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Incubator Session 6: Getting What You Need from Boards & Governance

On May 4, 2017, the last in a series of six sessions of the Reconstructionist Learning Networks Innovators Incubator took place. In this session, guest facilitator Toby Rubin, founder of UpStart, guided a discussion on “Getting What You Need from Boards & Governance.” Below are highlights from the session, with links to resources discussed.


Attitude toward boards

Our attitudes to boards and governance are essential. If you don’t have a positive attitude toward boards, you won’t get what you need from them.

What would be possible if we viewed boards as a blessing? Where would that take you?

“There is no such thing as the right board member… you need the board for your organization to move forward toward its mission and vision.”

Happy people

Organizational lifecycle

Where is your organization in its lifecycle? Boards function differently at different stages of the organization.

  • Idea
  • Start Up
  • Growth
  • Mature
  • Decline
  • Turnaround

Nonprofit Lifecycles book cover

Recommended reading: Nonprofit Lifecycles, by Susan Kenny Stevens 


Performance Imperatives

Pillar 1: Courageous, adaptive executive and board leadership (the preeminent pillar)

Pillar 2: Disciplined, people-focused management

Pillar 3: Well-designed and well-implemented programs and strategies

Pillar 4: Financial health and sustainability

Pillar 5: A culture that values learning

Pillar 6: Internal monitoring for continuous improvement

Pillar 7: External evaluation for mission effectiveness

From: http://leapambassadors.org/products/performance-imperative/


Courageous, adaptive executive and board leadership

  • Important to clarify each person’s role and document it
  • It is the board’s responsibility to create this document that defines their roles


Your board should be your best asset

Incubator 6_Board is your best asset by Jewishrecon


Tips on Board Leadership

1. Use 3 year organizational goals as basis for Board’s development of its annual goals and execution plan

2. Use board goals (and the Performance Imperatives!) to determine needed characteristics of your total board profile, then map current board against needs to identify gaps

3. Board member identification/development of member “pipeline” is a year round activity

4. View Board as a “program” of the organization with Board Chair as the Program Director.

In the following audio clip, Toby emphasizes why being a board chair is like being a program director, and why relationships are the most important aspect of a board.

Incubator 6_program director by Jewishrecon

5. Conduct board self-assessments at least every two years

6. Keep up on the local Jewish scene’s “movers and shakers”


Bright Spot: Elliot and B’nei Keshet

When someone joins the board, always ask: Why did you say yes?


Recommended resource: 

Blue avocado logo

Blueavocado.org: practical board resource


Innovation Torah

From Sigal


On the theme of tefillat haderekh, the travelers’ prayer. We are in the week of Netzach in the Omer: the idea of taking a step forward. Stepping from the unknown to the unknown to the unknown at every moment. The term mechoz haftzeinu means our desired destination, but what about thinking about makom haftzeinu: everywhere we are is where the desire is. Stay in the present moment, what we need now. We are already in our desired place.  

Cyd adds: Tefillat haderekh is phrased in the “we,” in the plural. We go forward together.


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