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Jill Vacchina-Dobbs: How to create a good nonprofit board

Guest: Jill Vacchina-Dobbs is the executive director of SPCA of Northern Nevada. She graduated with honors for UC-Santa Barbara and Gonzaga Law School. As a lawyer, she focused on transactional law, including nonprofit law. She served on the board of Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe for 10 years, six as president.

Main question: How can organizations cultivate a good board of directors that has a positive relationship with the executive director or CEO?


  • Positive work culture starts at the top so it’s important that the board’s relationship with the executive director or CEO is healthy and positive (but not a rubberstamp).

  • If the CEO/board relationship is not good, the president and CEO should meet and come to agreement on the objectives of the organization and candidly address concerns on both sides. Create processes that address concerns, such as financial checks and balances to re-establish trust.

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  • When recruiting new board members, consider the needs of the organization. Seeking a CPA, attorney, marketing person or perhaps someone who is well connected can help you be more successful.

  • Set clear expectations in writing for board members such as donating annually, attending certain events, missing no more than 10% of meetings, etc. Have them sign it. This creates an impersonal basis for discussion if there are issues in the future.

  • Create an orientation process for new board members that includes the mission and goals of the organization.

  • Nonprofits need a fundraising board – every member needs to give money to the organization on an annual basis as well as help raise funds. This creates trust for potential donors.

  • Engage board members with positive stories about the organization’s good work, as you would other supporters.


SPCA of Northern Nevada

* Recommendation: Cal Newport's "Deep Questions" podcast

Recorded September 24, 2020

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