The 2013 BoardSource Leadership Forum is being held in Los Angeles on Thursday and Friday, November 7 and 8. According to BoardSource, the Forum "is the only national conference focused on the impact of nonprofit boards and the unique role they play in advancing the public good. Every year, more than 700 nonprofit leaders from around the world gather with an impressive array of experts to discuss the newest thinking and practices in nonprofit governance and solutions to current leadership issues."
BoardSource CEO Anne Wallestad opened the Forum reminding us that big ideas fall flat without the plans and resources required to succeed. Engaged and educated boards make a big difference.
Tim King of Urban Prep Academies delivered a very inspiring opening keynote about the history of the amazing organization and its incredible impact in Chicago (100% acceptance into college!). He noted the organization's motto, "We Believe," and how his board chair reminded of him of that value after two difficult rejections that almost made King give up: "Either you do, or you don't." King also reminded the audience that our work is not for us, it's for others. The big risks we take are not for us, they're for others. We are building ladders to the stars we'll never climb. That's okay. Our work will change the lives that will change the lives that will change the world.
Some other highlights:
Using Good Governance to Engage Risk: Legal Perspectives. William Klimon from Caplin & Drysdale provided a great presentation on governance basics when dealing with certain risks, including executive compensation, programmatic innovation, and controversial decisions. He emphasized: "Governance is not an end in itself but a means to an end."
Extreme Accountability: Unleashing the Potential of Your Board and Your Community. Hildy Gottlieb of Creating the Future led a panel that explored the idea of opening up organizational meetings, including all meetings of the board, to the community. The immediate reaction of many attendees was to find all the problems that might go along with such a strategy (and that was certainly my lawyerly reaction as well). But it was interesting to see many attendees embrace the approach of first looking at what might be gained before determining how to mitigate any problems and whether it would be worth it. Hildy noted that the problems were largely going to be organization-specific and would be best addressed by boards who might be re-energized by this approach.
The Forum ended with a Closing Plenary Debate: Should Fundraising Be a Board Responsibility? The debate between Jennifer McCrea and Cathy Tower was a fascinating contrast in substance and style. McCray told a touching story of her childhood with the moral that money shouldn't control us. Tower countered with acerbic wit and 10 bullet points focusing on the theme that money shouldn't buy control. An audience poll found the winning response to be ... "No."
Check out session slide decks at the BLF2013 Sessions site here.