Why Nonprofit Board Training Doesn’t Work

Posted on by Jimmy LaRose in Blog

I recently received a flyer from a nonprofit consultant that had a catchy phrase on the cover. His big line was, “Stop LECTURING your Board Members and start TRAINING them!” Here’s the problem. If you have to have to train your directors THEN YOU’VE GOT THE WRONG BOARD MEMBERS! Name me one other industry where the CEO is responsible to TRAIN THEIR BOSSES. It’s simply ridiculous.

Here’s what you need in a board member…AN EXPERT!

1. Business Expert (Chair) Entrepreneur
2. Program Expert (Secretary) Specific
3. Finance Expert (Treasurer) Accountant
4. Legal Expert (Member) Lawyer
5. Communications Expert (Member) PR/Marketer
6. Nonprofit Expert (Member) Consultant


Before I get ahead of myself let me affirm something you already know in your heart. Your Board of Directors is not your real problem nor is it your solution. When it’s all said and done, there’s one thing conventional boards all have in common…THEY DO NOT FUNCTION. There’s a better way. Allow me to explain.

-Boardsmanship IS NOT Governance
-Boardsmanship IS NOT Visioning
-Boardsmanship IS NOT Policy-Making
-Boardsmanship IS NOT Volunteerism
-Boardsmanship IS NOT Management

Boardsmanship is not Governance: Don’t kid yourselves. UNPAID VOLUNTEER BOARD MEMBERS DON’T GOVERN. Actual governance occurs when a person (with a full-time salary) supported by various paid staff (the formation of a government) is empowered to perform the daily tasks of decision-making and oversight. Strong CEOs GOVERN!

Boardsmanship is not Visioning: VISION is the way MISSION is achieved and is never the responsibility of the board because the board isn’t being paid to accomplish it. STRONG CEOs DETERMINE VISION. (I’ll agree that board members hold their compensated leader accountable to achieve MISSION.) Here’s what you do. Hire a strong CEO who can be trusted to design a HEROIC VISION OF SCALE that accomplishes mission in ways you never dreamed possible. Believe me, strong CEOs are already doing it their way even if they’re forced to label it “BOARD VISION.”

Boardsmanship is not Policy-Making: Hire a CEO whose depth of experience and formal education has already equipped them as a management expert. The right CEO has been properly trained to oversee the creation of policies that work. Board Members never write policy anyway. Someone else does the heavy-lifting and they rubber stamp it.

Boardsmanship is not Volunteerism: Eliminate the special events committee. Eliminate the fundraising committee. Eliminate the public relations committee. Eliminate the strategic planning committee. (Here’s a good rule of thumb – remove everything from your by-laws that’s not related to IRS compliance.) Re-assemble these groups as volunteers (non-board members) who serve you directly. For example, a group of social workers is assembled to serve the program director, or a campaign cabinet comprised of community volunteers is built to advance fundraising. You now have individuals in their sweet spots, who are no longer saddled with arcane tasks.

Boardsmanship is not Management: Board members have no authority over the day-to-day operations of a nonprofit UNLESS there’s a written directive recorded in board meeting minutes with a motion, second and full vote. Members cannot unilaterally exercise power. Nor can committees. Conversely, board members actually need to receive permission from the CEO if they intend to act on behalf of the nonprofit in a manner that could affect daily operations.

Now back to what I was sharing earlier.

Great boards do TWO things:


THAT’S IT! (add other experts as needed eg. personnel, etc.) However, don’t forget, working group theory states that any “working group” with more than seven people is no longer a group that works!

Here are their ten clear-cut ADVICE & ACCOUNTABILITY functions:

1. Comply with IRS Regulations
2. Hire strong Chief Executive Officer
3. Approve Meeting Agenda
4. Approve and Amend By-Laws
5. Choose and Review Independent Financial Audit (annual)
6. Choose and Review Independent Program Audit (annual)
7. Evaluate strong Chief Executive Officer
8. Attend Three Meetings per Year with Recorded Minutes
9. Support the CEOs Vision (not the boards vision)
10. Provide CEO their expert advice

The STRONG CEO is named chair of the nominations committee and fills the SIX POSITIONS I mentioned earlier. (yes, you only need six [plus]):

1. Business Expert (Chair) Entrepreneur
2. Program Expert (Secretary) Specific
3. Finance Expert (Treasurer) Accountant
4. Legal Expert (Member) Lawyer
5. Communications Expert (Member) PR/Marketer
6. Nonprofit Expert (Member) Consultant

What would happen if every nonprofit CEO had the privilege and the
power to build his or her own board of directors? What would happen if
they had boards they could call their own?


Nonprofit board training is a scam conjured up by consultants to line their pockets. If you have to train your directors then you’ve got the wrong ones.

I’ll stop there for now.

Warmly, Jimmy LaRose

Nonprofit Board Training Doesn’t Work was written by author, speaker and fundraiser James P. LaRose, CNE, CDE, CNC. He’s the author of RE-IMAGINING PHILANTHROPY: Charities Need Your Mind More Than Your Money™ written to philanthropists who give nonprofits what they really need…enterprise models that grow capacity and achieve financial sustainability.

For more information on Why Nonprofit Board Training Doesn’t Work VISIT HERE to attend one of Jimmy’s Major Gifts Ramp-Up Seminars.