The individuals who serve as Directors of the JDRF and ADA are the ones who ultimately decide how to allocate the $300+ million donated to T1D research every year. Their decisions and leadership either accelerate or decelerate speed to a cure.

August 24, 2022

The individuals who serve as Directors of the JDRF and ADA are the ones who ultimately decide how to allocate the $300+ million donated to T1D research every year. Their decisions and leadership either accelerate or decelerate speed to a cure. 

This report addresses the importance of the boards of directors, identifies some key challenges the boards face today, and provides a few recommendations for achieving exceptional impact.

The Board of Directors is the Highest Level of Leadership

The board of directors is the highest level of authority and leadership. They shoulder the ultimate responsibility for establishing a non-profit organization’s mission and values, setting strategic direction, overseeing executive leadership, and allocating resources. Organization staff members and executives make recommendations that the board can either accept, modify, or reject, but ultimately, the board is the final authority.

Coming Out of COVID Provides Existential Challenges and Opportunities

The years of COVID provided many unique challenges to the executives and board members. Both organizations reduced staffing, offices, and investments as traditional public fundraising events were cancelled. Today, as we come out of the COVID years, both organizations face a number of essential strategic challenges and opportunities.

The JDRF has built up a huge cash stockpile from its conservation activities during COVID. The board must decide and give clear guidance about how to allocate those funds, which might be used to give a real boost to a T1D cure should they so choose.

The ADA faces a steadily declining revenue stream, a brand new CEO, and a slow decay in relevance to the T1D community. Its board must decide how important it is to rebuild its reputation and influence with the T1D community or whether it will simply focus on T2D.

Board Size has Reduced Considerably – A Good Thing

Both the ADA and the JDRF have reduced the number of board members in recent years, consistent with the recommendation provided in prior year editions of this report. This is a good thing. 

A lean board of directors allows for full engagement and participation of each board member. Many academics who study this topic conclude that a board size between 10 and 20 is optimal – too small limits diversity of perspective, too large can lead to fragmentation.

Last summer, JDRF cut the size of its board in half from 30 people to 15. The ADA board is now 13 people, down from 19 a year ago. 

Board members for both organizations are listed in the appendix below and a link is provided to the individual profiles.

Editorial Recommendations

At this crucial juncture for both organizations, the JDCA offers four key recommendations. These recommendations are informed by best practices from the corporate world but acknowledge the unique circumstances of the non-profit environment:

  • Hold board members externally accountable. Today, non-profit board members can only be appointed or removed by fellow board members. Board member election by a broad base of donors would create accountability and ensure alignment with the donors who fund the organizations.
  • Deploy resources in line with donor priorities. Nine out of ten T1D donors want cure research to be the top priority for diabetes charities.  
  • Consider a "say on pay" executive compensation structure. A "say on pay" initiative would allow donors to vote on aspects of executive compensation such as pay structure, base pay, and bonus amounts.
  • Publicize systems to track cure progress. Clear and transparent performance metrics towards cure progress would enable the board to hold executives accountable for tangible performance towards the top priority of donors. Today, neither organization makes public what informs their executives’ performance pay.

Appendix:  Board of Director Members 

JDRF 2023 International Board of Directors

Michael Alter
Elizabeth Caswell
Claudia Graham, Ph.D.,MPH
Paul Heath
Karen Jordan
Joseph P. Lacher, Jr.
Jeff Plumer
Jennifer Schneider, M.D.
Chirstopher H. Turner
Matt Varey
Drayton Virkler
Lisa Wallack
Karey L. Witty

ADA 2022 Board of Directors

Christopher K. Ralston, JD
Marshall Case
Guillermo Umpierrez, MD, CDCES
Otis W. Kirksey, ParmD, RPh, CDCES, BC-ADM
Rone Luczynski
Todd F. Brown, PMP
Rodica Pop-Busui, MD, PhD
Janet Brown-Friday, RN, MSN, MPH
Mandeep Bajaj, MBBS
Amparo Gonzalez, MPH, RN, CDCES, FAADE
Rhodes B. Ritenour, JD
Stephanie Silverman, MBA
Ruth Weinstock, MD, PhD