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The Strategic Board: The Step-by-Step Guide to High-Impact Governance

The Strategic Board: The Step-by-Step Guide to High-Impact Governance
Author: Mark Light
ISBN 13: 9780471403586
ISBN 10: 47140358
Edition: 1
Publisher: Wiley
Publication Date: 2001-04-20
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 272
List Price: $78.95

There’s a strange paradox in the nonprofit world. Take top business executives, highly dedicated volunteers, and other community leaders–all with impressive records of achievement in their own fields–and put them together on a nonprofit board, and you wind up, more often than not, with a remarkably inefficient, indecisive group that seems incapable of turning ambitions into accomplishments. How can boards overcome their very nature and become well-functioning, goal-oriented successes? The Strategic Board finally answers that question with a quick and simple blueprint that will work for every board at every type of nonprofit organization.

Nonprofit governing boards want to be effective and deliver high-impact results. It’s just that the realities that affect boards mediate against easy functioning. Board members often have considerable goodwill but few governance skills to effectively translate that goodwill into great work. Board members have much of value to contribute–fundraising ability, political influence, other expertise–but they are rarely chosen for their skill at governing. That a board made up of part-time novices with limited time should have the final responsibility for the organization constitutes one of the great ironies of nonprofit governance.

In this levelheaded, clearly written guide based on his own extensive experience in nonprofit organizations, Mark Light explains the seven realities of nonprofit governance that contribute to boards’ difficulties, and then outlines the Strategic Board™ model of governance–a simple, practical, easy-to-implement solution to help every board create stability and sustainability, accomplish its purpose, and produce satisfying results.

Light spells out the four questions that build a strategic board:

  • Where to go tomorrow?
  • Who does what?
  • What gets done today?
  • Did it happen?

He then shows how these questions can be used to build a comprehensive four-part Governance Plan™ covering each critical component, from strategic and operational planning through guidelines of conduct and schedule monitoring. As you build your Governance Plan™, you will notice that the success measures you develop will become the glue that holds your entire organization together–from board members to executive director to front-line staff–as you progress steadily toward your goal.

Brimming with real-life stories and anecdotes, forms and checklists, agendas and group facilitation techniques, this easy-to-use book will help boards of nonprofit organizations, large and small, transcend their traditional limitations and achieve the greatness they always hoped for.


Light presents a model of nonprofit board governance which is designed to overcome common problems and increase effectiveness. Developed from his experience in nonprofit organizations, the author's model calls for boards to build their own four-part plan covering strategic and operational planning, guidelines of conduct, and schedule monitoring. A complete sample plan is included in the appendix. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)