The Best Boards Conference is an annual, one-day conference designed to help nonprofit board members and staff work together more effectively. Offered each spring, the program is valuable to both new and seasoned board members and nonprofit executives. The conference features sessions from experts in the field along with relevant, quality content to take back to participants' organization.

The 2021 Best Boards Conference theme is "Leading Sustainably through Uncertainty." The nonprofit sector, like every other sector, has been shaken by the pandemic and the tumultuous social and political events of the past year. While celebration of the adaptability and flexibility of the nonprofit sector this past year is in order, it is also true that this level of uncertainty and stress is simply not sustainable. As a result, this year’s conference will focus on building (and re-building) organizations with a focus on sustainability.

Groups of 3 or more people from one organization can register together and at a discounted rate. The Group Registration form can be found here.

Conference Details

Lisa Helfman

Lisa Helfman is the director of public affairs Houston for H-E-B Grocery Company. Previously, she served as the director of real estate. Prior to joining H-E-B, Ms. Helfman served as director of real estate services at Texas Children’s Hospital where she created the Real Estate Services Department in order to centralize the hospital’s real estate operations. Ms. Helfman worked at Texas Children’s for seven years after leaving Vinson & Elkins law firm where she represented many urban redevelopment clients, nonprofits, and government entities in financings, real estate, and other legal matters. Ms. Helfman received her JD Magna Cum Laude from the University of Houston Law Center and her BA Cum Laude from Tulane University.

Live Sessions

Leading through Times of Crisis: Turning Adversity into Creative Inspiration
Angie Lane and S. Shawn Stephens

Many Houston-based organizations have faced significant challenges over the last few years with the back-to-back impact of Hurricane Harvey and COVID -19. As a result, it has never been more important for board members to serve as philanthropic leaders and advocates for their organizations. Learn from the Houston Ballet leaders involved in the decision making how they turned recent challenges into creative inspiration, delivering on its mission in new ways. Understand how experienced board members can successfully lead organizations through challenges. Presenters will share how the Houston Ballet mobilized the philanthropic community and the community at-large to ensure the company thrived during unprecedented times.

Ensuring Your Authenticity
Kelli Newman

When organizational messages don't line up with what people experience, you risk a betrayal of trust that can damage your bottom line. Putting your nonprofit's words into action means formulating messages that effectively convey your unique purpose, values and culture, then translating words on a page into what key audiences actually experience. In this session, learn valuable strategies through messaging and experience-evaluation exercises that you can apply to your own organizations.

Removing Barriers to Performance to Ensure Sustainability
Gabrielle Baumeyer

A nonprofit's sustainability depends on its leaders taking actions that generate results. The absence of those actions can be detrimental to the team's ability to serve their communities. Barriers to taking the right next steps often go unrecognized and live in our "blind spots." In this session, the presenter shares techniques for not only recognizing barriers to performance but how to remove them to allow for greater success. Learn from others and create a plan to prevent "invisible stops" from inhibiting your ability to ensure long-term nonprofit success.

Sustainable & Impact Investing: From Interest to Implementation
Danielle Ward & William Jarvis

Nonprofit organizations are increasingly interested in how integrating sustainable and impact investments into their portfolios can better position them for the long-term and pursue their missions more holistically. Despite this, there remains a gap between interest and implementation. How do you get your board from conversation to action? Join Danielle Ward and William Jarvis of Bank of America in an exploration of these and other important sustainable investing topics.

Accelerating Your Impact as a Board Member in a Post-Pandemic World
Aimee Woodall

This session is designed to enhance organizational capacity, drive momentum and help you become a more active and influential board member with a mix of fresh data, collected observations and energizing creative ideas. With more than a decade of experience working with nonprofits and social enterprises, Ms. Woodall has worked with boards of all shapes, sizes and conditions and will guide you through a series of experiences and strategies to help you become a stronger contributor during your time of service so that you can accelerate your organization's mission.

Why and How Legacy Giving Leads to Long-Term Success
Lisa Chmiola

Long-term sustainability is critical for nonprofits, but many do not have a strategy related to legacy giving or recognize the importance of investing time into developing legacy plans. In this session, discuss the building blocks of planned giving and how it can fit into the development plan of a nonprofit, as well as the impact these strategies can have to inspire increased current giving from prospects and donors. Learn the actionable steps to determine your organization's readiness to implement a program.

