Best Boards

The Best Boards conference is an all-day program designed by Rice University to help nonprofit board members and staff work together more effectively. 

Group of nonprofit professionals sitting in auditorium

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.

This conference meets the elective requirement for the Leadership Institute for Nonprofit Executives Certificate Program. Details can be found in the notes tab below.


Section Instructor Format Schedule start date
CPNL1200.S19.1 Best Boards Speakers On-campus 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Thursday, February 28, 2019

Instructor: Best Boards Speakers

Best Boards Speakers include a variety of expert nonprofit professionals. Speaker details and session information can be found below. 

Term: Spring/Summer 2019

Start Date: Feb. 28, 2019

End Date: Feb. 28, 2019

Schedule: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Length: One day

Location: Rice campus

Early Registration Fee: $135 if registering before Dec. 1

General Fee: $185 if registering after Dec. 1

Group Fee: $135 per person (must have 3 or more registrations from the same organization). If registering as a group, please use button below indicated as "GROUP REGISTRATION."

For AFP, APRA and AASP Members: $135

CEUs: 0.6

CFRE: credit available

Elena M. Marks

Elena M. Marks is the president and chief executive officer of the Episcopal Health Foundation, a $1.2 billion philanthropy based in Houston. The foundation works to improve the health and well-being of the 11 million people of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, which covers 57 counties in east, southeast, and central Texas including Austin, Houston, Beaumont, Lufkin, Tyler, Waco and Bryan/College Station. Ms. Marks is also a nonresident Fellow in Health Policy at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy where her work focuses on health reform and access to care for low income and uninsured populations. She serves on the boards of Grantmakers in Health, the largest national organization serving the field of health philanthropy, Harris Health System, an integrated health delivery system serving over 300,000 patients annually, and Community Health Choice, a nonprofit, community-based health insurance company with more than 400,000 members. Ms. Marks holds a bachelor’s degree from Emory University, a law degree from the University of Texas School of Law, and a master’s in public health from the University of Texas School of Public Health.  Ms. Marks’ previous professional experience includes serving as the director of health and environmental policy for the City of Houston, consulting in the healthcare industry with large systems and community-based providers, starting and directing a successful legal placement firm, and practicing trial and appellate law with major Texas law firms.

Sessions for the 2019 conference will be announced soon. Please see below for 2018 session details.

A Framework for Governance

Boards are responsible for defining why their organizations exists and governing them to ensure alignment to that mission. This session introduces a framework for connecting the activities of a board back to the organization’s greater purpose. With an understanding of how each activity can be viewed and planned within the context of the organization, board members are better able to advocate for the right work at the right time.

Achieving the Unexpected through Transformational Leadership - Plenary Session

Transformational Leadership is an essential skill that facilitates increased engagement, commitment and performance levels in teams and organizations. In this session, discuss the concept and how this style enhances your board and stakeholder relationships.

Fundraising Before, During, and After Disaster

It is easy to feel helpless in the wake of a natural disaster. Learn from a disaster fundraising expert who has been on the frontlines of several of our nation’s largest disasters and crises. As organizational leaders, we must have an executable emergency plan in place for our development team when the unexpected occurs.

The Importance of Strategic Planning for Nonprofit Boards

The process of developing a new strategic plan is, in many ways, as important as the strategic plan itself. An effective strategic planning process engages key people within the organization in answering crucial questions about its work. This session assists board members in identifying the key questions they should address as they start the process.

It’s the Law – Ensuring EEOC Compliance for Your Organization

This very timely session introduces board members to the EEOC’s perspective on emerging issues including harassment, wellness initiatives, gender stereotyping, social media and new forms of retaliation. Board members will learn how to navigate cultural and generational differences as boards become increasingly diverse. There's no need for your organization to become a headline when you can take preventive action.

Organizational Resilience – Managing through Internal Crisis

In this session, explore the factors that can lead to organizational crisis and how the board plays a critical role in how well organizations respond and recover to an internal crisis.

The Risky Business of Increasing Impact through Innovation

Exciting new opportunities and innovative ideas for increasing impact necessarily come with some risk. This risk often leaves boards reticent to change. Organizations often do their best work when they understand the risk, mitigate what they can, and prepare for the rest. In this session, discuss risk management and change management strategies to help board members and staff boldly move forward with creative and innovative solutions to better achieve their mission. We will focus on understanding what risks are out there, tools for assessing smart risks, and creating plans for change and risk management.

Why Diversity Matters – Building a Successful Board

This session is a panel discussion with three participants who have experience or expertise with nonprofit boards. Join us as we explore the definitions of diversity, why diversity matters and how to overcome the challenges of finding qualified candidates.

Words in Action – Translating Your Messaging into a Brand Experience

An essential component of successful messaging is translating a nonprofit’s unique culture and philosophy of care into what clients actually experience. This workshop utilizes messaging exercises and case studies to illustrate how to translate messages into experiences that influence income and enhance donor relations.

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.

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