Best Boards 2024

Reimagining Impact
Innovative Approaches to Defining, Measuring and Sharing Nonprofit Success



Best Boards Conference

Join us for our annual, one-day conference designed to help nonprofit board members and staff work together more effectively. The 2024 conference takes place on the Rice University campus.

The board of directors of a nonprofit organization is responsible for ensuring that its resources are used to achieve the organization's mission. Under "typical" circumstances, it can be difficult to find effective ways to measure impact beyond growth and service data. In this era of constantly shifting political, economic, digital and geographic landscapes, it can seem nearly impossible. This year's Reimagining Impact conference extends an invitation to nonprofit leaders, experts and stakeholders to explore innovative approaches together.

This conference delves into the intricacies of nonprofit governance, emphasizing the importance of strong leadership, ethical decision-making, and accountability. It explores best practices that have proven effective at navigating the complexities of the nonprofit sector. Attendees will gain valuable insights on how to optimize their organizational structure, harness the potential of technology and engage with stakeholders in impactful ways.

Keynote Speaker: Paula Harris – Senior Vice President, Community Affairs and Executive Director, Astros Foundation
When: March 21, 2024, 9 a.m.–3:30 p.m.
Where: Anderson-Clarke Center, Rice University campus
Fee: $185/person
Group fee: $135/person for 3+ from one organization


2024 Keynote Speaker

Best Boards Keynote Speaker: Paula Harris - Senior Vice President, Community Affairs and Executive Director, Astros Foundation

Paula Harris

Senior Vice President, Community Affairs and Executive Director, Astros Foundation

Paula Harris was hired as the Astros Foundation Executive Director and Senior Vice President, Community Affairs in October 2021 and has recently completed her second successful season in the role.

Harris is known for her 33 year global career in Oil and Gas and for being a community advocate and speaker on subjects such as - Women in Energy, The Energy Transition and ESG, Girls in STEM and Education Reform

Harris has extensive connections throughout the Houston community, as she currently serves on the boards of Chart Industries (GTLS), Helix (HLX), Hunting (HTG), The Houston Children’s Museum, and the Petroleum Club of Houston. She is a founding board member of the Young Women’s College Preparatory Academy, an all-girl’s engineering school serving primarily minority communities in Houston with the goal to graduate girls prepared to attend top engineering universities. Harris has a particular passion for advancing STEM education and career opportunities for all communities, but especially women and underrepresented minorities.

Previously she served on the boards of the Houston Independent School District, the Permian Strategic Partnership in Midland, Texas, Space Center Houston and numerous other education and outreach associations. In 2020, Harris received the Women Who Mean Business Lifetime Achievement award from the Houston Business Journal and in 2019, the Women on the Move award from Texas Executive Women and the United Nations Global Citizenship Award.

With over 33 years in the international oilfield services company Schlumberger, Harris, educated as a Petroleum Engineer, worked in many roles over three decades with the company. She worked her way up from Field Engineer, working on offshore rigs to leadership positions such as Sales Manager and Director of Community Affairs. She retired as the Director of Global Stewardship.

A native Houstonian, Harris graduated with a B.S. in Petroleum Engineering from Texas A&M University and a Master of Education in Technical Instruction and Learning from Abilene Christian.

The owner of her own energy consulting firm and her own publishing company, Harris has authored, published and distributed two books, including “When I Grow Up I want to be an Engineer.” The book was translated into four languages and over 150,000 copies were distributed globally to schools, museums, and non-profit organizations.

Best Boards 2024 Conference Speakers


Why Best Boards?




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




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.




Register with your colleagues to leverage this exceptional board development opportunity.


2024 Sessions

The Art of Charts: Data Visualizations for Maximum Impact

Patricia Bueso and Andrew Miller

This engaging session is designed to help nonprofit board members recognize what information is important and then identify opportunities to transform that information into clear and impactful data visualizations. Join us to learn about key components of effective storytelling graphics that can equip your stakeholders to better champion your organization to a broader audience.

Serve. With. vs. Power. Over.

