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

ISBN: 978-0-471-40358-6
272 pages
May 2001
The Strategic Board: The Step-by-Step Guide to High-Impact Governance (047140358X) cover image



Every nonprofit board wants to be great. But the reality is, few are. It's one of the great puzzles of governance. How do you mold highly talented individuals with diverse backgrounds, limited time, and no governance expertise into an effective board?

The Strategic Board provides the answer. Drawing on more than twenty years of nonprofit experience, Mark Light outlines a practical model that overcomes the built-in deficiencies of nonprofit boards and guides them to strategic effectiveness. The Strategic Board(TM) model of governance is a step-by-step, easy-to-implement, multilevel course of action that enables a board to craft a comprehensive Governance Plan(TM) that:
* Develops a Leadership Plan that determines "Where to go tomorrow?"
* Creates a Delegation Plan that specifies "Who does what?"
* Follows through with a Management Plan that decides "What gets done today?"
* Puts in place a Vigilance Plan to answer the question "Did it happen?"

The Strategic Board approach doesn't dictate the answers. Rather, it makes sure you ask all the right questions as you outline your goals and focus on achieving them. It's a uniquely flexible blueprint for better functioning that will at last connect your board's work about where you go tomorrow with your staff's work on what gets done today.

Every nonprofit board dreams of greatness. Here are the tools to achieve it.
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Table of Contents


Seize the Day.

The Case Statement.

The Governance Plan.


Where To Go Tomorrow.




Who Does What?

Determining Duties and Guidelines.

Adding Value.


What Gets Done Today?

Building the Management Plan.


Did it Happen?


Closing Thoughts.

Appendix A: Victoria Theatre Association Governance Plan.


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Author Information

Mark Light is President of the Arts Center Foundation, Victoria Theatre Association, and Dayton Opera, as well as the consulting firm First Light. An executive with nearly twenty years of experience, he has provided governance guidance to organizations ranging from the United Way to housing authorities to arts organizations. He speaks extensively and has presented programs for the National Center for Nonprofit Boards.
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"The Strategic Board tackles head-on the single most urgent problem facing not-for-profit organizations and their boards of trustees. It is refreshingly, lucidly written, as well as fast-paced. It is blessedly free of social science jargon, as well as theory, and offers a clear, direct explanation of the basic reasons most not-for-profit boards fail to fulfill their responsibilities or to function at minimally acceptable standards. It offers a practical, no-nonsense "how to" roadmap that will leave not-for-profit board members no excuse for being ineffective or sub-optimal. This book picks up where the authoritative, research-based study of boards by Bowen, Nygren, and et. al, and Chait, Holland, and Taylor leave off, and outlines what a not-for-profit organization must do in order to transform itself into a strategic-thinking, strategically-run organization. It is must reading for every not-for-profit board and chief executive."—Joel Fleishman, Professor of Public Policy Sanford Institute

"Mark Light demonstrates a keen understanding of the challenges facing nonprofit boards, and offers a simple, useable framework for focusing the work of a board."—Carol A. Lukas, Director, National Services, Amherst H. Wilder Foundation

"Who among us, often serving simultaneously in both roles of nonprofit executive and board member, would not relate in a heartbeat to Light's seven 'realities' and four 'questions of great governance?' The importance and usefulness of Mark's insights and tested plan are immeasurable to all of us who wrestle daily with this #1, always-in-your-face challenge.—Roni D. Posner, Ed.D., Executive Director, Alliance for Nonprofit Management

"It is a delight to recommend this step-by-step guide to high impact governance! As a direct result of this remarkable process, our United Way is posting stunning gains in a highly competitive fundraising and community investment arena where everything is measured and outcomes matter! Mark Light's star shines brightest in this extraordinary work!"—Alan Perez, President/CEO, United Way of Erie County

"Finally-a no-nonsense book from a seasoned nonprofit executive who has worked as both a consultant to nonprofit organizations and in the trenches of governance. Straight to the point and eminently practical, Mark Light's governance model challenges nonprofit executives to think beyond traditional approaches and reach for innovative solutions." —Richard D. Moyers, Executive Director, Ohio Association of Nonprofit Organizations

"Mark Light zeroes in on the obstacles to good governance and sharply focuses the board's attention on its essential and strategic role."—Alice Korngold, President and CEO, Business Volunteers Unlimited

"Mark Light's Strategic BoardTM governance model is a new and innovative approach to the most important challenge to nonprofit organizations today-improving governance. As a consultant who has used this model in my own work with boards, I can say with confidence that this book will be welcomed by the nonprofit community and well-used."—James Abruzzo, Managing Director, Nonprofit, Education and e-Philanthropy Practice StratfordGroup

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