Best Boards 2022
Innovative Leadership

Join us for our annual, one-day conference designed to help nonprofit board members and staff work together more effectively.

2022 Conference Takes Place In-Person with On-demand Components

The concept of "Innovative Leadership" is one that has permeated the nonprofit sector over the last two years. Innovative leaders have already navigated incredible shifts taking place in technology, policy and community, and they must continue to adapt as challenging times persist. In particular, boards and executive teams have innovated in all areas of operations, finance and programming and have learned a great deal about how to do that successfully. In this one-day conference, tailor your experience through our breakout sessions and additional on-demand content designed to support the spark of innovation within your own team.

Questions about coming to campus? See what we are doing to keep our community safe.

Fee: $185/person 
Group fee: $135/person for 3+ from one organization

Join us for our 21st annual, one-day conference designed to help nonprofit board members and staff work together more effectively.

CPNL
This event is proudly hosted by Rice University's Center for Philanthropy & Nonprofit Leadership.

The concept of "Innovative Leadership" is one that has permeated the nonprofit sector over the last two years. Innovative leaders have already navigated incredible shifts taking place in technology, policy and community, and they must continue to adapt as challenging times persist. In particular, boards and executive teams have innovated in all areas of operations, finance and programming and have learned a great deal about how to do that successfully. In this one-day conference, tailor your experience through our breakout sessions and additional on-demand content designed to support the spark of innovation within your own team.

Format: In-Person with on-demand components
Fee: $185/person 
Group fee: $135/person for 3+ from one organization

Questions about coming to campus? See what we are doing to keep our community safe.

Meet Our Keynote Speaker, David W. Leebron

David Leebron

David W. Leebron has served as Rice University’s seventh president since 2004, a period of growth and transformation for the university. A native of Philadelphia, Leebron is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, where he was elected president of the Harvard Law Review. Following a judicial clerkship on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, he taught at the UCLA School of Law in 1980. After two years practicing in an international law firm in New York City, he joined the faculty at the NYU School of Law in 1983. In 1989, Leebron joined the faculty of Columbia Law School, where in 1996 he was appointed dean and served in that position until coming to Rice. He is a member of the political science faculty at Rice and has written about international trade and investment, torts, privacy, corporate law and human rights. Leebron is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and serves on the Greater Houston Partnership, Fulbright Canada and IMAX Corp. boards. He has also been awarded the Commandeur de l'Ordre National du Mérite by the government of France and the Encomienda de la Orden de Isabel La Católica by the government of Spain, and is the recipient of an honorary degree from Nankai University in Tianjin, China.


Why Best Boards?

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BUILD A NETWORK

Enjoy opportunities to connect with speakers and other participants throughout the conference.

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LEARN FROM THE EXPERTS

Our sessions will be lead by expert speakers with extensive backgrounds in the nonprofit arena. Expect to gain insight from their experiences and key learnings to apply within your organization.

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ON CAMPUS AND ON DEMAND

Rice's Best Boards Conference will take place on campus and include on-demand, online components.

 


Live & Recorded Sessions
 

Keynote with David Leebron (Live)

David Leebron

David W. Leebron has served as Rice University’s seventh president since 2004, a period of growth and transformation for the university. A native of Philadelphia, Leebron is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, where he was elected president of the Harvard Law Review. Following a judicial clerkship on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, he taught at the UCLA School of Law in 1980. After two years practicing in an international law firm in New York City, he joined the faculty at the NYU School of Law in 1983. In 1989, Leebron joined the faculty of Columbia Law School, where in 1996 he was appointed dean and served in that position until coming to Rice. He is a member of the political science faculty at Rice and has written about international trade and investment, torts, privacy, corporate law and human rights. Leebron is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and serves on the Greater Houston Partnership, Fulbright Canada and IMAX Corp. boards. He has also been awarded the Commandeur de l'Ordre National du Mérite by the government of France and the Encomienda de la Orden de Isabel La Católica by the government of Spain, and is the recipient of an honorary degree from Nankai University in Tianjin, China.

Adaptive Leadership Through Uncertainty (Live)

Nory Angel

In this session, take a step back and look at the broader picture to gain clarity on how to activate your leadership skills when facing uncertain times. Move from using the "noun" of leader to the "verb" of leading. Dive into leading through influence rather than authority or positional power. In times of disequilibrium and uncertainty, gaining perspective on new possibilities is critical so that we don't return to or remain within the status quo. This session also highlights the Harvard Adaptive Leadership framework and provides an understanding of how to lead through the unexpected.

Strategic Planning in a Time of Tumult (Live)

Jesse Booher, Jenifer Jarriel, Susan Distefano

In this session, participants will hear directly from members of the Executive Team and Task Force at DePelchin as they share the process used by the organization to craft a strategic direction that would withstand change and uncertainty. DePelchin, a 129 year old social service organization in Houston, spent a year engaged in an intense scenario-based strategic planning process. The “north star” of this work was developing a consistent strategic direction that would be strong enough to remain relevant despite changes to the operating environment, yet be responsive enough to absorb sudden systemic shocks. This session will include an outline of key steps in effective scenario-based planning, description of lessons learned, and provide a roadmap for organizations seeking to build more impactful strategic plans.

