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VOL. 123 | NO. 84 | Tuesday, April 29, 2008

ANE Conference To Look at Effective Nonprofit Governance

By Rosalind Guy

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At this year's Alliance for Nonprofit Excellence annual conference, local nonprofit organization leaders will get a chance to hear from experts from academia who have taken a hard look at governance models for nonprofit boards and are testing some ideas on what works in creating effective board governance.

Nancy McGee, ANE executive director, said relationships between nonprofit organization boards and the executive staffs running them "affect how well organizations execute their missions, as well as determining outcome of fundraising efforts and overall community impact."

The conference takes place Thursday at the Jewish Community Center, 6560 Poplar Ave.

The third annual conference, "Boards of Directors - Myths and Realities," will begin at 8 a.m. and conclude around 4 p.m. Cost is $99 for Alliance members, $150 for nonmembers and $65 for college students.

The keynote speaker for the conference is Dr. Yvonne Harrison, assistant professor at the Center for Nonprofit Leadership at Seattle University.

Finding effectiveness

Harrison has surveyed local and national organizations to determine what characteristics are present in effective and ineffective board chairs. At Thursday's conference, Harrison will tell participants how the local results compare to national results, McGee said.

"The board chair can have quite an impact on an organization," McGee said. "And if they exhibit these characteristics of an effective board chair, then it can have quite a positive impact on the work of the organization. If they have some of the qualities of an ineffective board chair, which will be discussed, they can do some damage to an organization.

"So what she's going to try to get across is that rather than taking the position of board chair lightly, that organizations really need to consider who is going to be best to fill that position."

In addition to Harrison's presentation, conference attendees will hear from Ron Moitzfield, chair of the St. Louis President's Council, a group of nonprofit board chairs in the St. Louis area who meet quarterly.

McGee said she hopes to spur local nonprofit chairs to form the same type of organization in Memphis.

There also will be a panel discussion from local executive directors and board chairs talking about their relationships. They will include the Tipton County Commission on Aging, Synergy Treatment Center, Goodwill Homes Community Services and Memphis Health Center.

The Memphis Health Center has faced its own set of challenges that led to the board actually being fired several years ago by a federal judge, McGee said. Conflict between a former CEO and the organization's board was at the root of the ordered dissolution of the group's board.

Connecting the disconnect

McGee said the conference topic, which addressees the relationship between executive staff and boards of directors, is one that needs to be addressed locally. She said many people who come through the doors of ANE have had complaints related to the issue.

"There's not a single person that comes through our door that doesn't have some sort of challenge in working with the board," she said. "And then we meet board members who say we feel this disconnect. So it's coming from both sides. There just aren't a whole lot of resources out there about boards and what makes them effective and offering different kinds of governance models."

By bringing in researchers who've studied the topic and come up with models that seem to be working, McGee said conference attendees will get some useful ideas that they can go back and apply to their own organizational work.

ANE also is hosting a post-conference reception. The deadline for registration is Wednesday.

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