Ep 117: The Hunt for Great Board Members (with Robert Acton and Lalita Badinehal)

by Joan Garry

If you’ve ever had trouble finding great board members, or getting them ready to serve your organizations at a high level, you’ll want to listen to this episode.


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Have you ever said the words, “I can’t find board members”?

Yup. I know you have. I always respond as if someone has told me they lost their keys. “OK, so where did you see them last?”

The hunt for great board members is often a big pain point. It’s not just that folks don’t recognize the joy and privilege of service but that even those who do may not arrive ready to serve. What do candidates need to understand about the commitment to serve?

You’re about to meet two people who are evangelists for excellent governance and for communicating the opportunity and privilege that comes with board service.

Robert Acton is the Principal and Founder of Cause Strategy Partners, BoardLead, and BoardLearn. Lalita Badinehal is a Corporate Citizenship, Inclusion, Diversity, and Employee Experience Executive at Credit Suisse. Our conversation today revolves around the elements in building strong boards.

BoardLead is a matchmaker. When an organization submits an application, BoardLead looks to place talented professionals with carefully vetted nonprofits by looking for community impact, strong leadership, and a commitment to deliver around diversity, equity, and inclusion.

BoardLearn is an educational platform to prepare their candidates for effective board service and to drive impact. Their approach to training new board members comes from a place of abundance, not scarcity, and includes a mix of cheerleading and scaring.

Credit Suisse partnered with BoardLead to recruit, place, train and support high impact board service. Listen to how they work together and how they measure success.

About Rob Acton

Robert Acton, J.D., is Principal and Founder of Cause Strategy Partners, BoardLead and BoardLearn. Cause Strategy Partners (www.causestrategypartners.com) is a consulting social enterprise that provides strategic counsel and high-impact programming to Fortune 500 companies, global professional services firms, private foundations and nonprofit organizations with a specialized focus on building both board and executive leadership. Cause Strategy Partners’ signature program, BoardLead (www.boardlead.com), has placed, trained and supported 670 professionals for high-impact board service at 350 nonprofits in 19 cities across the country. BoardLearn (www.boardlearn.com) is BoardLead’s innovative good governance e-learning platform. With more than two decades of experience founding, leading and scaling social good organizations as both a nonprofit chief executive and board leader, Rob previously led Taproot Foundation in both New York City and Chicago, as well as Cabrini Green Legal Aid (CGLA) in Chicago. In 2009 and under Acton’s leadership, CGLA received the prestigious Alford-Axelson Award for Nonprofit Managerial Excellence. Rob is Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of Nonprofit New York, a membership organization serving 1,500 nonprofits in the New York City region. During his eight-year tenure, Rob has chaired the Presidential Search Committee, Governance Committee, Strategic Planning Committee and Development Committee. Rob also serves on the Board of Directors of Broadway Inspirational Voices and on the Advisory Boards of CGLA and Parkes Philanthropy. Previously, Rob was a founding Board member of Illinois Legal Aid Online, served on the Advisory Board of the Axelson Center for Nonprofit Management, and served on the Board of Trustees of his alma mater, Spring Arbor University. In 2010, Rob was appointed as a State Commissioner by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and confirmed by the Illinois Senate to serve on a statewide commission investigating past police abuse in the City of Chicago. Rob is a member of the Bar of the State of New York. He attended Michigan public schools, Spring Arbor University & Brooklyn Law School. Rob’s Causes: second chances for ex-offenders, the performing arts, and nonprofit capacity building. Rob tweets @RobertActon.

About Lalita Badinehal

Lalita is a Corporate Responsibility, Diversity, Inclusion and Employee Experience Executive with more than 15 years’ experience as a business partner building culture, leading initiatives and growing employee engagement across the financial services sector. She develops people-centric and purpose-driven programming using a risk management and impact measurement lens and influences a 14-member Board. Lalita is currently Vice President at Credit Suisse where she has held a variety of leadership roles including overseeing Community Engagement and Grantmaking as part of the Americas Corporate Citizenship group. She partners closely with HR, and the firm’s diversity networks to bring them access to wellbeing resources with a focus on mindfulness. During her tenure, Lalita has increased employee engagement to over 50% from 39% by designing the Americas strategy across 30 cities and 10,000 employees. Lalita pioneered Credit Suisse’s signature Board Connect program to build leadership skills and increase retention. Previously, Lalita was Manager of Institutional Relations in the Business Development group of a capital provider investing in entrepreneurs tackling poverty, Acumen. She started her career in financial services with six years in research, risk management and corporate and investment banking for Goldman, Sachs & Co, Credit Suisse First Boston, Commerzbank and Reuters Loan Pricing Corporation. Recognized as an industry thought leader, Lalita has spoken at CECP, Charities at Work, CVNY, Points of Light, Philanthropy New York, and at the United Nations. She serves as Co-chair of Service for Impact, which has focused most recently on proving the business case for corporate volunteerism. She holds an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and a bachelor’s degree from Ithaca College. She is training to be a Certified Professional Coach through iPEC.