Leading Together for the Public Good

Vernetta Walker

Marking the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, BLF 2015: Leading Together for the Public Good speaks to our proven ability to mobilize our energy, efforts, and voices to make a difference and even change our own trajectories when called upon to do so.

John F. Kennedy once observed that, in Chinese, the word “crisis” is composed of two characters — one represents danger and the other represents opportunity. The social sector has faced many challenges, even crises, but when we lead together in a concerted way, opportunities and possibilities abound.

The BoardSource Leadership Forum creates the perfect environment for you to discover new opportunities, whether you’re thriving, in the midst of change, or looking to get unstuck.

Over the course of two days, you will be moved to

  • rethink what you’re doing and how you’re doing it
  • explore the people, the work, and the culture of your organization through a governance lens
  • gain insights and clarity around strengths, practices, and lessons learned
  • frame and participate in leadership conversations
  • identify relationships and strategies to help propel your efforts forward
  • construct action steps to drive and catalyze change

Schedule at a Glance


Detailed Schedule at a Glance




BLF is a celebration of the tremendous leadership and service that board and staff leaders bring to their organizations. The plenary sessions are presented by some of the most inspiring and motivating leaders among us.

This year, we’re pleased to have lined up both Mary Matalin and James Carville, American political consultants and commentators. They will open the conference by speaking about their efforts to rebuild and promote New Orleans, the city they now call home.

Other leaders who will be gracing the main stage include Art Taylor, president & CEO of BBB Wise Giving Alliance, and Kevin Washington, president & CEO of YMCA of the USA. Art and Kevin grew up together in Philadelphia and will weave in personal stories and narratives as they talk about the trust and confidence that the public puts in nonprofit organizations; why nonprofit leaders owe those community members strong, ethical, and transparent leadership; and what it means to lead in the digital age. Angela Williams, executive vice president, general counsel, & chief administration officer, YMCA of the USA and member of the BLF Host Committee, will moderate the discussion.



The response was phenomenal to BoardSource’s 2015 Call for Sessions. Choosing from among the 200 proposals we received was difficult, but now done, we’re confident in saying the 2015 BoardSource Leadership Forum is going to be the best BLF ever!

  • 40+ sessions that will help you tackle the important challenges and opportunities affecting you and your organization
  • Insights and ideas from some of the most influential and inspiring thinkers and doers in the nonprofit sector — board chairs, board members, and chief executives who are transforming their organizations; researchers who are forging new understanding of board leadership models and practices; advisors who are helping boards expand their impact and improve performance; and other influencers who are helping the nonprofit sector think differently about leadership and governance.

BLF is the premier national conference on nonprofit governance, and our sessions have the content and approach to support this distinction. They incorporate real-world case studies, practical applications, and, whenever possible, peer-to-peer learning opportunities.

This year, we have organized our sessions into three tracks: The People, The Work, and The Culture. The People sessions address who serves on our boards and how our boards are composed and organized. The Work sessions address what the board does — the work and responsibilities of the board, such as financial oversight, fundraising, and strategic planning. The Culture sessions address how the board conducts its work, from group dynamics to its relationship with the chief executive.

The People

Board Composition and Structure

Level 101

The Intersection of Millennial Diversity, Race, and Nonprofit Board Leadership

Has the World Gone Crazy? How to Talk about Diversity and Inclusion in the Boardroom

Rapid Onboarding: Equipping Board Members for Day One

Level 201

Why Boards Matter: The Relationship between Strong Boards and Organizational Success

Recruit. Train. Connect. Transform.

Lessons Learned from a High-Performing Board

Engaging Corporate America through Skills-Based Volunteer Matching

Board Chairs Matter!

Level 301

GENNEXT: Passing the Governance Torch

The Work

Board Responsibilities

Level 101

Strategic Planning in the New Normal

Outsourcing Trends in Nonprofit Endowment Management

Top Five Legal Issues Affecting Nonprofit Boards

Moving from Overhead to Impact

Leading with Intent: How Does Your Board Compare?

