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Reviews of Tiny Essentials of an Effective Volunteer Board

In Third Sector, governance supplement, summer 2006, UK, Tesse Akpeki wrote

‘It is not often you come across a fascinating book on governance, but Tiny Essentials is one.

‘It tells the story of Warren Maxwell, who has just become chair of a medium-sized voluntary organisation and genuinely wants to make his board exciting, balanced and effective. Using almost Dickensian caricatures of chairs of volunteer boards, Burnett explains the difference that a well-balanced and supportive board can make. How can Warren lead? How can he enable his board to govern effectively? How can he relate to his staff in this new role? It is a well-packed, entertaining joy to read.’

In Volunteering magazine online, issue no. 118, 2006, UK, Tracy Saunders wrote

‘This little book is absolutely brilliant; it’s easy to read and is full of useful information on how to improve the effectiveness of trustee boards…

‘The book begins by examining the possible motivations of trustees. Burnett then discusses some very important issues – why the trustee board exists, what value it adds to the organisation and how it would function without the board. These lead him to identify the function of the trustee board and he differentiates between the board’s role, which is governance, and the management’s, which is to manage the organisation’s daily operations…

‘I found this book to be a very informative resource. Instead of being a hefty, heavy-going reference book, this book tells a story. I loved the style, to have a fictional story to read certainly drove home the salient points far more than a dull, factual text could have done; I found this approach to be very warm and engaging. Definitely worth a read.’

In Getaway, issue 12, October 2006, UK

‘Small enough to fit in your pocket but with more than 70 pages of practical tips, set out in a fictional story style, following a new board chairman. The book is chatty in style, an easy read, but with a good deal of truth. You may well find yourself linking the characters in this story with the characters that you know only too well on the board you work on. The book also has a useful check list of 21 “key aspects of good governance”.

‘Worth buying for your trustees/board and giving one to the chief executive as well, to see life from “the other side”.’

In Voluntary Voice, issue 192, July-September 2006, UK

‘Designed to be read in an hour, this book has been written to help trustees and charity staff who deal with the ‘board’ to do their jobs better.

‘It tells the story of Warren Maxwell, who is suddenly propelled into the post of chair of the voluntary organisation where he is a board member. The book follows Warren as he sets about lifting his board from mediocrity, revealing the secrets of what makes a balanced, progressive and highly effective board.’

On the website of Nonprofit Charitable Organisations,, USA, Joanne Fritz wrote

Tiny Essentials of an Effective Volunteer Board is a pocket-sized guide to board development, recruitment, and management and will make any American who is a fan of public television smile and maybe even giggle.

‘Burnett is British and his little book is written with the elan of the wonderful British imports we see on public television such as Mystery and Masterpiece Theater.

‘The book is actually a narrative of the search by a newly appointed board chairman for the keys to effective boards. He sets out to interview the CEOs and board chairs of other nonprofits in the hope of insight. In his travels he and we meet the somewhat slimy Arthur, a nonprofit CEO who controls his board and whose voice drips with disrespect for his board members. We meet Lady Bountiful (really the Honourable Camilla ffoulkes-Lanningham), the chair of trustees of an unfortunate organisation. And, finally, a dynamic duo of CEO and chairman who can finally enlighten us and our hapless hero…

‘The principles set out in Burnett's little book are exactly those that any new board member or the founder of a new nonprofit should know. In addition, there are some bonuses that we enjoyed…

‘Throughout the book, Burnett includes information on board diversity, board recruitment, board committee structure and more. In addition, there is a list of “The 21 key aspects of good governance.”

‘You don't really need a huge encyclopaedia of nonprofit theory to set up a good board. This little book of essentials provides all the basics any organisation needs to establish an effective and sensible board that will support the mission and the staff.’