Endorsements

After our orientation meeting, Steve dove right into the task, and along the way, became an ardent supporter and coach for Blue Ocean Society. Once the board determined that developing our board was critical to ensuring our capacity to perform our mission, Steve facilitated our creation of a board member role and responsibilities document. In less than a year, we recruited 3 new board members who have brought tremendous strength to the organization. I am now proud to talk about our board and able to better articulate the organization's accomplishments. Steve is wonderful to work with - positive, accessible, and skillful at providing ideas and advice. His many years of experience in the non-profit sector make him an ideal consultant and I'm so glad we worked with him.
Jen Kennedy, Executive Director, Blue Ocean Society

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Is Baltimore Hearing from Its Leaders?

From the time of Freddie Gray’s arrest Sunday, April 12 to his death in a Baltimore hospital on Sunday, April 19 it seemed (from the outside looking in) that Baltimore was simmering. Something was brewing, and it started to boil over (according to media reports) on Friday, April 24. Reports in national media linked the treatment of Freddie Gray by Baltimore police as symptomatic of a predominantly white police force handling African American residents they are sworn to protect with excessive force. Not on every occasion. Not every white officer. But it seemed there has been a small segment of the force that abuse their power.
This is not an unusual phenomenon in our USA. How can this be?
So now in recent days we have seen the backlash. The destruction of businesses, of private property, of police vehicles and against police themselves. We know that two wrongs don’t make it right. But we know desperate people commit desperate acts.
So where is Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake in all this? Religious leaders? Sports heroes of the city? Where are the voices of people who all might listen to? Who will come to the neighborhoods and listen to what folks in the poorest blocks of Baltimore have to say?
Where is the problem-solving attitude?
Where are the nonprofit leaders of Baltimore in all this?
National media are giving us pictures of a burning CVS store. People making mayhem in the streets.
Why is it when I Google Baltimore, one of the first phrases I see is “Baltimore riots”?
Can we see some efforts of peace-makers trying to get the situation back to simmer?
Cities that can’t organize to resolve their problems give off a feeling of a cause that is lost.
If our leaders can’t bring the forces of the city together to resolve our problems they have lost their will to lead.
Who will step up?

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One Fund and Boston Strong

Since April 15, 2013 when explosive devices went off at the Boston Marathon finish line, many New Englanders and others have opened their hearts and wallets in support of those who were damaged by this act of terrorism.
The One Fund was inaugurated by then-Mayor Menino to help victims. The on-scene medical response was one reason more deaths did not occur. Major hospitals in Boston had been doing work in emergency response. And respond they did with great effect.
The millions raised by One Fund, and related funds that were established have helped families recover.
One of the less-told stories of this terrible incident is the ability of an array of nonprofit organizations…including the major Boston hospitals…to react to crisis.
Learn more about One Fund and related funds here: https://secure.onefundboston.org/pages/donations.
There is strength in our urban core cities in the USA that often goes unrecognized.

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Legacy Giving: How to Inform Your Donors

At some point, each nonprofit organization should introduce a Planned Giving Program. The question is, when is the right time?

I think Planned Giving logically builds out from the annual fund. As your annual fund grows, maybe by the fifth year, and you have a newsletter in place, it’s the right time to ask donors to consider your nonprofit as a beneficiary in their will.

It helps to have an estate planner on your board. A person with expertise in writing wills or working with financial institutions in creating trust documents that can protect assets from probate. It’s very important to identify an experienced attorney in this area. Some States have Estate Planning Councils, and some States have persons certified to prepare such documents.

If your donor requests some help in this regard, you can provide some language to recommend for inclusion in the person’s will. I do not recommend that the nonprofit get involved in recommending specific attorneys to write wills. there should be an “arm’s length” relationship between the donor and the nonprofit so there is no conflict of interest that can call the ethics or even the legality of a document into question. Contact your State’s Bar Association and learn how they refer inquiries to competent estate planners. If it’s clear that only qualified, experienced planners make the list, you can feel reasonably confident that referring donors to the Bar Association can be beneficial.

When you look at newsletters of universities, hospitals, and voluntary health organizations you will see ads or articles on this subject with recommendations that the individual follow up with a person in the development office for advice on how to proceed. Your nonprofit may not have a development office. But you can have a volunteer attorney with estate planning experience who can assist you properly and help guide donors in a proper and ethical way.

There are other options to investigate, like charitable remainder trusts or charitable gift annuities that can be beneficial to the donor. Recruit competent volunteers to help you get organized. It might take a year of three to get this properly organized. But it’s worth the effort.

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Finding the Right Members for the Effective Board

Last week I wrote about how nonprofit leaderscan go about identifying good candidates for their particular Board.
Part of the focus needs to be on people who share a passion for this nonprofit’s mission.
Here’s a way not to go about it.
A couple of years back, I was at Staples making copies of handouts for my nonprofit fundraising class. Another gentleman was there, making copies of a document. He noticed the subject matter of my material. He asked if this was part of my work. Within 5 minutes of the start of this casual conversation, he asked if I’d consider joining a nonprofit Board he was on that needed help.
Well, I had a clue right then and there why his Board was troubled.
The search and selection process for nonprofit volunteer leadership should be as rigorous as the process for seeking an executive director. There should be a job description, an interview and screening system, and a trial period; perhaps service on a Board committee first.
This is why more nonprofit Boards are designating a Governance Committee with the task of doing the nominating work, and bringing vetted candidates to the Board for consideration.
Thoughtful cultivation of volunteer leaders is a hallmark of an effective nonprofit organization.

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What’s the Mortar that Keeps an Effective Board Together?

Why is it that so many nonprofit boards struggle and fail?
There are so many challenges to nonprofit sustainability. Raising money. Raising a staff in stages. Setting strategic direction. Building and retaining a working Board of Directors.
Today I focus on this last key piece. Building, cultivating and firming up the Board. Not easy. But there are steps from start-up to high performance.
FIRST gather a few (maybe five) people with some sense of what makes a nonprofit work, who love the mission that you’re envisioning, and will give you some time to make this work.
SECOND ask around for sample Board job descriptions. Collect a few. Bring them to one of the first meetings and talk it through. Seek common ground on what it takes to succeed.
THIRD Agree on frequency of meetings. Monthly for first 6 months? Alternate months thereafter?
FOURTH Agree on necessity of committees. Finance. Development. Governance. And recruit a few volunteers to join the committee who want to help but aren’t yet ready for Board prime time.
FIFTH Organize meeting agendas so important stuff needing Board action (vote) come forward. Easy on staff reports. Those can be required reading prior to each meeting.
Get members’ agreement to come to meetings prepared to discuss and decide. As the Board grows, members will develop a sense of what’s involved and where they can best contribute.
Building from ground up gradually over time will help get your nonprofit right where you want it to be.
At least you’ll give this key piece of the puzzle of effectiveness a strong chance of success.

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