Board Fundraising: Oh Yes, You Can!

Level 201

The Grateful Dead: Why Planned Giving Rocks!

Optimizing Your Board’s Potential: The What, How, and Why of Generative Thinking

The Infinite Possibilities of Now: Using Risk Management to Build a Vibrant Nonprofit

Increasing Your Impact & Funding through Advocacy

Charity is OUT; Social Entrepreneurship is IN

The World Has Changed: Have You?

Using a Financial Performance Dashboard to Engage and Inform Your Board

To Grow or Not to Grow? Six Questions to Ask Before You Decide to Scale a Program

Storytelling: A Powerful Advocacy Tool

Privacy Exposure: Perils and Possibilities for Nonprofits

The Power of Aligning Your Board’s Legacy Around Mission

Nonprofit Board Scandals and the Lessons Learned

Leading Collaborative Change: The Board’s Role

Major Donor Fundraising for Nonprofit Leaders Who Aren’t Dummies

Level 301

Transformational Governance: How Boards Achieve Extraordinary Change

The Culture

Leadership and Dynamics

Level 101

Board Meetings That Make a Difference

Why and How to Assess Your Board

Crowdsource Solutions to Your Governance and Leadership Challenges!

CEO Confidential: The Secrets of a Strong Partnership with Your Board

Ethics and Accountability: From the Mailroom to the Boardroom

Level 201

One Board’s Journey toward Racial & Social Justice

Building a Collaborative Board Team

What’s Leadership Got to Do With It? Success Factors and Organizational Impact

Governance Interrupted: Surviving a Board Implosion

Creating a Culture of Integrity and Meaningful Board Involvement

Boosting Board Performance Where It Counts: Onboarding a New CEO

Boardroom Black Holes and Taboos

Boards On Fire: Unleashing ALL the Gifts Your Board Members Have to Offer

Professional Development Institute

Level 101

Building Capacity for Social Change 2.0

Level 201

Ensuring Long-Term Leadership and Organizational Effectiveness through the Highest and Best Use of Your CEO’s and Board’s Time

Major Donor Fundraising for Nonprofit Leaders Who Aren’t Dummies


Anne Walestad

BLF networking events provide you with the opportunity to build relationships, to share your passion, to discuss your challenges and your successes, and to learn from the extraordinary leaders who attend the Forum:

  • Chief executives, board members, and staff from nonprofits of all shapes and sizes who work in a wide variety of mission areas
  • Funders
  • Corporate social responsibility leaders
  • Governance researchers
  • Governance consultants

Meet ‘N’ Greet

Sunday, November 8, 5 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Don’t go it alone the evening before the Forum officially starts! Join us at our Meet ‘n’ Greet — a casual cash-bar gathering located at the Jazz Café (209 Decatur Street). Kick off your conference experience by making new friends, reconnecting with old, and arranging a dinner date.


Sunday, November 8, 7 p.m.
Dine-arounds are back! BoardSource started a new tradition in 2012 by arranging small dining groups for attendees with similar roles, mission areas, and interests. Dine-around reservations can be made when registering for the Forum, but don’t delay — space is limited and this is a very popular event. Dine-around participants are responsible for their own bill and gratuity.

Networking Brunch

Monday, November 9, 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Yes, beignets will be on the menu! As will be the opportunity to engage in a lively conversation with new acquaintances about the opening plenary presented by James Carville and Mary Matalin.

Networking Reception

Monday, November 9, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
On Monday evening, join the BoardSource staff, our sponsors and exhibitors, our speakers and presenters, and our participants for a casual cocktail reception aboard the Steamboat Natchez. Grab a drink and a few appetizers from the abundant buffet, catch up with old friends, and make new ones as we cruise down the Mississippi River and enjoy the tunes of a local, live jazz band.

Networking Breaks

Throughout the conference, there will be short networking breaks between sessions, making them the perfect time to discuss the valuable information and exciting ideas you’re taking away from the presentations.