Prioritize and Focus

Board priorities

Nonprofit boards have three primary governance responsibilities. Priority one is setting strategic direction. Second is ensuring adequate financial and human resources. And third is providing oversight to fulfill the nonprofit’s mission.

Part of a board’s value is its ability to take the long view. Being a thought partner to the chief executive offers your nonprofit a broad range of perspectives. Recruiting a diverse board with a variety of functional experiences from different industries and among different stakeholder
groups will produce a healthy mix of viewpoints, advice, and counsel. The chief executive and the board chair should prioritize and focus on the most important decisions to be made.

10% for planning

Planning to implement a nonprofit’s vision and strategy requires looking at both the short-term and the long haul. I always urge staff teams to spend at least 10% percent of their time each week planning to prioritize and focus on the important tasks. Taking time to plan and confer creates a useful rhythm and routine. Stepping away from the daily grind challenges you to slow down, reflect, and adjust your plans as needed.

“You must plan to succeed. And you must plan... to succeed!"

Conversation Starter

Prioritize and Focus

A complete set of conversation starters to accompany the chapter. ​


Prioritize and Focus Toolkit

A complete set of tools to accompany the chapter.

Related Posts​

5-10% for Planning

I always urged my teams to spend five to ten percent of their time planning, and to start each day reassessing and reaffirming their priorities.

Read More »

8 Practical Insights for Nonprofit Leaders


Culture matters. It’s a core organizational asset.


Respecting and trusting your people is the foundation of all good management.


Always listen for and even seek out signs of trouble. Bad news is good news if you do something about it.


Develop “court sense” to see everything that’s happening around you, and to rapidly adjust to changes.


Commit to doing “the whole job.” Investing in organizational capacity contributes to excellence and impact.


With limited time and resources, it’s essential to prioritize and then focus.


Planning is essential but success comes from the implementation of your ideas. “Book It and Ship It.” Make a decision and manage the consequences.


To create a culture of accountability, reinforce individual ownership of problems. Always ask, “Who owns the monkey?”