Transcend Uncertainty and Build a Culture of Agility
Marianita Paddock Snodgrass and Vicki Johnson

To transcend uncertainty, an organization needs to have the ability to be nimble, reposition and quickly pivot to new strategies. A culture of agility begins with a team foundation that embraces diversity in its members and in their unique combination of talents and strengths. This session includes a focus on the importance and practice of building strengths-based communication into your organizational culture and shares the impact of this work on a local organization and their efforts to finish strong in 2020. 

Recorded Sessions

Building a Better Board for the Decade Ahead
Amy Lampi and Mark Marshall

The demands and expectations of nonprofit boards are changing dramatically, and preparation to meet these challenges are essential for a successful future. However, boards are living, breathing entities and many struggle to implement necessary changes on an escalated timeline. Learn how to identify key goals for your board, develop a plan for building a board for success in the future, and set key benchmarks for measuring progress. This session takes into account the social disruption of 2020 and how organizations should adjust when building a strategic plan. Takeaways from this session can be utilized with any board regardless of the size of the organization.

Conquering Crisis: How Good Governance Will Sustain Your Nonprofit
Nicola Toubia

Nonprofits can face a myriad of crises -- from financial to pandemic to leadership -- sometimes all occurring at the same time. Governance is the key to surviving a crisis, but excellent governance ensures your nonprofit conquers it. This session will focus on boards' fiduciary duties and offer numerous governance tips that your organization can adopt to triumph over its challenges.

"Mergers": A Dirty Word or Opportunity?
Bridget Y. Samuel

The nonprofit sector has seen a rise in the number of mergers and integrations. Strategic integrations have become a viable option for long-term sustainability, more significant impact and operational efficiency in the social sector. This session will help you understand the different types of merger and integration opportunities; benefits and associated risks; and steps to begin exploration.

Agile Fundraising: The 5 Keys to Creating a Strategic Development Plan for the Future
Jennifer Lehman and Sara Wise

The events of 2020 likely had a significant impact on your organization's fundraising plans. Now more than ever, the most effective boards will work with staff to develop a funding framework that can withstand uncertainties. After this session, understand the five keys to building an agile development strategy. This simple, yet powerful, framework will help you achieve fiscal goals, bring confidence to your team and develop a donor-centric organizational culture.

Building Your Post-Pandemic Toolkit
Angela Hodson and Nicole McWhorter

2020 put our nimbleness ability to be nimble to the test. Even the best strategies needed to be revisited in the face of a global health crisis. Nonprofits and their volunteer leadership weathered the storm and continued to serve their communities in new and innovative ways. Now as the health crisis begins to subside, we look forward to the future. In this session, discuss questions board members should be asking; how organizations can best communicate their impact and outcomes; and actions and issues board members should be prepared to tackle in 2021. Leave with identified strategies to take action and helpful materials for board members to have in their post-COVID toolkit.

Financial Scenario Planning During and After a Crisis
Justine Townsend and Tanya Pal

During a crisis, nonprofit management and their boards must utilize the power of scenario planning in order to make decisions. This is a critical component in determining if their organization will be able to weather the current storm. After the crisis subsides, management teams and their boards will need scenario planning to navigate a successful recovery. Join this session as we discuss the mechanics and key considerations in the scenario planning process. We will also share resources and funding options available to nonprofits during the current financial crisis. Attendees walk away with the knowledge necessary to utilize their forecast as an invaluable crisis and recovery management tool.

Organizations with 3 or more participants wanting to attend qualify for the group registration discount of $50 per person.



Discounts are available for AFP, Apra and AASP members and Rice faculty, staff, students and alumni. Please contact us at 713-348-4803 or gscs@rice.edu to receive the appropriate discount code.

This conference meets the elective requirement for the Leadership Institute for Nonprofit Executives (LINE) Certificate Program. The LINE program is a 10-month journey designed to assist nonprofit leaders and those aspiring to leadership roles in the nonprofit sector to build their current skillsets and become effective and successful leaders of nonprofit organizations.


Thank you for your interest in this course. Unfortunately, the course you have selected is currently not open for enrollment. Please complete a Course Inquiry so that we may promptly notify you when enrollment opens.