April 05, 2011 “Nonprofit Board Crisis,” Mike Burns
BWB Solutions, Branford, Conn.
Policy vs. Paper Clips is back!
Uh, ok you might say. What are you talking about? Well, a long, long time ago (1995 to be precise) somewhere in these contiguous United States, a humble professor thought hard and deeply about nonprofit governance and even harder and deeper about what we call Corporate Governance. And, rather than write the same old instructional literature to reflect his thoughts and experience about corporate governance (which is all about policy), Eugene Fram (Doctor Fram to you) constructed a long-distance dialog between two associates. In this dialog they mused and thought aloud about the victories and challenges of the Corporate Governance model.
Dr. Fram has not stopped thinking since 1995 and lots of folks have had a variety of experiences in testing the Corporate Governance model. And if you have heard me say it once, you’ve heard me say it a thousand times: I’m not a proponent of one particular model. I believe that there are a number of factors that influence how a nonprofit board should operate at any given time in whatever stage of development it is experiencing.
While Dr. Fram is certainly an advocate for the Corporate Governance model, you don’t have to be a believer to find a number of gems applicable to all nonprofit governance issues contained now in his just released third edition of Policy vs. Paper Clips.
Over the next few weeks I will be discussing some of Dr. Fram’s offerings. Stay tuned. In the meantime, you can order the book at Amazon for a price cheaper than the 2nd edition.
Tuesday, April 5, 2011 “Nonprofit Conversation
Bunnie Riedel, Host
There’s a lot of advice out there about governance structure. Particularly when a board has always operated in a certain way, sorting through all the advice and finding the governance structure that fits your nonprofit can be difficult. And it is more difficult when the board has acted as staff and now must transition to policy makers. Dr. Eugene Fram sent me a copy of his book Policy vs. Paper Clips and I found it to be an interesting read. One of the reasons it is actually a fun book to read is Dr. Fram tells the story of how to transition to a corporate model of governance through the fictional exchange of emails between friends. Here are some of the things you can expect from the book: From Dr. Fram…
Policy vs. Paper Clips is an unusual how-to book. It is a serious subject – improving nonprofit board governance while enhancing a management focus – but it is written in a highly user friendly way. Two old friends with ties to vastly different nonprofit organizations discuss via email what it takes to adopt the Corporate Model, an approach that can position your nonprofit to meet the demanding realities of the 21st century world.
Given today’s difficult times for nonprofits, hardly any can continue to operate as they have in the past. For most, it is no longer possible for a volunteer group of directors to be involved in day-to-day operations of the organization. The Corporate Model establishes a framework for separating policy development from operational activities. When customized appropriately to your own nonprofit, the Model promotes growth. This book shows you how to tap the creative energies of the board of directors to address critical issues about vision, direction, assessment of outcomes; how to adapt to new challenges and how to capture emerging opportunities – while turning over day-to-day operational matters to management.
The Corporate Model works best for nonprofits that have an annual budget of about $1 million or more and staffs of about 15 or more. However, anyone associated with a nonprofit group can benefit from reading this book. It provides an essential self-examination that can serve as a catalyst for becoming a more dynamic organization.
Your Board Members & Chief Executive Working Together Can More Effectively:
• Focus an organization on strategic issues over operational minutiae
• Encourage directors to bring their special expertise & cultural values to board discussions
• Understand the need for – and implement – rigorous assessment of operational outcomes
• Pinpoint management’s responsibility & clarify its responsibility
• Establish a system of organizational checks & balances
• Allow for more management flexibility to develop a more entrepreneurial culture
• Increase focus on productivity at the expense of bureaucratic processes
• Improve the CEO’s fund raising capacity to drive development productivity
• Obtain greater efficiencies through lower costs
• Keep board involvement high when developing policies & strategies
• Create a partnership between board and staff that builds trust
Your Board Members Can More Effectively:
• Provide an appropriate mission-focused board structure for growth
• Operate effectively with only three standing board committees
• Make major board structural changes with minimum disruption
• Evaluate the chief executive fairly despite only having imperfect metrics
• Reduce or increase board size
• Develop effective audit committee & fraud protection procedures
You can contact Dr. Fram at