Board Leadership: Ensuring the Region’s Nonprofits Survive and Thrive

This week, Third Sector New England released “Leadership New England,” which features the results of a recent survey of 1,200 nonprofit executive directors and board members in six states.  The report, funded in part by United Way, highlights the challenges New England nonprofits face to remain healthy and sustainable over the next decade.

Leadership New England finds that two-thirds of nonprofit leaders in the region plan to leave their jobs within five years, yet notes that almost half (49%) of leaders who plan to leave in the next two years say that more highly-performing board would make them more likely to stay at an organization.

Board leadership and successful governance go hand-in-hand with a nonprofit’s ability to survive, let alone thrive, in today’s competitive climate. With over 85,000 nonprofits in New England, that competition extends beyond just fundraising to ensuring the most effective delivery of services and recruiting and leveraging the skills of board members.

It’s one of the reasons why United Way hosts “Board Connection,” an annual event which brings together professionals seeking meaningful community leadership opportunities with local nonprofit organizations looking to strengthen their volunteer leadership boards.

Jennifer Gugliotti, Assistant Vice President and Counsel at John Hancock, found her Board “match” last year through this event.  While Jennifer had been active with local nonprofits, she “wanted to get involved at a deeper level, and wanted to find somewhere to roll up my sleeves.”  At the Board Connection event, which is sponsored by John Hancock, the mission of Silver Living Mentoring (formerly Adoption & Foster Care Mentoring) spoke to her, and Jennifer has found a way to take her passion for helping young people to succeed, even though they have experienced significant instability in their childhood and youth, and turn it into action.

Jennifer’s legal skills and her experience with Corporate Social Responsibility work made her an equally good fit for Silver Lining Mentoring.  “Jen is everything that you look for in a Board member,” says Alyson Hussey, Director of Development.  “She has the skills set we need, she is passionate about our mission,  is always looking to learn more and has opened doors to people that we never would have been connected to without her.”

Their story is one of 100 Board matches United Way has made through this event. This year,  over 150 people attended Board Connection and networked with 50 nonprofit organizations  to talk about their work and Board opportunities.  With the generational sea change of leadership on the horizon, having a strong board in place is more critical than ever.