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By Rena Henderson
Our “Five Questions” series highlights the expertise and individuality of our member consultants. Members are interviewed by an ACN peer. We hope this series will reveal the breadth, depth, and overall expertise of our membership!
Anyone familiar with non-profit boards will likely recognize this scenario: An operational problem or staff issue (e.g., running a deficit, experiencing high turnover, not reaching fundraising goals) arises at an organization. In response, the Board changes leadership or engages in strategic planning. Over time, it becomes clear that the Board has not been responding to important market changes that affect their organization. This is where Bold Agenda can be helpful to boards.
Meet Rena Henderson Mason, president of Bold Agenda, a nonprofit consulting practice focused on empowering leaders and energizing boards. Rena prides herself on being a visionary and trusted advisor to board and staff leaders, and has worked to develop a disciplined, mission-drivenapproach based on the observation that exceptional boards build high-impact organizations, while dysfunctional boards tear them apart.
A Bold Agenda
Interestingly, Rena’s consulting practice evolved from her start as a volunteer with the Arts and Business Council. She worked with a team of volunteer consultants on long-term board projects in all areas of governance. She frequently saw boards struggling to build teams that were equipped to do the important work of recruiting, fundraising, or succession planning. Rena concluded that developing and sustaining a good working relationship between an Executive Director and the right Board chair is critical for any organization’s survival and growth. To that end, she develops rapport with her clients by actively listening, identifying clients’ most persistent problems, and understanding the barriers and challenges that keep boards from reaching their full potential.
With seven years of volunteer experience under her belt and excited about the opportunity to make a difference, Rena decided to pursue her passion and create a board-focused consulting practice. At the end of 2012, she developed her brand around the desire to work with organizations that have a “Bold Agenda.”
Rena is inspired by the opportunity to choose her clients and work with great organizations that make a difference in the communities they serve.
Recent (Bold) Projects
In line with the recent trend of funders’ interest in organizations that create more with less, Rena is currently working with two arts organizations that are considering a joint venture. While the idea of sharing both ideas and resources (e.g., office space, office administration) is appealing, both organizations are unsure that a merger is the best solution. Moreover, the practical considerations often seem daunting. In response, Rena hasconducted visioning sessions with the aims of creating a common mission, identifying potential roadblocks, and focusing on blending their cultures by ensuring that they share both vision and values.
In addition to arts and culture, recent clients include social service agencies, international development organizations as well as professional associations. She finds that any client with bold ideas offers an opportunity to expand her knowledge and expertise.
Rena lives in Chicago with her husband and two sons. The family’s favorite restaurants are 1) The West Loop’s Carnivale for its colorful, festive and fun atmosphere, and 2) A10 Hyde Park for Italian cuisine because of its great service and ambiance.
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