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Posts Tagged ‘Energizing the Board’

Now that We’ve Got ’em, What Do We Do with ’em?

So the Governance committee has been out and about seeking volunteers who would like to join our Board. And who bring something we need to the table.
They identified a volunteer on the finance committee, and one from the HR committee who have worked with us for nearly two years and feel like the move up to the Board would be a good experience.
Our Board meets 4 times a year. Twice in fall, once in winter, once in spring. Off for the summer. Our chair runs excellent meetings. Never more than two hours. Always have a client join us to tell us her story at the start of our meetings. To set the right tone.
Beyond members of standing committees, Governance committee members recruited a couple of others from the community. We were fortunate to find an estate planner at a mid-size law firm in town who cares about our mission and would like to help us get our legacy giving program off the ground. And a small business owner whose Mom was helped by one of our program professionals decided this would be her opportunity to “give back.” She has been very generous in many ways. But it was pretty clear to the volunteers on Governance that this young lady is an eager-beaver whose business is soaring and who will bring some adrenaline to our cause.
So. Four new board members joining what will be a group of fourteen. Three members will rotate off. They have hit the ceiling on term limits and, no hard feelings, agreed it was time to move on. Good to know we can call on each of them if we need them.
So. Healthy board. Strong capacity for growth.
Outlook is good.

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Strategic Meetings for the Strategic Board

Nonprofit boards struggle with quorum issues, which usually is an indicator of lack of motivation.
Board members want to use their precious time effectively.
Do they look forward to board meetings with eager anticipation? Or with foreboding?

Take 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:

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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Fully Engaging Your Nonprofit Networks

Here we are, ready to launch into 2015.
The New Year is a good time to take stock. How is our Annual Appeal doing? Are we going to meet or exceed goal? How are we doing reaching our friends and our potential new friends with a message that properly declares the need of those we serve?
In recent years, our economy has not experienced inflationary growth. Some might say that growth is far too gradual. We need to raise more funds from more friends of our mission to feel “successful.”
Nonprofit organizations must utilize their precious networks — to strengthen their ability to deliver on their mission today and to grow tomorrow.The goodwill, future financial support, and contacts developed by networking will be the silver lining to emerge if we work our resources well.
Networking is the art of identifying, cultivating, and engaging friends of your organization. These friendships ultimately may yield monetary support, sources of non-financial support, and ambassadors who can cultivate more friends. Now is the time to identify these potential friends, hone your messaging, and plan how to best deliver those messages. By getting your staff, board of directors, and other volunteers ready to communicate your message, you’ll build your capacity to thrive.The best place to start is a meeting of the board of directors, who must stay mindful of their role as emissaries for the organization to which they have committed. They know the mission, they know the goals, they know the good that the organization brings to the community. How do they communicate this value? How do they spread the good news with people they work with, play with, pray with?
Start with a conversation. Take some time at a staff meeting and the next board meeting to talk about reaching out to friends to share your mission. There may be members who are doing this now. Identify them before the next meeting. Ask them to share their techniques with the group. Use their experiences to kick off the discussion. Listen for the ideas that have been most successful. Share a summary of the results with all who can benefit from these experiences.
Continue the conversation. Be sure to put the discussion on the agenda for subsequent meetings. Find out in advance who is trying the new techniques. Ask one or two of the new practitioners to report on what they’re doing.
Engage communications experts to share advice. Do you have a director of communications on your staff? If not, does one of your board members or volunteers have communication expertise? Strategize with this person about your approach to engaging networks. Incorporate messages that are consistent with your brand so your staff and volunteers are talking about your work in a unified and consistent way.
Twitter? Facebook? Blogs? Is someone on your team familiar with social media and willing to show others how to effectively use these tools? It’s likely that this person will be younger than most of the team. If so, this is an excellent opportunity to let an up-and-comer show their stuff. An effective plan for social media can engage people you otherwise might miss who will support your mission once they learn what the organization is about.
What’s your story? Nonprofit organizations have numerous stories about your clients’ great experience with your services. Incorporate telling of stories as part of “conversation time.” A program staff person or a volunteer probably has more than one such story to share. Let your group hear a story or two each time you meet, and encourage your board, staff, and volunteers to retell these stories when they are out engaging their networks.
Begin at the beginning. Gary Stern, a marketing expert based in Portland, Maine, encourages nonprofits to be sure that their mission and clients are in the forefront of their thinking, planning, and doing. “Begin at the beginning” is his first admonition in his pamphlet, “Ten Things Every Board Member Should Know.” In your networking, you want your conversation and stories to be about the people you serve. That way, potential supporters and volunteers will be more eager to join your cause when they realize that it’s more about the people you serve than it is about your organization.
There is a reservoir of good will out there, ready to hear about the good you do. And every day, your volunteers and staff talk with many people who will want to help bring the “good” you deliver to more people. Your organization’s job is to forge links through staff, board, and volunteer networks so you can grow the circle of friends and supporters. When you take the time to apply creative approaches to communication through networks, you engage and energize people for your mission. It takes commitment and work, but it will put your organization in the strongest possible position as the economy continues to strengthen.

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To Make an Omelette, You Need to Break a Few Eggs

Tuesday night (February 11) in my Northeastern University fundraising class, students presented their Donor Acquisition project to our “client” nonprofit. Our client is a living, breathing charitable organization based in the Greater Boston area. The student team was helping the Development Director think about raising money for a new program.
Usually when we work with nonprofits we’re thinking about the overall organization. We tend to shy away from projects where we raise money for just one aspect of the work. Because these funds become in a sense, “restricted.” These funds are for a single purpose.
We spent part our our time together Tuesday thinking through how to introduce this to the Board.
How can we build some enthusiasm for this new effort…recognizing that we run the risk of drawing attention away from the “old standbys.”
We recommended a specially designed presentation at the meeting that will put a spark in what otherwise might feel like a “business as usual” Board meeting. Maybe a musical skit. Maybe a party with special desserts, balloons, and all the stuff. Something. Out of the ordinary.
Nonprofit leaders should consider taking a special, unusual, even extraordinary approach when trying to get the Board’s attention on something important.
So think about escaping the “same-old, same-old” at your meeting when you have something new up your sleeve.

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Urgency Around the Nonprofit Mission

It’s way too easy to fall into patterns of complacency. And when this happens, the energy dissipates and we lose that zip for the mission. So how do we recapture the sense of urgency around the nonprofit mission? One way to achieve this is to invite one or two people who benefit from your services to come to the next board meeting and tell a story. The story about how your nonprofit made a difference in their lives. What is it, who is it, why is it that something sparked and life felt a bit better because of that experience. Build the meeting agenda around the story or stories. Make sure whatever is on the board agenda is essential for the nonprofit. That the topic will drive an important decision the board needs to make now or in the near future. That we’re not just reciting reports to make committee chairs feel important. Of course, they are important. But everyone’s time is important, and hearing a report that’s already in written form and easily readable by literate members of the board is not a good use of their time. Don’t undermine the sense of urgency with reports which can just as easily be read. Please. Let’s think about ACTION and what needs to be discussed that moves us in the direction of a decision.

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