Building Effective Boards

Building an Effective Board of Directors Toolkit

Project Overview

If you ask a director on of a non-profit board to clarify what that organization does, he or she will likely direct you to mission statement, vision, and perhaps a strategic plan. 

Yet, for most organizations, the mission, vision, and even strategic plan do not typically inform the work of the board.   Instead the work revolves around agenda items such as financial statements, committee reports, and upcoming events.  The work of the board is mainly tied to the past, or to the immediate future.  This results in board members who are dissatisfied or disengaged with their roles because they do not see value in it.  As a result, organizational performance suffers (see Chait, et al:  Governance as Leadership).

Harvard professor, Richard Chait, along with colleagues William Ryan and Barbara Taylor, have studied non-profit boards and developed a model to develop the leadership potential of boards by engaging them in work that emphasizes their talents and creativity while broadening the potential of the organizations they serve. 

Paula Huff, Oconto County 4-H Agent; Kevin Palmer, Manitowoc County 4-H Educator; and Denise Retzleff, Fond du Lac County 4-H Educator; have applied Chait’s model– along with additional best practices– to 4-H boards. In doing so, they have created an intentional path of “Governance as Leadership” for adults and youth to institute in their county 4-H programs.  Their work includes a toolkit of resources and activities that can be applied to a variety of non-profit boards beyond 4-H.


Frank Martinelli, The Center for Public Skills Training


East Metro Resource Development Grant


Dave Berard, Associate State Program Director, CNRED

Chris Kniep, Family Living Educator, Winnebago County

Bill Rizzo, State Specialist, CNRED


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