2017 Reflections & Take-Aways

Session Reflections & Take-aways from the 2017 BoardSource Leadership Forum

On October 19th and 20th, BoardSource had the honor of hosting 1,000 social sector leaders, a sold-out crowd, for the 2017 BoardSource Leadership Forum. We’re excited to share these highlights with you, and hope that you will help us continue the conversation about the importance of strong and courageous board leadership.

Opening Plenary with Anne Wallestad

Anne Wallestad’s opening comments, which called for emboldened board and executive leadership that reflects your organization’s purpose and values, that is flexible in the face of change and adversity, and that leverages your organization’s power and influence on behalf of the people and communities you serve.

Written Comments featured by Nonprofit Quarterly | Watch Video

Keynote Address from Dr. David Williams

Keynote comments from David Williams, Ph.D., Florence and Laura Norman Professor of Public Health and professor of African and African American studies and sociology at Harvard University. Dr. Williams shared compelling research on how significantly race acts as a predetermining factor on a whole host of health and economic indicators, and the clear need to address structural forms of racism as we seek to serve our communities and advance the public good. Watch Video | Download Slides

Reflections on the Nonprofit Sector’s Role in Addressing Racism

Following Dr. Williams’s plenary comments, participants had an opportunity to reflect on the nonprofit sector’s role in addressing racism. Some of the reflections from participants are captured below. Scroll to read more.

Announcement of the 2018 Stand for Your Mission Award

BoardSource created the Stand for Your Mission Award to recognize nonprofit boards that have established advocacy as an expectation for engaged and effective board leadership, and, by doing so, are helping their organizations realize their missions. The winner receives $5,000 to support its advocacy efforts.

Take-aways from Five Popular Sessions

Measuring Your Fundraising Effectiveness: The Conversation You are Not Having — and Should Be

If your local paper asked questions about your organization’s fundraising strategy, would you feel confident in your answers? Anne Wallestad & Andy Davis framed their session around that question. Read now.

Six Things to Boost
Your Board’s Performance

Rob Acton began his standing-room only session by asking why so many boards underperform. The answer: Low expectations, wrong expectations, lack of opportunity to engage, and tolerance for underperformance. Read now.

The Language
of Leadership

Erica Mills promised a fast-paced and interactive session on how to create remarkable messaging to lead staff, engage donors, and advocate for our missions, and she delivered!
Read now.

The Power of Possibility – Starting the Conversation Around Strategic Partnerships

In this session, panelists Bob Harrington and Kate Barr shared their reflections on what’s possible when organizations come together for long-term durable partnerships. Read now.

The Board’s Role
in Fundraising

Sessions about fundraising are often popular at BLF, as this is a topic that challenges most nonprofit boards. At BLF 2017, Chuck Loring presented two sessions that hit home runs with its attendees. Read now.

Reflections on the Nonprofit Sector’s Role in Addressing Racism

Have you had an opportunity to view David Williams’s keynote remarks? If so, you may have some thoughts about his call to action: It’s time to start addressing racism by confronting and identifying opportunities within our own boards and organizations. Those who attended BLF shared their thoughts in discussion groups that followed the plenary.

Participants shared powerful reflections on the experience, which captured both the opportunities and the challenges that we face as a social sector as we work to overcome the systemic barriers that lead to the outcomes Dr. Williams described. Some common themes include:

  • Appreciation for the conversation: Participants shared appreciation for the safe space to learn and reflect together after a powerful and intense presentation by Dr. Williams. They highlighted the importance of the opportunity to process and to begin action planning, rather than quickly moving on to another topic. Said one participant, “I so appreciate BoardSource for taking the time and providing the opportunity so people don’t have to choose whether or not to have this conversation; this structure allows everyone to have the conversation.”
  • New awareness about systemic and interpersonal racism: Some participants expressed shock at the data presented by Dr. Williams, and a new awareness about the impact of both systemic and interpersonal racism, including implicit bias. Many noted how helpful it was to learn through a data-driven lens. In the words of one participant, “Learn the facts – they are big motivators.”
  • The need to challenge assumptions and biases: Participants reflected on the need to challenge assumptions about what makes a good board member, and who can and should serve on a board. They acknowledged the role that fundraising plays in complicating the conversation about board diversity, both in that there is often an assumption that people of color have less access to resources and wealth and that boards are too focused on wealth as the primary criteria for board membership. In naming barriers to progress, one participant shared, “Increasing the racial and economic diversity of the board is viewed as a distraction or, worse, a threat to fundraising efforts.”
  • The leadership role of the board: Participants shared the importance of the board owning their leadership role on diversity, inclusion, and equity; moving beyond lip service and really doing the work. Participants noted some of the barriers to that, including the prevalence of a significant gap between the values and beliefs of the board and the staff, which can make it difficult to cultivate a shared commitment. Many highlighted the need for a “first conversation” at the board level.
  • The urgency for change: Participants shared that the conversation has instilled in them a new sense of urgency about the need for action. As one participant shared, “We do not currently have a plan, but it is now my top priority to create one.” Said another, “We do not make this a priority and we must. Until we do, we are the problem.”

View more information and resources to help guide conversations about diversity, inclusion, and equity in your boardroom.