Straight from the Sales Director: Meet Nonprofit Superstar Kia Tattegrain

Running a nonprofit can sometimes feel like wearing the weight of the world’s shortfalls on your shoulders. You’re managing an organization while providing a meaningful impact for communities in need. One of the major secrets to a successful nonprofit is an involved Board of Directors, but often it’s easier said than done. I recently sat down with one of my favorite nonprofit executive directors and nonprofit strategist to discuss board of director management.

Ishekia (Kia) A. Harris Tattegrain, MNA, is an eclectic entrepreneur who has a love for God, people, and cultures. She is the Founder and Executive Director of Dare Humanity, a nonprofit in Southern California that partners with communities in Haiti and California to create opportunities for self-sufficiency, entrepreneurship, and wellness. Kia obtained a Master’s in Nonprofit Administration from the University of San Francisco. She sat with me to share her best-kept secrets of how to keep your Board of Directors involved, engaged, and committed to your mission.

  1. As a risk manager specializing in nonprofits, I rely on agreements and contracts to help my clients ensure they are managing their risks appropriately and are aware of all roles and responsibilities in our partnership. Often nonprofits stray away from contractual agreements because they feel it pressures people into participating in their organization. They have a board agreement but it hasn’t been updated in years, they aren’t routinely using one, or they don’t have one at all. Do you have any suggestions for an effective board agreement? Do you think they are imperative to a nonprofit’s success?

Board agreements are essential to a functioning nonprofit. I often tell my clients, they need active board members, not place fillers. One way to ensure board involvement and participation is through an agreement. The organization can tailor the agreement to their specific preferences, but I recommend having one in place and referring to it regularly.

Here are a few key areas to include in a board agreement:

  • A place for each board member to include their name and signature – this creates accountability and demonstrates acknowledgment and agreement from the board member.
  • Statements that reflect the organization’s values and board member’s fiduciary responsibility (to summarize, acting in the best interest of the organization) – allowing board members to not only understand their responsibilities but accept and apply them.
  • Statements that reflect board commitment and involvement – this section can highlight member terms, meeting and event participation, and fundraising requirements.
  • Financial contribution statement – board members are required to assist with fundraising (and if your board is not, you will want to have a conversation with them) so include language in the agreement to reflect this. It may also include an exact amount members are required to give per year or an open statement about giving within the year (your organization may create a Give or Get policy for additional accountability).
  • What the organization will provide for the board member – the organization should be supporting board members with their efforts as members and provide information that will encourage team success. This can be demonstrated by the organization stating what member’s contributions will go towards, the response from leadership on inquiries, etc.

Make sure your organization has accompanying policies to include with the board agreement, including a conflict of interest policy, bylaws, etc.

  1. Recently, when talking with a nonprofit director, he shared his organization is struggling to get their board to contribute. We all know it’s imperative to the organization’s success that the board donates. How do you address the issue of nonparticipating board members?

Nonprofits can face challenges when funding sources are limited, but board members have a fiduciary obligation to contribute to the mission of the organization. First, address the situation upfront with board members individually. Offer different donation options such as; a monthly or quarterly basis and continue to share the importance of their contribution. If the initial conversation does not result in changed behavior, you will want to address their position on your board and have another conversation about their commitment.

  1. As a nonprofit consultant, I’m sure you’ve seen it all in regard to the conflict between a board member and the executive director. What are some ways to help prevent conflict between the board and senior leadership?

I’ve often encountered organizations having challenges within the leadership dynamic because of the lack of distinction between roles. This happens when board members’ oversight goes too far, and they began to manage day-to-day activities (which is the Executive Director and leadership team’s role). Conflict also arises when the leadership team doesn’t consider the board’s decisions which can hinder the organization’s success. When conflicts occur, it is essential to address them directly. A toxic team creates a toxic organization. If the conflict stems from an individual, address the individual. If it is a leadership or board issue, address it as a team (and the board chair can take the lead on this). Keep your communication open among leadership, board members, staff and volunteers -all around the organization. Don’t be afraid to have hard conversations, especially when the health of the organization is at stake, and remove harmful pieces of the organization (including people).

When Kia is not consulting nonprofit organizations, she is acting as an Advisory Board Member of the Master of Nonprofit Administration Program (AB-MNA) at the University of San Francisco’s School of Management, gaining her own personal experience of both sides of the table – nonprofit consultant and board member. She’s seen both sides of the coin and has offered several organizations her professional help with consulting, management, marketing, and communications, strategic management, development, social media, and nearly every aspect of a nonprofits organization’s structure. She’s a motivational speaker with a health background and a Spanish minor in her back pocket. You can follow her on Instagram: @kiahtattegrain or on her website at

In case you missed it: Check out “The Who, What, How to Onboarding Your Board of Directors” to read more about how you can dazzle your VIP board members with a hearty welcome and onboarding experience.