Book And Video Reviews

Nonprofit Board Answer Book: Practical Guidelines for Board Members and Chief Executives

by Robert C. Andringa, et al
A Must-Have for Senior Staffs and Volunteer Leaders
This is a must-have book for nonprofit senior staffs as well as for volunteer board members who aspire to leadership and stewardship of the organizations they serve. It definitely lives up to the promise of the assertion on the book jacket that the authors, “...who collectively have more than 70 years of experience as chief executives, board members, and facilitators in the training of more than 20,000 board members in 20 countries...”

The book is comprised of 37 short chapters (typically 3-6 pages each) in five sections, designed to address all aspects of board service and board/staff issues. Each chapter provides facts, opinions, tools, and a few “suggested action steps” to help a board address the issue or situation presented in the chapter.

In general, the authors reference John Carver as a good resource for the theory and practice of nonprofit governance, but they don't make Carver the precise and proscriptive recipe that some adherents do. They admit the possibility that other techniques and structures can work well for certain organizations, while “sticking to their guns” in presenting their experiences and insights as having inherent value for most nonprofits.

I was especially impressed by the distinction made between the role of the board and the role of board members. Many policy governance disputes stem from a misunderstanding that, somehow, all board members should have the same responsibilities and be treated interchangeably.

I would have liked to see a clearer treatment of the issue of board diversity; interestingly, the authors seem to agree, admitting that it's a very difficult subject to address. Many board “diversity” programs focus on narrowly-defined “diversity” and run the danger of leading to “tokenism,” according to the authors.

The charts and checklists that supplement the text are simple and effective. They're easy for readers to re-create and use in their own organizations.

The book even admits of the possibility that nonprofits can (and sometimes should) dissolve and disband, and provides strategies for helping board, staff, and community understand, accept, and even support the natural cycle of life as it applies to organizations. It's an important message and not a negative one.

Although originally published in December, 1997, it has already had three printings as of August, 1999. With 15 million volunteer board members in the U.S. alone, the publishers could run through many more printings.