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. 

March 5, 2020

The Best Boards Conference is an annual, one-day conference designed to help nonprofit board members and staff work together more effectively. Offered each spring, the program is valuable to both new and seasoned board members and nonprofit executives. The conference features sessions from experts in the field along with relevant, quality content to take back to participants' organization.

Fee: $185/person  | Group fee: $135 if you are registering as a group of three or more from one organization  |  Member fee: $135 for members of AASP, AFP, Apra or CGPH


This conference meets the elective requirement for the Leadership Institute for Nonprofit Executives Certificate Program.

Ellen Cohen

Ellen Cohen has lived and worked in the city of Houston for the past 42 years. She served for 10 years as the executive director of the American Jewish Committee and for 18 years as the CEO of the Houston Area Women’s Center. In 2006, she was elected as the Texas State Representative for District 134 and continued her public service career at home. She ran for Houston City Council, and was sworn into office in January 2012 as the Council Member representing District C.

During her tenure on Council, Ms. Cohen has championed the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, the elimination of the sexual assault kit backlog, the creation of a dedicated Human Trafficking Unit within the Houston Police Department, the introduction of a Parking Benefit District for the Washington Corridor, and many other initiatives to improve the quality of life of her constituents. She served her third, and final term, on Council as Mayor Pro Tem for the City of Houston from 2015 - 2019.

Additional session details coming soon. 

Turning Your Board and Supporters Into Advocates for Your Mission
Presented by: Gabrielle Baumeyer

Mission awareness and raising funds go hand in hand. A nonprofit’s key to success is maximizing them in tandem. In this breakout session, learn creative ways to advocate for your mission and engage supporters to be powerful voices for your cause.This results in expanded fundraising outcomes.The presenter will provide a guide to identifying leaders who are willing to step up and be agents of change.You will also have the opportunity to practice conversations to motivate people in a way that elevates their experience of community to harnesses the power of public outreach.

Gabrielle Baumeyer is the president and co-founder of Reason2Race whose mission is to empower individuals and organizations to make their community impact. A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, Ms. Baumeyer is an engineer by study but has followed her passion and calling to be of service to others. She has helped over 300 nonprofit organizations mobilize their supporters and volunteers to be a powerful voice for their causes and participate actively in fundraising initiatives. Her efforts have supported these organizations in collectively raising over $4.5M to forward their missions.

Advocating for Policy Change: A Strategic Approach
Presented by: Jenna Courtney

In a state as large as Texas, systemic and lasting change can often best be accomplished through policymaking. However, this is often an especially difficult endeavor because the Texas Legislature meets for only five months of every other year and on average fewer than 20 percent of bills filed will make it through the legislative process successfully. It is imperative, to have a clear understanding of the legislative process and a strategic approach to accomplishing organizational objectives. With one of TXPOST’s newest initiatives - Quality for All – as a case study, this session will explore long-term, multi-legislative session strategic planning to influence legislative outcomes and the varied roles board members can play toward that end in engaging stakeholders in their communities and in the Capitol. In undertaking this work, TXPOST is utilizing a strategic issue management approach to policymaking, integrating government, public, and media relations to create message cohesion and develop stakeholders into issue champions. We will explore how to conduct local, regional, and state-wide outreach and build coalitions to foster broader support for TXPOST objectives, all in support of accomplishing shared policy goals. Comprehensive and coordinated messaging that is reinforced across sectors and audiences is key to legislative success, and board members play a fundamental role in identifying and fostering relationships that can be leveraged in pursuit of policy outcomes. This session will walk through phases of board education and training, facilitated legislative and community outreach, follow up, and strategic adaptation that can be replicated according to organizational mission and legislative goals. 

Jenna Courtney recently joined TXPOST as their executive director. She has more than a decade of experience in and around the Texas Legislature, spending time in the Texas Senate and the private sector. Prior to joining TXPOST, Ms. Courtney worked for a boutique public affairs firm in Austin where she provided turnkey services to the firm’s diverse clientele. She has extensive experience developing and managing complex and multi-faceted issue management campaigns that bridge media, government, and public relations to provide unified and targeted messages tailored to achieve client goals and objectives. Born and raised in Austin, Texas, Ms. Courtney graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor of arts in English and government. 

The 2020 Census: What’s at Stake for Funding and Representation
Presented by: Ana Mac Naught

Learn what programs are funded by Census participation as well as the overarching effects that lack of participation has on those programs. This session also provides an understanding of how that information is used after it is collected to define district lines for purposes of representation. There will be a panel of experts representing various community organizations to provide multiple perspectives.

Ana Mac Naught leads the coordination between Houston in Action partners, the City of Houston, Harris County, and other stakeholders. She has extensive experience working with Houston in Action partners, local government partners and coordinated coalition work in South America, Asia, Africa and Europe. In her multiple roles with BakerRipley, Ms. Mac Naught grew from her role as an immigration services specialist to assistant director of community development. She oversaw the Immigration Program of the agency, which coordinated the local response to DACA efforts in 2012 and led to a regional wide strategy to utilize forums for application support. In her role as community developer for the flagship BakerRipley Community Center in Gulfton, she developed trusted relationships with refugee serving organizations and began programs that spoke to the diverse community living in Southwest Houston. 

Organizations with 3 or more participants wanting to attend qualify for the group registration discount of $135 per person.


This conference meets the elective requirement for the Leadership Institute for Nonprofit Executives (LINE) Certificate Program. The LINE program is a 10-month journey designed to assist nonprofit leaders and those aspiring to leadership roles in the nonprofit sector to build their current skillsets and become effective and successful leaders of nonprofit organizations.

For assistance with registration or for more information, please email or call 713-348-6009.