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They are volunteers, too!
Look here for information and the latest techniques to develop your board or committee. The purpose is to help those who work or serve on nonprofit boards of directors or committees.

~ November 2004 ~ Topics

Helping a Board Make Hard Decisions

Boards sometimes have to make hard decisions—those complex decisions to which there is no easy answer and where none of the possible alternatives seems to be perfect. The chair needs to help the board arrive at a decision that, to the best of the board's ability to see into the future, seems to be the best option.

Here are some ways I have found helpful when dealing with serious major decisions.

In advance of the board meeting:

  • Prepare a decision memo for the board (in a large organization the appropriate staff can help you with this).
  • Begin this memo with a statement of the problem, as you see it.
  • List the alternative ways you can think of to handle the problem.
  • List the strengths and weaknesses of each alternative.
  • Submit it to the board in the advance board packet.

At the board meeting:

  • First, have the board determine if they agree with the problem statement.
  • Amend the statement if necessary.
  • Then review the alternatives you have listed, and see if the board has any additional ones to add.
  • Then review the strengths and weaknesses of each possible decision.
  • Decide if more factual information needs to be collected.
  • If not, decide as a board which alternative is best in the light of the organization's mission, vision and core values.


  • Monitor the results of your decision so that you can shift directions if necessary.

Other good sources for information on nonprofits, boards and committees:

Jeanne Bradner can be reached at Jeannebrad@aol.com.

See our online bookstore for Jeanne Bradner's book on boards: The Board Member’s Guide: A Beneficial Bestiary and Leading Volunteers for Results: Building Communities Today, and Passionate Volunteerism.
Board Member's Guide Image Leading Volunteers Book Image Passionate Volunteerism Book link to bookstore

Jeanne H. Bradner

Jeanne H. Bradner is an author, consultant, trainer and speaker on volunteerism, board development and leadership. She is the author of three publications, The Board Member's Guide, A Beneficial Bestiary and Leading Volunteers for Results: Building Communities Today and Passionate Volunteerism. She served as director of the Illinois Governor's Office of Voluntary Action, Midwest Regional Director of ACTION, and Executive Director of the Illinois Commission on Community Service. She is the volunteer program specialist for Illinois' Harper College Volunteer Management curriculum.

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