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Thriving Nonprofit Boards By Dr. John C. Reynolds

Thriving Nonprofit Boards and Their Role in Organizational Sustainability

Organizations fulfill their missions and achieve impact with God-honoring excellence when cared for by competent boards. The board’s first priority is to nurture, guide, and hold accountable the right CEO who is given space to accomplish the purposes of the organization. Sustainable organizations need energized CEOs – successful CEOs need thriving boards.

Ministry and business leaders may will always be accountable to a Board of Directors. Excellent CEOs leading sustainable organizations are governed by not just good boards, but thriving boards. For more detail on this concept see my article “7 Habits for a Thriving Nonprofit Board.”

What then is required of thriving boards to foster sustainability in nonprofit ministries and organizations today?

Called Directors

The first and most critical (though obvious) principle is that every board member is committed, passionate and called to the specific mission/purpose of the organization. They realize that to serve on a nonprofit board is more than just “community service”— it is in fact a noble calling (Philippians 4:8). Governing boards composed of called directors govern and guide organizations with passion and commitment, not only for today, but by positively positioning them for the future.

Missional Focus

It is key to sustainability. True to the organization’s identity (vision, mission, and values), called directors lead with fidelity, alignment, and conviction, guarding what is important, and critical without diluting the organization’s identity. Sustainability, requires focus on the main thing. Board members are ultimately the guardians or trustees of the mission. If there is mission drift, it starts with the board and not keeping this principle the first priority in their governance. CEOs transition. Leaders’ transition. The board is however the continuum to the purpose, and core to the organization’ sustainability. However, sustainability is a process and not an event, for success today does not guarantee the future.

Strategic Thinking

For a board to facilitate sustainability, it must not only focus on today, but must concurrently be thinking strategically. What are those external opportunities and threats that must be addressed to thrive? With so many opportunities being presented in a disruptive world, being strategic in taking advantage of opportunities, and mitigating threats is a vital board process.

A Unified Voice

Scanning the external landscape is the first step; however, just as important is the board’s relationship with the CEO. Sustainability is promoted when absolute and agreed clarity exists, in role and relationship, between the board and CEO. One unified voice of the board, expressed by the CEO to the organization, brings consistency, clarity and commitment. What better starting point is there to ensure sustainability?

Thriving boards are critical to sustainability. Excellent boards partner with the CEO in focus, purpose, strategy and stewardship. They do so to ensure not only the matters of the day, but to guide success for the future.


Dr. John C. Reynolds is President of Los Angeles Pacific University, an online Christian University in California. His passions include Christian higher education, board development, strategic-thinking, and coaching/consulting in international contexts. Dr.Reynolds will lead a workshop entitled “Thriving Boards through Transformation” at The Outcomes Conference 2020, April 7-9 in Dallas. This post is an excerpt from his article featured in the 2019 Winter edition of Outcomes Magazine.


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