New York Nonprofit Media’s 2024 Nonprofit BoardCon focuses on best practices

Key issues discussed at the event included board responsibilities, deepening engagement and diversity and inclusion.

(From left to right) Allison Nickerson, Tara N. Gardner, Alexander K. Buchholz, Neela Lockel, Jodi Warren at NYN BoardCon panel

(From left to right) Allison Nickerson, Tara N. Gardner, Alexander K. Buchholz, Neela Lockel, Jodi Warren at NYN BoardCon panel Image by Angelique Molina-Mangaroo

New York Nonprofit Media’s 2024 Nonprofit BoardCon explored the topic of creating and sustaining a successful board by gathering executive directors and board members across New York City’s nonprofit sector. 

The day-long event at Hebrew Union College Manhattan’s Greenwich Village featured discussions and panels that reviewed responsibilities and roles of board members and looked at deepening board member impact and engagement, as well as diversity and inclusion in the boardroom. The event started out with a conversation on the expectations of board members and the role of mentorship between the board chair and board members. 

When asked how board chairs can help other members of the board, Tara Gardner, executive director of the Day Care Council of New York answered, “Being willing to have courageous conversations, being vulnerable and saying ‘I don’t know,’ and coaching, giving a coach for the board chair and the executive director.” When asked about running a successful board meeting, Nick Brasse, chief of staff of Volunteers of America - Greater New York stated, “One of the most important things you can do for a board member is remembering board members aren’t content experts. … make this a transformational experience where they can have a deeper learning in this area.”

During the “Deepening board engagement and impact,” both panelists and attendees shared their various methods of board engagement. Deputy Queens Borough President Ebony Young shared the three “C’s” of a successful board engagement experience: “Communication, collaboration, and compassion.”

In another panel, “Streamlining processes to effectively run your nonprofit,” attendees learned different tools that would allow them to enhance nonprofits’ administrative efficiency. Panelists spoke about combatting staff burnout. 

“The reality that in every one of our organizations, people are doing work that does not bring them joy… If you are a board member here today, when we talk about streamlining it's really about making sure that our people come to work excited and loving what their doing.” said Cherian Koshy, vice president of Product Strategy of iWave.

Speakers at the event also urged against running a nonprofit like a business. 

“We all entered this work to do good for others. We didn’t come to this to work at a bank. We get up everyday to provide life changing services to New Yorkers” said Stacy Bliagos, executive director of HANAC.

During the “Diversity and Inclusion in the Boardroom” panel, discussions focused on the importance of protecting DEI in nonprofit spaces. “We’ve been seeing this attack on DEI in the places like the education space … I think its important for us as social justice warriors to fight that fight.” said Damian Travier, executive director of Access Psychology Foundation. 

“We have to have a climate and culture that encourages folks to be authentically who they are,” said Kimberly Watson, president and CEO of Graham Windham. Watson continued by speaking on the importance of embracing people’s lived experiences on the board and developing common ground through conversations. “Having a shared language, experience, perspective, can lead to the kind of decision-making that we want to see at the board level”