national survey of nonprofit chief executives and board chairs. The Governance Index is the only national survey to gather information from both chief executives and board chairs on their experiences in the boardroom. The Index identifies trends in board composition, policies, and practices as well as provides a detailed view of the challenges nonprofit boards are facing as they conduct their work.

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Philanthropy FAQ: How Do I Work with My Family to Achieve High-Impact Philanthropy?

Philanthropy offers an exciting opportunity to bring your loved ones together to support a common cause. However, getting the best possible results with your philanthropy and preserving the social bonds that are important to you can sometimes require trade-offs.

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School, Work, Family, and Foundation Too

As young adults pursue degrees, settle into careers, and start families of their own, participation in a foundation can be far from the top of a to-do list. But this stage of life can be a wonderful time to be involved in the work of a foundation—a rewarding change of pace and a chance for new perspectives, ideas, and enthusiasm at the foundation table. Whether you’re a young adult excited about becoming involved in your family’s foundation or a family member hoping to engage the next generation, where do you start? *This content is available for Exponent Philanthropy members only

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Ten Basic Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards

Our all-time bestseller with over 175,000 copies sold, this book not only explores the board’s 10 core responsibilities, it also puts them into the context of the governance challenges facing nonprofits today. We clarify and distinguish the board’s responsibilities from those of the chief executive and senior staff. In addition, it includes two appendixes, one covering the individual responsibilities of board members and the other providing a sample self-assessment for individual board members.

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The Certificate of Nonprofit Board Education

For new and potential board members as well as staff and consultants who are new to working with a board. This program is offered through a series of webinars or through a live course. At the conclusion of this certificate program, you will have gained insights, tools, and materials that further your understanding of nonprofit board governance; developed a network of peers for the exchange of information and mutual support; and examined approaches, assumptions, questions, and practices regarding good governance.

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The Essential Responsibilities of Foundation Chairs

Few, if any, roles are more significant in ensuring a foundation’s success than that of the board chair. This may be why many people find assuming this position a daunting prospect. And yet the successful businessperson who serves as chair of a family foundation dedicated to a cause that was dear to his parents’ hearts or the community leader who serves as chair of an independent foundation that provides deserving youth with life-changing opportunities will tell you that few roles are more rewarding. The accomplishments of a foundation that is wisely and conscientiously led can provide its board chair with Read more

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The Nonprofit Board Answer Book: A Practical Guide for Board Members and Chief Executives

One of BoardSource’s best-selling books, The Nonprofit Board Answer Book provides answers to the most-commonly asked questions about governance.This book is a hands-on guide for board members, chief executives, and others who are charged with leading their organizations. Board members will learn how to be more effective in dealing with everyday challenges; chief executives will gain insight into how to build a strong partnership with their board. We include information on topics that have recently increased in importance, including the new Form 990, dealing with the financial crisis, risk management, and strategic partnerships. Designed to be user-friendly, it is written in an Read more

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The Nonprofit Board’s Role in Onboarding and Supporting a New CEO

The number one responsibility of any board—for-profit or nonprofit—is effective management of the senior executive, especially a new one. Yet, nonprofit leaders often report to Bridgespan that their boards fall short of that goal. Here are five ways nonprofit boards can improve onboarding and their support of new CEOs.

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The Source: Twelve Principles of Governance That Power Exceptional Boards

Exceptional boards add significant value to their organizations, making discernible differences in their advance on mission. How does a board rise to this level? Are there standards that describe this height of performance? The Source: Twelve Principles of Governance That Power Exceptional Boards defines governance not as dry, obligatory compliance, but as a creative and collaborative process that supports chief executives, engages board members, and furthers the causes they all serve. The Source enables nonprofit boards to operate at the highest and best use of their collective capacity. Aspirational in nature, these principles offer chief executives a description of an Read more

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The Trustee Handbook

Find detailed guidance on small foundation governance, grantmaking, tax and legal issues, and financial oversight and investments. Our most comprehensive resource for every trustee and board member. Includes: Updates on recent laws affecting small foundations; Sample documents to save you time and money; The requisite information for an effective trustee — all in one place.

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Three Key Roles Funders Can Play in a CEO Transition

Changes in a nonprofit’s leadership affect the organization’s staff, its board, and potentially how it will achieve its goals. With so much at stake, it’s important that a funder works with the nonprofit it supports to ensure a smooth CEO transition—and help sustain the organization until it gets a new leader.

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Understanding the Strategic Decision-Making Behavior of Community Foundation Boards

How do community foundation boards employ strategies that allow them to remain responsive to multiple constituencies (grantors, grantees, community representatives and providers of fiduciary oversight) while steering their organizations with accountability and authority? In March 2004, with a grant from the Aspen Institute’s Nonprofit Sector Research Fund and additional support from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, BoardSource and Ohio University’s Voinovich Center for Leadership and Public Affairs set out to answer that question.

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Working With Government Officials: Rules for Private Foundations

This free (and fun) video resource covers the rules for private foundations related to working with government officials and ensure legal compliance, and takes approximately 60 minutes to complete. The training features “Maya,” a program officer that helps participants through the course in a way that reflects actual experiences. Participants can return to the training at any time for a refresher and click on the individual modules to refer back to specific topics.

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