On May 3, we hosted the Catapult Institute Plenary Session: Putting Purpose First: Applying the Principles of Purpose-Driven Board Leadership in the Board Room, facilitated by Anne Wallestad, President & CEO of BoardSource and Andy Davis, Associate Vice President of Member Education & Outreach at BoardSource.

We had the opportunity to sit down with Andy, learn a bit more about him and get some of his great advice on how to become a purpose-driven board and best serve as a board member.

As BoardSource’s associate vice president of member education and outreach, Andy leads a team that is responsible for developing all of BoardSource’s educational resources, including member education content and programming, training programs, publications, and educational programming at the BoardSource Leadership Forum. Andy also oversees BoardSource’s external marketing and outreach efforts. He is a regular speaker and presenter on a wide range of board leadership topics and issues and played a lead role in the development of BoardSource’s Measuring Fundraising Effectiveness Framework.

Thank you to Andy for his time and input!

  1. How do you (or what is your best tip on how to) navigate the 6 “C”s of Nonprofit Sea Change? (Capacity, Curiosity, Conversation, Collaboration, Creativity, and Compassion)

Navigating the 6 “C”s of Nonprofit Sea Change starts with keeping your focus on impact. It’s so easy to get side tracked and pulled away from the purpose. While all 6 “C”s are important, what speaks to me most is curiosity. Curiosity will help you remain purpose-driven. As board members, are we staying curious and asking the important questions? Are we digging deeper and listening with intent? The answers to these questions will provide insight into the needs of the communities we serve. It will help us present the work of our organizations to solve the actual needs versus what we think the needs are based on our own biases.

  1. What is the first thing a nonprofit board should do to become a purpose-driven board?

It doesn’t have to be revolutionary, just evolutionary. It’s about shifting the frame just a little bit. Smaller divergences lead to bigger outcomes along the way. You have to ask the difficult questions and provide space to have robust conversations. Presenting problems differently allows us the chance to change how we truly see the problems, giving us better opportunities to work on them.

  1. What advice would you give someone who is joining a nonprofit board for the first time? How would this differ from advice you would give to a veteran board member?

My advice to a first-time board member is to ask a lot of questions of what’s expected of you. Learn about what the role as a board member entails as far as time, effort and resources. It’s important to get a true picture of what the organization needs from you so that six months down the road it doesn’t turn into something you didn’t expect. Something else to keep in mind – try not to treat this as a job opportunity where you are presenting yourself as the best person for the job. It’s an opportunity for giving of yourself and it should be the right fit for both parties.

For a veteran board member, I would say focus on the purpose and remember where the board has centered its work. Is the board doing the work it’s set up for or is it focused on mission first? Is the board leaning in to its challenges and maintaining performance in the areas where it does well? And make sure to avoid doing things solely because “that’s the way they’ve always been done.”

  1. How do you keep yourself from experiencing burnout (this can be from a work, board or overall general perspective)?

Selfcare is so important and while a spa day, massage or day on the golf course can be great, it’s more than that. Just like we have to ask deep questions as a board member, we have to ask ourselves questions about our own mental and physical health. Are you prepped to do the hard work? The answer can sometimes be, “I want to, but I need to do some things first to be in the right place physically and mentally.” We’ve all experienced different levels of trauma throughout the pandemic and these last couple of years have taken a toll on us. We have to look at selfcare from a 3rd person point of view. Ask yourself, “Are you ok? Are you operating at an optimal level? Do you need rest?”

From a board perspective, we have spent the last two years looking at each other through a screen. That has taken burnout to another degree. We now have the opportunity again to work to build trust on a personal level. Set up as many personal connections as possible. When we know some of the special personal details of our colleagues – like their partner’s name, kids’ names, if they have pets, what they like to do for fun – it opens the relationship up and provides a give-and-take for grace and space versus staring at a square on the computer screen.