Maryann Waryjas of Katten Muchin and Gail Meneley of Shields Meneley Partners convened a group of non-profit board members and supporters to a breakfast panel discussion, “Stepping Up to Leadership: What Nonprofits Need from Board Members” featuring Francesca Edwardson, CEO of the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago, Ricardo Estrada, CEO of Metropolitan Family Services, and Richard Malone CEO of YMCA of Chicago. David Coolidge, vice-chairman of William Blair and a veteran director of 28 non-profit and public company boards, served as moderator.
Malone spoke of the importance of board members helping with external stakeholder relations, especially in the way the organization should be perceived by the community, bringing important information back to leadership. Edwardson spoke of her pride in being a servant to the Red Cross and how important it was for directors to bring their passion to a non-profit board. Estrada spoke of the value of director expertise to fill in gaps of knowledge and expanding the network of the non-profit.
Since fundraising is an important element of non-profit board duties, all three leaders spoke about their concern of losing a strong board member, either through term limits or retirement. Yet these leaders said they’ve learned to have faith in their board’s nomination and governance committees or leading directors in their thoughtful and proactive efforts to identify new talent in renewing the board with new skills that help to contribute to the longevity of the organization.
As strong leaders of their organizations, they spoke of the value in the engagement with their boards, an impressive demonstration of governance.