Leveraging Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to Advance the Mission (Live)

Arquella Hargrove

As the leaders of a nonprofit, you are responsible for driving change to make a difference internally and externally. This session is designed for you, regardless of whether you are starting the diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) journey, or advancing the conversation to leave a lasting footprint. Learn how to leverage DEI concepts to advance your mission resulting in an organization that makes a greater impact to ensure employees feel valued, included and empowered to succeed. During this engaging and interactive session, gain a deeper understanding of how taking a strategic approach to strengthening or starting your DEI practices will yield a more committed and productive workforce leading to a more successful organization.

The Hustle: What's Getting in the Way of Innovation and Sustainability in our Organizations (Live)

Aisha Crumbine

The ability to solve our community's challenges and make an impact hinges on two things, talent retention and innovation. And yet, year after year, nonprofit organizations are faced with vacancies in key leadership positions. What is the reason for this common challenge? Could it be that the passion and deep commitment of mission-driven leaders, met with the urgency of "now more than ever," leads to a culture of hustle, perfectionism, and accelerated burnout? Could it be that our culture of high-expectations doesn't lend itself to the level of safety required for risk-taking and innovation? In this session, participants explore what's behind the hustle and what individuals can do (at every level of the organization) to create an anti-hustle culture where our talent feels safe to stay, innovate, and work towards impact in more a sustainable way.

Developing Respectful and Productive Executive Leader-Board Relations (Live)

David Leslie

Regardless of the size of a nonprofit organization, executive leaders must be attentive to their relationship with the organization’s board of directors. This interactive session explores key principles and practices that are essential to high-functioning nonprofits with strong executive leadership including respect, vision, communication, mutual accountability and fairness. The session includes both presentation and discussion among participants, exploring best practices related to the development of supportive and mutually beneficial relationships between the executive leadership and board of directors.

Strategic Planning Process with Board, Staff and Consultant Engagement (Live)

Sheroo Mukhtiar, Erin McClarty, Diane Schenke

Working with an external consultant can be a critical component of a successful strategic planning process. A third-party facilitator can provide space for all stakeholders to have a voice, bring an objective perspective to the dialogue and ensure the work moves forward. Of course, finding the right match between the consultant and the nonprofit is just the first step in preparing for a successful strategic plan. In this session, panelists share the process that SERJobs, a nonprofit with a long history in Houston, followed to prepare their current strategic plan. Highlights include perspectives from board, staff and consultant as they share their experience, including what worked, what didn't, the benefits they realized and what they learned along the way.

Community-Responsive and Innovative Leadership in Arts and Culture (Live)

Sixto Wagan and Patra Brannon-Isaac

This session will utilize the formation of the BIPOC Arts Network and Fund (BANF) as a case study for collective leadership and equitable practice. Project director Sixto Wagan with steering committee member Patra Brannon-Isaac will discuss their experience in building a multi-voiced leadership team that invests in process and long-term learning. Presenters will describe the structures and reasoning for developing a leading board that connects with multiple stakeholder communities. The discussion will connect innovation in equitable philanthropy, community-engaged artistic practice, and participatory leadership. Presenters will share historic and current challenges as inflection points to engage in participatory discussion throughout the session.

Using Risk Analysis to Drive Innovation (Live)

Kelly Young and Mike Stewart

This session highlights the paradoxical necessity to use a risk analysis framework to drive innovation. Innovation is a sustaining process for an organization. The framework shared with participants in this session demonstrates how to use risk analysis to examine an organization’s mission, goals, and objectives, along with robustly evaluating the factors that pose risk to accomplishing those objectives. Through theory, real-life examples and application, this presentation gives any size organization with varying leadership structures the first steps to implementing a sustainable innovative culture. The presented approach requires no new resources, staffing, or complicated change theory, just a willingness to become a thinking organization.

How Board Members Can Get Smart About Data (Live)

Carly Sessions

Innovative nonprofits are learning how to be data driven at all levels of their organization, from frontline workers to managers, executives, and board members. Today’s funders are asking for more data and transparency, and nonprofits must now move beyond the outdated model of isolating data responsibilities. Everyone in the organization has an important role to play within the data ecosystem, even board members. This session explores how to use data within your role and how to support this work based on the influence you hold within the leadership structure.

Financial Tales of Successful Pivots for Smaller Organizations (Live)

Tanya Pal

For smaller nonprofits, internal and external challenges such as succession planning, economic factors, or handling specific funder requests, can all throw wrenches in an entity’s ability to pivot. Join this session to hear how organizations produced timely and accurate information needed for decision making. These insights highlight internal and external financial challenges that often occur for smaller nonprofits; how boards can utilize outsourcing to provide creative solutions to support the current accounting functions; and how boards can continue to plan for future challenges ahead.

