Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Is Consensus Our Board Goal?

How many real decisions did your board make in the past year, beyond the budget and any routine signoffs that various funders might require? Do you ever wonder whether your primary goal, as a board, is to help lead the organization or to be sure everyone gets along and is not offended by a decision or position of the organization?

When I speak with board members of various nonprofit organizations, it seems pretty typical for many boards to go for months, even years, without posing a true decision for the board. How could this be? 

I regularly hear comments like: 
·         We always approve everything unanimously
·         It is uncomfortable to disagree
·         Decisions are made before the issue comes to the board
·         The board shouldn’t be just a rubber stamp

In contrast, I am supporting an organization through a strategic planning process who perceived everyone on the board was in general agreement and had full understanding of their program model and organizational priorities until they got into the planning kickoff discussion. Underlying perceptions and assumptions have come to light and now can be more clearly defined and stated.

If you are a CEO or board leader, these possibilities can feel uncomfortable because it can be difficult to actually get things done if every  decision is opened up to broad discussion. In addition, board members are usually not “experts” on the particular topic at hand and it takes time to appropriately equip your board team to have critical discussion and make important decisions.

A Starting Point:
·         Confirm what authority the staff leader has to make decisions – most organization decisions should be made by the CEO/Executive Director within the constraints of the budget and strategic plan
·         With the full board, define the expectations of the Executive Committee in determining what discussions and decisions come to the board. Define what decisions, if any, the Executive Committee will make.
·         Focus board discussions around future issues and high level discussions of who you serve and how you allocate resources to best accomplish your mission.
·         Don’t bring a decision to the board for approval if the CEO/Executive Director has the authority to make the decision – put it in the CEOs Report as an FYI
·         Clarify what your bylaws say about making decisions. Most boards make most decisions with the majority of members in attendance(assuming quorum). Learn to disagree with each other respectfully and allow time for discussion separate from the decision.
·         How can you better equip your board members to understand the people you serve and the way you do your work?  They will make better decisions and share your story with more confidence and clarity.
·         Do not get stuck in consensus or unanimous mode, because it can empower one or two individuals to control the destiny of the organization by withholding their votes.
·         It is important for board members who disagree to be willing to support the decision after their perspective has been acknowledged and considered.

By Bryan Orander, President, Charitable Advisor and Not-for-Profit News

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Welcome to the Age of the New Normal (www.Guidestar.org )

Partly due to the Great Recession, partly due to rapid advances in technology, and in part due to changes in our cultural norms, we have entered into the Age of the New Normal. And this New Normal is affecting every facet of how nonprofit organizations conduct their businesses, from raising funds to using new technologies to workplace issues.

To stay current and viable as an organization in this Age of the New Normal, here are just a few of the questions that need answers:

· How dependent are we on government funding?

· Do we still believe that marketing and branding would make us look too much like the for-profit sector?

· Are we still trying to raise money under the rubric of being a "charity that makes a difference"?

· How well do we collect and leverage our data?

· How well do our employees work together, especially employees from different age groups?

· Are we getting the most out of our volunteers?

· What about our use of technology?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

How could 'Walking for Dreams 2011' benefit your Organization?

Last year, 30 nonprofits recruited over 1000 walkers and raised more than $91,000. Over the past 8 years, close to 100 different organizations have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, in total.
(Bryan) have been involved since the 2nd or 3rd year walking for several different organizations. I think of 'Walking for Dreams' as the walk-a-thon event for organizations who: 1) aren't big enough to do their own event or 2) don't want to spend valuable volunteer or staff time on event organizing, or 3) want to gather a group of their supporters around fund raising for one particular program.

Here's how it works: There is a $300 upfront fee but then the Sycamore Foundation plans, manages, and runs the event. They even provide an on-line donation website where your walkers can form teams and receive donations. All your nonprofit does is solicit walkers to participate and raise funds for your organization. Whether you have 5 walkers or 50, it is a fun event and can raise a meaningful amount of money for the effort you invest.

Promoted as the 'Walking for Dreams Family and Pet 5k Walk', the event encompasses just a couple hours of a beautiful Sunday afternoon on the scenic Canal Walk downtown. The energy is terrific, the colors are bright, the faces are happy. Each organization is assigned a table to greet and gather their walkers plus promote their organization to others in attendance. Everyone steps out together and then winds their way through the walk route and back to food and festivities at their own pace.

A Walk-a-thon event is a great way to introduce people to your organization, a good strategy to give reluctant board members or staff a '
safe' way to talk about your organization with friends and family, and a nice time for social connection between people who care about your organization.

To learn more or get signed up for the May 22, 2011 event, plan to attend the informational meeting on Friday, January 14 at 8:30 AM at the Irvington Office Center (338 S. Arlington Avenue).  For more details you can also visit www.WalkingforDreams.org or call 317-260-0669.