Reviewer’s Notes

Review by Mike Flinton

Dr. Vic Murray and Dr. Yvonne Harrison have created a truly unique “how-to manual” that surpasses that clichéd label and successfully developed a management and leadership tool designed to help nonprofit board members, their CEOs, and aspiring nonprofit professionals to lead in an effective and efficient manner that insures participation by all.

This book is suitable for current board members and CEOs of nonprofit organizations in the U.S., Canada, or abroad, as well as graduate level faculty and students in the U.S. or Canada. Still others may find it helpful depending on the legal, social, and cultural environments that they and their nonprofit organizations operate in.

Having worked as a team, and by engaging hundreds of veteran board members and their organizations, Murray and Harrison use what they refer to as a “health check-up” assessment model and methodology. Using this, they’ve created a paradigm shift that enables nonprofit leaders to identify and explore the “Symptoms,” “Diagnosis,” and “Treatment” of the illnesses most common to nonprofit organizations. Throughout the 11 chapters of this guidebook, the authors remain committed to the health check-up analogy and process, which enables those in the trenches of nonprofit organizations, as well as those in the classroom, to use the text as a highly functional analysis and remedy tool.

Going well beyond a simple “how-to” mindset, the Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment discussions on each topic are backed up with additional information accompanied by a plethora of .org, .com, .edu, and .gov web sites and print materials supporting what these two respected educators have to offer.

This publication can serve either as a standalone textbook or a supporting tool to the online Board Check-Up, which the authors developed before writing the guidebook. Hence, and the textbook were wisely developed for a variety of purposes and audiences.

Whether using it as an individual tool, or accompanying the self-assessment online through Board Check-Up, whether you are directly faced with the challenges of overseeing a nonprofit organization, responsible for teaching others “how to,” or seeking to someday be a nonprofit professional yourself, you would be wise to examine this guidebook.

Mike Flinton has over 20 years experience as a not-for-profit and higher education professional. In addition to having served as the director of the Saratoga Automobile Museum in Saratoga Springs, NY he has enjoyed being a board member and leader in a variety of organizations ranging from the Executive Service Corps of the Tri-Cities (ESCOT) to the Underground Railroad History Project of the Capital Region among many others.

Before retiring from SUNY, Mike taught not-for-profit administration and management at SUNY Oneonta’s nationally recognized Cooperstown Graduate Program in Museum Studies. He has also worked at four other SUNY campuses and mentored students from Skidmore College pursuing careers in the not-for-profit sector. He has advised and supported such widely recognized organizations as the Schenectady Museum (now called MiSci), Capital District Habitat for Humanity, Historical Albany Foundation, the World Awareness Children’s Museum in Glens Falls, and Wiawaka Holiday House, a women’s retreat center in Lake George. He is a regular guest lecturer at graduate level not-for-profit administration and management classes at UAlbany.

Before becoming a museum professional and consultant, Mike had a successful career in the United States Air Force where he lived and worked in more than a dozen countries and became involved in diverse social and public services programs, as well as history, art and cultural organizations in the U.S. and abroad.

Mike has an MS degree in Public Administration from Central Michigan University, an MA in History from University at Alabany SUNY, a BS in Business Management & Administration from University of Maryland’s European Division and a BS in Human Resource Management from the New School of Social Research in New York City.

Review by Hélène Cameron

Guidelines for Improving the Effectiveness of Boards of Directors of Nonprofit Organizations will interest those who care about the governance of NPOs, especially board members, managers, and students of nonprofit organizations. The authors, Dr. Vic Murray and Dr. Yvonne Harrison, are specialists in the study of voluntary sector organizations and their deep understanding of the subject matter shows. As a practitioner with many years of experience with and on boards of nonprofit organizations, I have lived much of what is described in these guidelines. Murray and Harrison’s comprehensive yet concise and accessible treatment of what makes boards tick is dead-on. They use an effective device patterned on the health check-up to link the “symptoms” of poor board performance with a “diagnosis” and “treatment” and recommend resources to consult for a deeper understanding and practical tools. It’s all in one place… and it is readable and credible.

The guidebook mirrors Board Check-Up, an online self-assessment tool they designed to assist in improving board performance. Each chapter deals with one of the nine effectiveness challenges faced by the board: authority and responsibilities; role in planning, performance assessment, and fundraising; structure and operating procedures, including meetings; composition and development; informal culture; and finally, leadership.

Whether used in conjunction with the online tool or not, the guidebook should prove useful in several ways:

  • as a framework for understanding the role, structure and operation of a board within a nonprofit organization
  • as the basis for orienting novice board members to the nature and scope of their new environment
  • in identifying the action that boards might take to improve performance and the resources and tools available to assist them
  • in setting priorities for corrective action, based on an understanding of the potential impact of the assessed area and the feasibility of the remedy.

As the authors repeatedly counsel, boards have to do their own homework and find their own fit. This guidebook should help get the job done.

Through employment and community service, Hélène Cameron has an extensive background in non-profit governance, primarily in the areas of education and health. She gained valuable experience as the former executive director of non-profit organizations and as a volunteer and director on several non-profit boards in British Columbia. As a consultant, she has assisted several societies in the governance and strategic renewal process.