Cultivating and Communicating Company Culture (Live)

Kelli Newman

Company culture is an organization's lived values. How those values are communicated and experienced have significant influence on employee engagement, satisfaction and retention. Studies have shown that organizations that make internal communication a priority increase trust, inspire innovation and strengthen employee dedication, producing greater client satisfaction and a healthy bottom line. This session includes practical takeaways for participants to apply in their own organizations.

Embedding DEI in your Board and Operations (Live)

Kalinda Campbell and Shellye Arnold

The world we live in becomes more diverse every day. As our world grows and changes, organizations must remain agile to adapt effectively. McKinsey’s research shows that gender-diverse companies are 15 percent more likely to outperform their peers, and ethnically-diverse companies are 35 percent more likely to do the same. This session walks participants through case studies in building DEI into board governance, nominating new board members and the strategic planning process and how that in turn helps embed DEI into the organization. This session walks participants through several case studies discussing ways to embed diversity into board governance and the strategic planning process, with the goal to elevate the performance of your organization.

Maximizing the Effectiveness of Your Board's Development Committee (On-Demand)

Sara Wise

The most successful and sustainable nonprofits have boards that work alongside the development staff to help achieve the financial goals of the organization. The board’s development committee can help provide tremendous innovation around your organization’s philanthropy; however, the way in which members are identified, enlisted, and engaged is essential to the committee’s overall success. During this session, learn the strategies you can use today to transform the excitement and participation of your development committee to dramatically improve your organization’s funding. Whether you are working to create a development committee on your board or looking to revitalize your existing development committee, this session is for you. Participants receive a Development Committee Worklist to help you establish the roles, responsibilities and meeting cadence leading to an innovative development committee team.

Operationalizing Equity through Board and Staff Collaboration (On-Demand)

Alexandra Taylor and Emily Holthaus

As organizations strive to integrate equity into everything they do, those who manage and lead others (whether staff or board) have an important role to play. Leaders must demonstrate and model inclusive behavior and empathy to help shape the environment of your workplace. Join us for an engaging session that will help you explore your role in building an inclusive team; creating equitable systems and processes; and generating organizational accountability.

The Changing Roles in Leadership (On-Demand)

April Day

Leaders have the responsibility to drive innovation at all levels of an organization and can be seen as the inspirational guide for their teams. While inspiration and innovation are key, it is critical to note that in times of change, leaders must have the capacity to evolve as staff, constituents and external factors are constantly shifting. This session discusses methods for steering change in a complex and changing environment using entrepreneurial and transformational leadership theories. At the end of this session, understand ways to facilitate sustainable change for maximum impact and learn how to communicate your strategic vision for the organization.

#JusticeOverEquity: Wielding Individual and Community Power for Cultural Transformation (On-Demand)

Marjorie Joseph and Liz Peterson

In the wake of the deaths of Ahmaud Arbury, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor, corporations and nonprofits alike rushed to issue statements expressing their alignment against racism and commitment to diversity and inclusion. While these platitudes are a start, they accomplish little without a deep examination of organizational and institutional norms and values that systematically disadvantage employees, volunteers, clients, and community members with marginalized identities. Educational, philanthropic, and corporate institutions that are truly committed to building a more just and liberated world must consciously adopt a new paradigm that transcends inclusion and strives to create balance. By first acknowledging the disparities of the past, organizations can then encourage action leading institutional, organizational, and societal shifts. The #JusticeOverEquity framework is a call to all gatekeepers, CEOs, presidents, executive directors, and board of directors to harness and wield their influence in ways that will transform the internal culture of their respective organizations.

Reinvigorating Your Board (On-Demand)

Jeff Grandy and Paul Dunne

In this session, learn practical concepts that can be immediately implemented to revitalize your board. Topics discussed include evaluating your board, getting the board chair to take control, how much to disclose to your board, and recruiting the right people for your board. Walk away with a board metrics score card along with clearly defined board roles and responsibilities.

Recruiting and Deploying the Right Board Members (On-Demand)

Linda Beeman and Jennifer Pelton

Why do some organizations thrive when facing unexpected challenges while others fail? These times of crisis and unexpected situations demonstrate that finding the right combination of innovators and implementers within the leadership of your organization is critical to success. Are your board and executive team prepared for the next emergency? This session explores what to look for when recruiting new board leaders and staff. Creating the right mix fosters an organizational culture of respect, curiosity, and resiliency.

 

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...improving our organization as a whole

"After this experience, we are now able to have tough conversations around mission creep, focus, finances, and transitions. This conference provided me dedicated time to focus on not just improving our board, but in turn, improving our organization as a whole."

Former Best Boards Attendee

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