Best Boards

The Best Boards conference is an all-day program designed by Rice University to help nonprofit board members and staff work together more effectively. 

Audience sitting in auditorium

The program is designed to be valuable to both new and seasoned board members and nonprofit executives. It is most beneficial to an organization when teams attend because they more readily implement what they learned.  

This conference meets the elective requirement for the Leadership Institute for Nonprofit Executives (LINE) Certificate.


Section Instructor Format Schedule start date
CPNL1200.S18.1 Best Boards Speakers On-campus 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Thursday, March 8, 2018

INSTRUCTOR: Best Boards Speakers
FORMAT: On-campus
SCHEDULE: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
START DATE: March 08, 2018

Instructor: Best Boards Speakers

Best Boards Speakers include a variety of expert nonprofit professionals. Speaker details and session information can be found below. 

Term: Spring/Summer 2018

Start Date: March 08, 2018

End Date: March 08, 2018

Schedule: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Length: One Day

Location: Rice campus

Fee: $185

Group Fee: $135 per person (must have 3 or more registrations from the same organization). If registering as a group, please use button below indicated as "GROUP REGISTRATION."

Cullen K. Geiselman

Cullen K. Geiselman, Ph.D., chairs the board of trustees of the Cullen Trust for Health Care, a support organization founded in 1978 to grant financial assistance to institutions providing direct healthcare, conducting health-related research, or training healthcare providers in the greater Houston area. 

In addition to her stewardship of the Trust, Dr. Geiselman works with her family on business matters, chairs the board of Bat Conservation International, and serves on the Board of Directors of the Houston Zoo, the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center, Houston Parks Board, Houston Advanced Research Center, the Turtle Conservancy, and on the Advisory Board of Blaffer Art Museum at University of Houston. She also volunteers her time at the Menil Collection the Glassell School of Art, and the National Parks Conservation Association. 

Dr. Geiselman holds a BA in environmental science and policy from Duke University and a MA and Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology from Columbia University. Her dissertation research focused on seed dispersal and pollination by bats and she has coauthored a book titled “Seed Dispersal by Bats in the Neotropics.”

A Framework for Governance

Boards are responsible for defining why their organizations exists and governing them to ensure alignment to that mission. This session introduces a framework for connecting the activities of a board back to the organization’s greater purpose. With an understanding of how each activity can be viewed and planned within the context of the organization, board members are better able to advocate for the right work at the right time.

Michael Larson is a content strategist and senior facilitator with Blank Page, a people-focused strategy firm in Austin. Mr. Larson has 14 years of experience working with boards, executive teams, and operational groups to facilitate people-centered systems that think strategically, make decisions with compassion and clarity and continuously self-evaluate to respond to changes.

Cyndee Lake, co-founder and chief purpose officer at Blank Page

Achieving the Unexpected through Transformational Leadership

Transformational Leadership is an essential skill that facilitates increased engagement, commitment and performance levels in teams and organizations. In this session, discuss the concept and how this style enhances your board and stakeholder relationships.

April Day, President, Women’s Business Enterprise Alliance (WBEA), increases opportunities for women-owned businesses and corporate members through education programs and professional networking at WBEA. Day holds a bachelor of arts in psychology from the University of Houston and an MBA from Our Lady of the Lake University.

Fundraising Before, During, and After Disaster

It is easy to feel helpless in the wake of a natural disaster. Learn from a disaster fundraising expert who has been on the frontlines of several of our nation’s largest disasters and crises. As organizational leaders, we must have an executable emergency plan in place for our development team when the unexpected occurs.

Beverly Brooks Thompson, Ph.D., CFRE

The Importance of Strategic Planning for Nonprofit Boards

The process of developing a new strategic plan is, in many ways, as important as the strategic plan itself. An effective strategic planning process engages key people within the organization in answering crucial questions about its work. This session assists board members in identifying the key questions they should address as they start the process.

Barbara Bushong

It’s the Law – Ensuring EEOC Compliance for Your Organization

This very timely session introduces board members to the EEOC’s perspective on emerging issues including harassment, wellness initiatives, gender stereotyping, social media and new forms of retaliation. Board members will learn how to navigate cultural and generational differences as boards become increasingly diverse. There's no need for your organization to become a headline when you can take preventive action.

Joe Bontke

Organizational Resilience – Managing through Internal Crisis

In this session, explore the factors that can lead to organizational crisis and how the board plays a critical role in how well organizations respond and recover to an internal crisis.

Heather Patrick, CEO of Prevent Blindness Texas, Ms. Patrick has spent more than fifteen years in the nonprofit community both as a volunteer and nonprofit executive, serving at the local, regional and national levels of healthcare nonprofits focused on impact.

The Risky Business of Increasing Impact through Innovation

Exciting new opportunities and innovative ideas for increasing impact necessarily come with some risk. This risk often leaves boards reticent to change. Organizations often do their best work when they understand the risk, mitigate what they can, and prepare for the rest. In this session, discuss risk management and change management strategies to help board members and staff boldly move forward with creative and innovative solutions to better achieve their mission. We will focus on understanding what risks are out there, tools for assessing smart risks, and creating plans for change and risk management.

Claudia Gee Vassar

Why Diversity Matters – Building a Successful Board

This session is a panel discussion with three participants who have experience or expertise with nonprofit boards. Join us as we explore the definitions of diversity, why diversity matters and how to overcome the challenges of finding qualified candidates.

Jenn Char

Words in Action – Translating Your Messaging into a Brand Experience

An essential component of successful messaging is translating a nonprofit’s unique culture and philosophy of care into what clients actually experience. This workshop utilizes messaging exercises and case studies to illustrate how to translate messages into experiences that influence income and enhance donor relations.

Kelli B. Newman, APR, president of Newman & Newman Inc., brings 30 years of communication experience to her position as president of Newman & Newman, where her responsibilities center on formulating messaging strategies, developing communication plans and producing communication tools for both nonprofit and for-profit clients.

Linsay Vladimirov, communications strategist at Newman & Newman Inc., has more than 20 years of unique and pertinent experience to Experienced Messaging℠. She spent 13 years in higher education staff management and leadership development, policy implementation, event planning, hospitality, community engagement, and crisis communications. Later, she transferred her skills to the nonprofit sector working as a program director and volunteer coordinator. Ms. Vladimirov holds a master's degree in leadership studies.

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