Governance lessons from the 2016 Nonprofit Management Excellence Awards

Every year, the NPEA awards provide an opportunity to learn from the best managed organizations in our community. This year was no exception. The following are some examples of effective board practices that can serve as guides for what is possible.

Board Diversity

The Children’s Aid Society provides an example of proactive change in board practices to achieve a specific objective. As part of an overall strategic realignment, they focused on the need to assure that the composition of the board reflected the diversity of their community.

Firstly, the board agreed to establish term limits. While there is some disagreement in the field about the value of term limits, in this case it was an entirely appropriate strategy to accomplish a specific objective.

They realized, however, that the process of recruiting to fill these new positions needed to be open to re-examination as the environment continued to change. To that end, they also established a mandatory rotation of both the leadership and membership of their Nominating Committee.

Governance and Management Responsibilities

The Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services undertook to absorb a significant number of programs from another organization that was closing. The Board of Trustees was deeply involved in the decision. Their involvement however, focused on the potential risks of the acquisition and on financial scenarios. They relied entirely on the staff to manage operational details and program integration.

Proactive Board Practices

The Board of Neighbors Link maintains a practice of continual quality improvement for their board.

  • Committee Charters are regularly revised to reflect changing needs
  • There is an annual self-assessment of the engagement of each board member
  • There is regular financial education of the board through a budget process that involves multiple board meetings
  • Programs are evaluated by the organization and the board through a dashboard that utilizes multiple measures of process (How much did we do? How well did we do?) and which is evolving towards establishing impact measures as well (Is anyone better off?)


Excellence in Board Governance is achievable by every organization. I hope that these examples can help to inspire your work.