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Archive for July, 2013

Welcome Aboard! Orienting the New Board Member

Helping the new member of the Board of Directors feel at home is the responsibility of the executive director and the chair of the Board.

The work of putting together a great orientation session and an effective Board manual of course can be delegated, but it’s the job of the nonprofit leadership to make sure that this work is done, and that it’s done well.

Having a two-hour session (including lunch or dinner) featuring the CEO, the Board chair, the treasurer and the chair of the development committee can help give the incoming members a good picture of what’s important and what’s expected of all Board members.

Conducting this session in such a way that engages the new members so they get to ask questions, and offer their viewpoints on key issues facing the organization lets them know that leadership expects even new members of the Board to hit the ground running. And along with this information comes an expectation that the new members will volunteer for at least one committee assignment. And how many events during the year are Board members expected to show up and participate in? All of this should be understood before the commitment is made, and the new members should be ready to sign up at or shortly after orientation for the important work that lies in front of this nonprofit.

A business-like approach that communicates the importance of what the nonprofit does, and the contribution of each and every member of this Board of Directors.

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More on Donor Stewardship

Back in June 2013, I recommended a series of ideas on how to thank your donors in the summertime.

The ideas included the always welcome thank you note, the board-hosted house parties, and the cocktail event at your nonprofit or at a nice spot if you can get a corporate sponsor to underwrite it for you which is all the better.

So now we’re a few weeks after the fact and there were a few key donors who didn’t make it or couldn’t make it because they were away or the timing wasn’t convenient for some reason or another. So if it can work for you and you’re not entirely stressed out getting ready for your fall line-up of events, how about another thank you event for late-August?

Just host it at a different time of day, so for those who couldn’t make it at the time of day of your earlier event, make this one a continental breakfast with a guest speaker (very brief, of course) at a spot that’s suitable. A place that helps set the right tone for you. And of course this gathering is all about thanking, and all about how pleased we are to get together to celebrate the people who support us and make it possible for us to deliver the important mission we get to bring to our community. It’s great! And it’s all because of the fine people here in this room with us! And folks are there and they chat, and you have a few staff and board members with you and we get to talk and you’ll be so surprised what you learn. And when you get back to the office you debrief and talk about what you noticed, what you learned. Your donors will leave feeling appreciated. Nice job! How many nonprofits take the time to make their supporters feel valued? Not enough of them.

So good for you. And let me tell you, this will be remembered. As will the fact that it was sponsored by one of your supporters…and didn’t come from the money that was donated to you. How great is that?

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Prepare Your Board Now for Fall Annual Appeal

Summertime is the right time to get organized for your annual appeal.

Like most nonprofit organizations in this world, you will likely be sending snail mail and email to your donor list in November and December asking for donations in support of work that advances your mission.

As you look over that donor list this summer, I strongly recommend that you involve your Board of Directors in this process. You may have heard me sing this tune before. If so, that’s excellent. I consider this one of my greatest hits. And it’s on my blockbuster album so here we go again.

Get your Board involved. Have them scan your donor list for names they might recognize. They should write a personal note to your donors asking for the gift. Or call them directly, or email them, or go visit them with the return envelope. Whatever method works best for them. Have multiple approaches available, and keep track of which board member is reaching out to which donors in which method.

And follow up two weeks after the fact.

Remind your Board members that the campaign will kick off on which date, and that they should expect to receive materials to do their part a week in advance of campaign’s inception.

All clear?


You should expect AT LEAST a 10% spike in campaign results employing this method, and perhaps as much as a 30% increase in returns over the prior year if you haven’t used this approach before. Remember, too, to employ this tactic in your follow-up to non-responders.

Are we on the same page? Perfect! Let’s boost results by adding a personal touch to donors who have a connection to your Board members.

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Board Essentials: Assessing Executive Performance

Today I’m revisiting a topic from several months ago: The board’s role in assessing and supporting the CEO of the nonprofit. Performance review is a Board Essential that’s easy to neglect. Every year, or every other year, there is likely a new chair/president of the board. Rotation of officers can create a situation where CEO assessment can get overlooked. It’s important to have a reliable, annual process in place that engages the whole board in the process.

I advise my clients to have the CEO start the process with a report on his/her achievements in the past year, highlighting things of importance that need attention next year. This self-assessment should be based on the job description. And any items flagged last year that were to be attended to in the year now coming to a close. So there’s a cycle to this. And it’s a priority for the elected chair of the board.

There’s a deadline for submission of the CEO self-assessment report. The board chair forms a small work group or the executive committee or an ad hoc personnel committee to do the follow-up work with the CEO. The full board is apprised of the process and is asked to discuss and then vote its agreement, or not. Once a process is set and the CEO report is in hand, the committee meets. The group discusses the CEO report. Do they agree with the assessment? Do they want more information? When they’re ready (within two weeks of receiving the report), the board chair arranges a meeting of the committee with the CEO. There’s an open discussion. Things that went well are identified. Things that need some attention are also identified. Do all parties agree? The chair prepares an executive summary for the board which is confidential and between the board and the CEO. Staff input to this process might be sought if the group feels it will be desirable and helpful. But the board should plan and implement this element with care. The idea is not to have staff evaluate their CEO’s performance. This can easily devolve into “end around” activity that undermines the CEO authority in the staff relationship. Having a person on the board with strong HR experience who can help organize this so the outcome is viewed as helpful and constructive to the volunteers as well as to the CEO.

BoardSource is a good place to go for best practice tools in facilitating this process. Their publication Assessing and Supporting Your Chief Executive is an excellent e-document to purchase and use as a guide.

The idea is not to allow “we always did it this way” to set in. Change is good. Change is healthy. Finding ways to institutionalize change so it’s productive and not destabilizing can help keep the nonprofit performing at its max capabilities and not get stuck in old, tired ways of operating.

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