Patty Williams Downs

Even the most equity-centered boards find themselves unable to resolve power dynamics. It is still true that the highest "givers" have the most voice and influence on the direction of the organization. And it is still often true that boards do not engage and serve 'with' the community, staff, and the mission. As a result, the board may not recognize when it wields its power in damaging ways. At the same time, the executive leadership and staff are managing the internal and external hardships of their own work, along with their own intersectional identities. By illustrating the transformative potential of embodying 'serve' and 'with,' this session seeks to propel organizational missions forward. It also identifies and addresses barriers to achieving collaborative goals, providing practical steps for both boards and staff to enhance their collective impact. Attendees will leave with actionable insights to reshape their approach and foster genuine collaboration within their organizations.

Developing the Board Your Mission Needs: Intentional Board Recruitment

Gaby Bianchi and Nate Hinchey

Nonprofit boards grapple with a common challenge: How can we build a diverse board that mirrors our constituents, aligns with our values, and propels our mission forward. This interactive session delves into the fundamentals of nonprofit board development, exploring sustainable pipelines, recruitment strategies, leadership cultivation, and adopting a forward-looking approach. Building on frameworks that address gaps in skills, networking, identity, and lived experience, the session examines the role of diversity, equity, inclusion, and power in board operations, emphasizing how effective recruitment reduces blind spots and furthers your mission.

Mastering Messaging Milestones That Challenge Every Nonprofit

Kelli Newman

Every nonprofit, regardless of size, age, or purpose, passes through five messaging milestones that test its relevance and the strength of its bottom line. This interactive and engaging session will explore each of these milestones and supply strategies for successfully navigating the challenges and opportunities they represent. Participants will be given the chance to apply the concepts to their own organizations and will leave with strategies for designing and implementing their own messaging milestones.

Talent Leadership: The Board's Role

Sarah Brock

A successful nonprofit board must be equipped to manage the human resources and talent that drive an organization’s mission forward. This session is designed to empower board members with the knowledge and skills needed to lead in this crucial aspect of nonprofit governance, focusing on the hiring, evaluation, and compensation of the executive director or chief executive officer.  The highly interactive format includes case studies and group discussions, peer learning, and the exchange of best practices. Attendees will depart with practical tools and strategies to enhance their stewardship of talent within their nonprofit organizations.

Developing Your Data Strategy: The Board's Role in Defining and Measuring Impact

Jessica Davison

Data is a valuable asset for any organization, but how can you ensure that the data you collect supports your mission and goals by measuring impact? In this session, participants will learn how your data strategy serves as a foundation for aligning the work your organization does with the data you need to measure its success. This session will demonstrate how organizational leadership plays a vital role in both developing and monitoring a data strategy to inform board-level decision-making. You will also learn more about the United Way of Greater Houston’s Coffee & Quality initiative, launched in 2019 and now expanding due to a grant from the Houston Endowment, and how it can support your nonprofit's efforts to increase their impact with insights gained from effective use of data.

Decoding the Motivations and Strategies of High-Capacity Philanthropists

Margo Stoglin

With the number of Americans giving to charity on the decline overall, many nonprofits increasingly rely on a smaller and more affluent circle of supporters to meet their fundraising goals. The importance and influence of these high-capacity donors only continues to increase. The latest installment in Bank of America's Study of Philanthropy series, the ninth report published since 2006 on giving by wealthy households in the United States, illuminates many expressions of generosity by affluent Americans. The series offers practical insights into distinct donor demographics including rising generation, women, LGBTQ+ and ethnically diverse donors. Our presentation will explore what motivates affluent donors to give and stop giving and which organizations affluent Americans currently support. These insights can help build the confidence and increase the success of nonprofit staff and board members when seeking the support of high-capacity donors with the goal of securing transformational gifts to advance the nonprofit’s mission.

Managing Board Meetings for Meaningful Impact

Ronnie Hagerty

In theory, board meetings are the collective work of accomplished individuals to achieve an organization’s mission and increase its impact in the community.  In practice, they are often a gathering of high-powered individuals engaged in low-level work.  Imagine a board meeting where everyone is engaged, meaningful discussions take place and strategic decisions are made.  If you are ready to unlock the potential of your board meetings, this session will provide tools designed to transform board meetings from sometimes unpleasant obligations into action-oriented sessions that serve as a catalyst for innovation and real impact.

...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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