January 8, 2014; Biz CEOs


For those inclined to make New Year’s resolutions, it’s safe to assume that most have probably been made—and a few already broken—by mid-January. But if you are a nonprofit board member or a nonprofit executive looking to improve your board’s effectiveness, it’s certainly not too late to reflect on what might be accomplished in 2014.

Author Joseph John offers twelve resolutions for nonprofit boards to consider. He suggests two important steps to take before making any resolutions:

  1. First, make a candid assessment of where your organization falls on what he calls the “mediocrity-good-great continuum,” because that will determine where the energy needs to go to keep things moving in the right direction.
  2. Second, create a timeline of milestones from your organization’s history, to help board and staff appreciate where you’ve come from and to discern patterns or reinforce lessons learned that might point the way forward.

Of the twelve resolutions offered, some speak to boards as a whole. For example, “Dust off the bylaws, vision, mission and values.” Many organizations do this each time they go through a strategic planning process, but it can be helpful to step back and take a hard look at these organizational lodestars in-between planning cycles, too—especially at moments of leadership transition (staff or board) or when it’s clear that the external environment is shifting in some important way.

Other resolutions speak to individual board members, including “Raise your hand” (as opposed to sitting on your hands) and “Take ownership.” The collective actions of a board will shape the future of any nonprofit. But unless individual board members feel they have a personal stake in the organization’s work and raise their hands—to ask the difficult questions or to take on the challenging assignments—any nonprofit will struggle to succeed.

As with making personal resolutions, the key is to set manageable goals and to review and renew them throughout the year. John recommends that boards look over his twelve suggested resolutions and rank-order them based on what’s actionable—and achievable.

Has your board made any 2014 resolutions? Have you made any for yourself as a nonprofit board member? If so, NPQ would love to hear from you. Share your resolutions with us while the year is still fresh.—Eileen Cunniffe