HBS Club of Chicago Nonprofit Board Panel

by Kori Crockett Cofounder / CEO


This past week, I attended an event hosted by the HBS Club of Chicago on nonprofit board membership. Six leaders of Chicago-based NPOs shared the inner workings of their respective board of directors. Orgs represented: Chicago Children’s Choir, i.c.stars, Center on Halsted, Chicago Philharmonic, Chicago Children’s Museum, and Friends of the Forest Preserve.

While the event was intended for people interested in joining a nonprofit board and NPO leaders looking for new recruits, it was an AMAZING opportunity to learn about the inner workings of nonprofit boards as we prepare to grow our own board in the coming months.

Key takeaways for Propeller Collective:

  • Q: Who should we have on our first board of directors?

    • A: a lawyer, an accountant, and someone you love.

  • Q: How to recruit and decide on board members?

    • Passion is the most important thing.

    • Then align with strategic priorities.

    • Ensure representation from your served-population.

  • General tips

    • #1 - Be intentional! Board members want to know what to expect and what’s expected of them in their roles.

    • Every NPO has a finance committee.

    • Start board members with a 1-year commitment before they commit to a 2- or 3-year term. This gives each party a chance to try things out before making a longer commitment.

    • Give-get (where board members are expected to bring a certain dollar amount to the organization) is important for sustainability and can be done through personal donation or fundraising.

    • Effective boards know and like each other. Ensure opportunities to network. Enact rituals.

    • A suggested board norm: “It’s okay to disagree, but it’s not okay to be disagreeable.”

    • No surprises! Do NOT wait until a board meeting to share pertinent info.

We also ran into our friends Karl Androes, founder and ED of Reading in Motion, and Steve Wasko, a fellow U Michigan + Harvard alum (we love Crimson, but when it comes down to it, Go Blue!). Thanks to Ben Bornstein for helping us secure a discounted ticket.

And thanks to HBSCC for putting on such an informative event!

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