“We will work on our board later in the year when we have the time and money.”  And so board development gets put off again.  It’s easy to do.  I remember doing it myself.  There is always something more pressing – a fundraising event, donor development, program expansion, new staff to hire, and the list goes on.  If this sounds like you, please allow me to offer five ways to initiate board development

1. READ A BOOK.  The most helpful book for me was Boards That make a Difference by John Carver.  It’s a big one that sets forth his case for what the author has trademarked as Policy Governance.  A lighter book by one of my favorite leadership authors, Max De Pree, is Called to Serve.  Another book that has gotten a lot of play is Governance as Leadership by Richard Chait, William Ryan, and Barbara Taylor.  Finally, my own book Board Essentials: 12 Best Practices of Nonprofit Boards is brief, to the point, and as one reviewer said, is a primer on governance. 

2. STUDY A BOOK WITH YOUR BOARD.  This is where I make a case for my book; it is 114 pages long, consists of 16 brief chapters, and for most of them there is a set of 3-5 discussion questions at the end.  One or two chapters could be slotted into the agenda of each board meeting, or the book could be used for a board retreat.

3. CONNECT WITH THE NONPROFIT COMMUNITY.  This is a good way to learn more about board governance.  Most states have a nonprofit association.  Here in our state, Washington Nonprofits is an excellent place to find good resources and connections to other organizations.  Additionally, there are many nonprofit conferences, usually with a modest registration cost.  In Washington State these can be found in Seattle, Ocean Shores, Vancouver, Chelan, and Spokane. 

4. TAKE A CLASS.  Some state associations offer board governance courses, such as Foraker Group in Alaska.  The University of Washington-Tacoma offers board courses both at its leadership center and undergrad program.  At Portland State University there is a course on governance that I have taken.  I am pleased to report that a couple of these are now using Board Essentials as a text.

5. HIRE A CONSULTANT.  Here is the big commitment.  Engaging a board governance consultant requires time, money, and most of all, commitment to make it truly beneficial for you.  Doing this over 25 years ago was helpful to me.  And today I am playing the role of a board governance consultant.

There it is.  No more excuses.  There is a way to initiative board development that fits your schedule and budget.

For more information please visit my website at

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About Dave Coleman

Dave Coleman Principal / Consultant Phone: 253-237-4118 After many years of nonprofit leadership and the privilege of getting to know hundreds of organizations through my work with the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust, I am pleased to offer my services to you at BoardTrek Nonprofit Consulting. Our small Pacific Northwest based company is focused on helping guide nonprofit organizations and their leaders into the future by offering our services in board governance, strategic planning, leadership development and organizational change. Always feel free to contact me with your thoughts and questions.
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