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Archive for February, 2013

Strategic Board Meetings: Leaders in Focus

Nonprofit boards struggle with quorum issues, which usually is an indicator of an energy deficit issue.
Board members want to feel that their time is used productively.
Do they look forward to board meetings with eager anticipation? Or with foreboding?

You can get your board meetings on a more productive track by taking a few steps that will inject a bit of energy into the process:
– Assure that each discussion item links to your strategic plan. How does it connect to where you’re going? If it doesn’t, why do you need to discuss it?
– Assure that each item you’re discussing leads to something the board will need to act on. Or if not act on, that it ties to a policy of the nonprofit that’s clearly in the purview of the board and comes under the auspices of the board.
– Executive, officer, and committee reports all should be submitted in writing a week prior to the board meeting so members have ample time to read them and bring any questions to the meeting. Member time should not be wasted by having members read reports that should have been read in advance of the meeting.
– Allow time for what Chait, Ryan, and Taylor call ‘Generative Discussion.” I recommend that this be conversation time. Not Roberts Rules of Order time. When a member can come with data on a trend related to one of your strategic goals, present to the board and there can be some thoughtful and fun discussion about what’s happening in the world that may be impacting your community and what you may need to do in the future to prepare for it. This can be very stimulating. Not recommended every meeting. But a good “charge the batteries” opportunity for the board.
The assumption should be that everyone’s time is too valuable to waste.
Meetings are held only when board action is essential.
Meetings start on time and only extend overtime with permission of those present.

Check out The Board Chair’s Handbook from Board Source:
Check out The Board Chair’s Handbook from Board Source.

Gayle Gifford’s blog post A Meeting Menu for the Board Chair on her website Cause & Effect

Make your meetings Strategic!

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The Fundraising Board In Stages

I’ve written frequently about the importance of building relationships as fundamental to effective fundraising. This is the development part of the fundraising equation: if our goal is to build a solid, active donor database consisting of lots of folks committed to our mission, the effective part starts with our Board of Directors. The core of our nonprofit organization and its mission.

OK. So groan if you must. I know that many of you have knocked your head on this door a number of times, and come up against resistance. “I didn’t sign up for that.” “I give you my time; it’s your job to raise the money.” I think all of us at one time or another have been there and lived that.

So how do we get to that transformational place that Kay Sprinkel Grace, fundraiser extraordinaire, talks about in her books (e.g., High Impact Philanthropy) and workshops?

It happens step-by-step. In Stages. Ages ago, I cited a Guidestar piece, “Five Fundraising Mistakes We Make with our Boards.” Heck. Only five? here’s a link: http://bit.ly/aWVpLJ.

We start by talking about and acting on building relationships. It takes that interpersonal connectivity around our mission, around the good we are doing for our primary customers, that builds the commitment we need to move the mission and our nonprofit forward. Think about the emotional energy we draw from stories about success around the mission. Take time at board meetings to get the stories on the table, talk about them and share the good feelings that come; the bonding that can happen around these stories. This is the source of energy, and we build it deliberately over time from meeting-to-meeting. When we get this momentum around our mission, the concept of asking our friends who share our commitment to contribute to the cause feels like a natural next step.

Did you watch the State of the Union Tuesday night? President Obama closed with stories to illustrate points he wanted to hammer home about gun violence and access to voting. I thought the five minutes of story telling were far more effective than the previous hour and ten minutes of listing all the goals he wants to accomplish.

So don’t forget to tell the stories.

Asking for money to advance a cause we share is a natural progression. Build the Fundraising Board: but do it in stages, over time. So suggesting that a member of the Board ask a friend for a gift doesn’t feel alien, uncomfortable, out of line. Asking becomes a logical next step.

Give it a go.

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Chipping Away at the Nonprofit Tax Deduction

Part of the Fiscal Cliff deal struck by President Obama with Congress was more taxes to be paid by those earning over $300,000 a year. The way this compromise was arrived at has caused some concern among nonprofit leaders. Especially those leaders of larger nonprofits: Universities, hospitals, museums and other arts institutions with relatively large budgets (at least $5 million a year) that have significant development staff and attract substantial annual gifts from wealthy individuals.

In a recent article in Forbes Magazine http://onforb.es/11H3aLF the author explains how the change will work. Persons earning over $300,000 will have to choose how they will take their deductions, because they will be limited. For each $100,000 earned over the first $300,000, 3% (or $3,000) is removed from the deduction and essentially becomes part of the tax cost. For those earning millions, that can be a substantial amount. And the potential impact on charitable giving…the disincentive to donate because of the tax implications…can be significant. Small-to-midsize nonprofit organizations will likely not feel much of a squeeze as a result of this change in tax policy. But the big nonprofits will likely feel the pain in 2013.

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