Great Nonprofits Have Great Boards

Jud Fisher, President/CEO, Ball Brothers Foundation. Photo providedJud Fisher, President/CEO, Ball Brothers Foundation. Photo provided

By Jud Fisher, President/CEO, Ball Brothers Foundation.—

MUNCIE, IN—As a foundation that supports many local nonprofit organizations, Ball Brothers Foundation has had a front row seat to see how excellent boards have transformed local organizations over the years. We strongly believe in the importance of outstanding board governance and leadership, as good boards have a profound effect on an organization’s ability to serve its constituents and adapt to meet changing community needs.

It is inspiring to see the selflessness of so many of our local citizens who dedicate countless hours to serving on boards, often unpaid and unrecognized. Organizations rely on board members who are willing to give up their weeknights, weekends, and early morning hours for meetings, helping at special events, making connections, hosting fundraisers, reviewing financials, and more. Serving on a nonprofit board is rewarding but can often be equally challenging, as nonprofit organizations inevitably face significant roadblocks that leaders must help them navigate, such as the departure of key staff members, fundraising or financial difficulties, unanticipated expenses, and expanding services.

Through our experience with nonprofits, we have identified several key characteristics top-performing boards share. These boards focus their meeting time on matters of key strategic importance. The chief executive and board chair work together to carefully craft agendas that ensure board members focus on key issues and opportunities. They recognize that the effectiveness of each position is mutually interdependent, and great boards build a culture that values inquiry, constructive debate, and perspectives from all angles.

Effective boards are comprised of people who are deeply passionate about the organization’s mission, often volunteering in some capacity before joining the board. These boards also place a strong focus on ensuring prudent financial management to grow and steward the organization’s assets. They hold individual board members, the chief executive, and the overall organization accountable. They bring diverse perspectives, backgrounds, and lived experiences that inform decision-making and debate. In the words of leadership guru Jim Collins, they “confront the brutal facts.” They deeply understand—and discuss—their organization’s strengths and weaknesses. By embracing continuous learning and using their own networks, they capitalize on new opportunities to strengthen their organization.

Ball Brothers Foundation believes so strongly in excellent governance that we present an annual award to an outstanding board member of a nonprofit based in Delaware County. The Fisher Governance Award recognizes a board member who goes above and beyond to help steer their organization.

The John W. and Janice B. Fisher Governance Award recognizes the achievements of the dedicated board members who are creating excellence in their organizations and Delaware County as a whole. Photo provided

The John W. and Janice B. Fisher Governance Award recognizes the achievements of the dedicated board members who are creating excellence in their organizations and Delaware County as a whole. Photo provided

Notably, over the past several years, we have witnessed many local nonprofits struggling to find board members. This is a significant stressor for local executive directors, undoubtedly impacting the degree to which local nonprofits can provide services to the community. To help address this challenge, we are proud to support local organizations including Shafer Leadership Academy and newly-established Nonprofit Support Network, which offer a range of workshops and supports to help nonprofits strengthen their boards.

How can you get involved?

If you’re not serving on a board, we encourage you to consider what skills and background you could contribute. Start by volunteering at a local nonprofit and then, once you’re familiar with the organization, inquire about board positions. You can also visit to fill out the board member interest form and keep an eye out for future sessions of the annual “All Aboard” workshop hosted in partnership with the Heart of Indiana United Way.