Seeing the Forest and the Trees: Broadening Impact

board development and revitalization intentional practices mission. vision. values the board/ceo partnership May 02, 2022


Bear with me here. You want to have impact. You believe that you have impact. But you may be questioning the role of the Board in achieving that impact…


So what are the roles and next steps that might be appropriate here, for both Board leaders and organizational leaders, your Chief Executive Officer or Executive Director?


Let me pull together three sources that together provide some guidance.


A few weeks ago I posted in our Facebook group, Governance as Leadership: Connecting Executive Directors and Boards, a quote from Pearl Zhu. As she said:


The board's role is to pull management out of the trees to see the forest. Board members should have their eyes on the organization's strategy. They should oversee the execution of that strategy and make sure that managers can see the bigger picture.


(If interested, Pearl Zhu is the author of more than 30 books, including Digitizing Boardroom: The Multifaceted Aspects of Digital Ready Boards and the Digital Boardroom: 100 Q&As.)


So focus on the forest. Focus on the strategy. (You do have one, and can articulate it, right?) So what does that mean for even greater impact?


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Leslie Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant, writing in Forces for Good: The six practices of high-impact nonprofits, which we have mentioned in earlier blogs, note:


As we learned in the course of our research, great nonprofits follow six practices to achieve more impact... In a nutshell, organizations seeking greater impact must learn how to:

  • Work with government and advocate for policy change, in addition to providing services;
  • Harness market forces and see business as a powerful partner, not as an enemy to be disdained or ignored;
  • Create meaningful experiences for individual supporters and convert them into evangelists for the cause;
  • Build and nurture nonprofit networks, treating other groups not as competitors for scarce resources but as allies instead;
  • Adapt to the changing environment and be as innovative and nimble as they are strategic;
  • Share leadership, empowering others to be forces for good.


Focusing on one of these, build and nurture nonprofit networks, treating other groups not as competitors for scarce resources but as allies instead, we get to the forest and trees, seeing beyond the agency alone, into the community, the role an engaged Board plays.


Again, according to Crutchfield and Grant, nonprofit leaders increasingly realize that their real power lies in the ability to build platforms for connections; to share ideas and information; to influence others to spread innovative models; to connect the dots across issues, industries, and sectors even as they provide services for their clients and help meet immediate needs.


Where to start?


Now there is Robert Cialdini, writing in Influence: The psychology of persuasion (recently revised) and other works, saying that not only is reciprocity one of the key elements of being influential and winning favor with others but it’s also essential that you go first. You go first.


We sometimes think of reciprocity as gift-giving, and indeed it is. But gifts need not be products or cost money, other than interest and time. For example, going first, and reciprocity and gift-giving, include reaching out, making connections, providing recognition, engaging and leveraging resources of the many to advance the agendas and missions of not only the many, but sometimes even the critical few.


So community impact. Community development is our business.
This requires seeing the forest as well as the trees.
It requires strategy.
It requires connections across your sector, not just meetings but a plan for effectiveness and greater impact for you and for them.


We are about allies and a common vision for community success.

 What is your next step?



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P.S. May I ask a tiny favour? 

Would you mind sharing this blog with one person? I would love it. You can post the links in your Facebook Groups, LinkedIn or even send an email.

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