Future Proof Your Nonprofit Board

Listening to speaker colleague Crystal Washington’s presentation on future-proofing businesses, caused me to think about applying that concept to nonprofit boards.

Future-proofing is anticipating challenges and opportunities that may be ahead and then taking action to prepare for what might be coming.

Crystal brings futurist principles to the companies she works with so they are better equipped for making strategic decisions.

I asked her to share how future-thinking practices could benefit nonprofit boards.

Think about the role of a board. Board members provide guidance to the organization they serve.

If there are issues internal to the board, how can it be best positioned for functioning productively and giving beneficial advice? If there are external issues with potential to affect their nonprofit, shouldn’t the board be providing foresight on recommended direction to take?

Crystal recommends boards engage with this five-step exercise.

  • Identify three things that you don’t want to happen but could in the next few years.
  • Describe if those things do happen, how will the board be affected?
  • Do a SWOT (Strengths – Weaknesses – Opportunities – Threats) analysis for each of the three situations.
  • Develop three actions the board can do right now that would protect it from each of the three possible challenges.
  • Compare actions to be taken to identify any that work for more than one of your scenarios. Flag those as priorities because they’re dealing with multiple issues.

With her futurist mindset and plus her own considerable experience with nonprofit boards, Crystal sees this additional advice as being critically important.

“Boards wanting to future-proof themselves should prioritize benefiting from a diverse makeup.”

She suggests, “Look for board members who represent different modes of thinking, demographics, and cultures. Seek diversity in lived experience and make sure populations being served are represented.”

This is an emphasis point because, “Varied perspectives strengthen the board and create a much stronger pool of ideas for situational awareness and developing best solutions.”


What disruptive circumstances does your board face? What trends are causing concern?

Doesn’t it make sense that your board will be much more prepared for whatever the future may hold if it adopts this visionary, future-proofing approach to anticipating advance alternatives to challenges?

What changes does your board need to make to become proactive and forward thinking?

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