Steady hand Featured

7:00pm EDT December 26, 2009
Nonprofit Board Executive of the Year Award

It’s safe to say N. Suzanne Swanson is a calming influence.

Having served on the board for the Girls Scouts since 2002, and board president and chair for the past three years, she’s faced her fair share of adversity, but through it all, she has stayed cool and composed.

Early on as board chair for Girl Scouts — Seal of Ohio Council, Swanson was faced with the undertaking of leading the council through a merger with two other councils.

While many board chairs would place the responsibility of a merger on the shoulders of the organization’s CEO, Swanson did not have that chance.

In May 2007, early in the merger process, the long-standing CEO of 15 years unexpectedly announced her retirement. Swanson took the news in stride by organizing a search for a new CEO and, at the same time, continued moving forward with the early negotiations needed for the merger.

Her timeline focused on hiring a new CEO prior to the official state of the merger process. In addition to her full-time professional position, Swanson was also spending a minimum of 20 hours per week in her “volunteer” role as board chair.

During the 15-month realignment/merger process, Swanson provided strong leadership, while also honoring the lengthy process needed for buy-in and collaboration of the two smaller councils as equal partners.

The time commitment that has been required for her during this historic time of change has been enormous. Swanson participated in council realignment committee or subcommittee meetings and conferences weekly. This was in addition to her ongoing meetings related to Seal of Ohio’s ongoing corporate business and community functions.

When the time came to identify a board chair for the newly merged council — Girl Scouts of Ohio’s Heartland Inc. — the nominating committee chose Swanson. Her involvement with legacy council’s governance and the realignment process made her the unanimous choice. Her vision and guidance were exactly what the council needed during this time of immense change.

As a board chair for Girl Scouts of Ohio’s Heartland, Swanson performs her role with grace and is always mindful of being inclusive throughout the new council jurisdiction. Her approach encourages others to embrace the process of realignment in the same positive manner.

How to reach: Girl Scouts of Ohio’s Heartland Inc., (800) 621-7042 or