After three decades of immersion in the nonprofit culture, I occasionally allow myself to imagine what it would be like to start all over again. Assuming I were in the process of founding a new nonprofit I would have the authority to choose my own team! In this hypothetical, I could shape the mode of governance and select the participants I think would interface most effectively!
Here are some of the decisions I might make based on current realities:(more…)
The Nonprofit CEO Exceeds The Authority Boundary – What Happens Then?
By: Eugene Fram
Viewer Favorite Updated & Revised
It happens! When it does, it’s the board’s job to inform the CEO that he or she has taken on too much authority. As a board chair of a human service nonprofit, I encountered such a situation. The CEO signed a long-term lease contract on his own that should first have been approved by the board. The financial obligations involved weren’t significant. When the CEO recognized his error, I then asked for formal board ratification. None of us does out jobs perfectly. But a CEO has to recognize the board’s ultimate authority for long-term contracts and similar issues, even when the financial obligations are insignificant. Obviously, if the CEO continually takes such actions, there is a serious communication problem. (more…)
Lifestyle & Behavioral Information – Some New Ways To Seek High Performance Nonprofit Directors
By: Eugene Fram Free Digital Image
Viewer Favorite—Updated & Revised
Over the last several years, I have conducted nonprofit board recruitment projects. The boards with which I worked had rather similar challenges.
• They had concerns recruiting sufficient numbers of board members to fill their needs.
• Current board members, largely composed of younger people, in the 30-40-age range, had significant problems balancing work and family obligations and attending board and committee meetings.
• Attendance was sporadic. Although the boards were small, directors really did not know each other, and another director sent a subordinate to attend board meetings. In one case, a well-regarded director never attended meeting and only occasionally met with the ED to offer advice. One director, with decades of experience on a board, admitted she did not know other directors. In both instances EDs and board chairs had significant power. One ED complained she was doing the work of operating the organization and operating the board, and She had too much potential liability.
• Although these organizations, with budgets in the $8-$10 million range were operating successfully, the EDs involved realized that they were in line for long-term problems if board recruiting didn’t change. (more…)
Does A New Nonprofit Board Director Really Understand Your Organization? The Board Nurturing Challenge!
By: Eugene Fram Free Digital Image
Viewer Favorite—Undated & Revised
The careful nurturing of a board member, whether for-profit or nonprofit, is critical. The pay-off of a robust orientation process is an informed and fully participating board director. The following are very similar occurrences in both for-profit and nonprofit boards:
The CEO of a transportation firm agrees to become a board director of a firm developing computer programs. He has risen through the transportation ranks with a financial background, but he knows little about the dynamics of the computer industry.
A finance professor is asked to serve on the board of a nonprofit school serving handicapped children. She has no children of her own and has never had any contact with handicapped children, social workers or teachers serving handicapped children. (more…)
Is Your Nonprofit’s Mission Disruptable? Remove “Rose Colored” Glasses!
By: Eugene Fram
The missions of many in independent book stores have been disrupted in recent years, although a few with unique offerings seem to be making a comeback. Nonprofit board members and managers may feel their missions are immune to disruption. They come to the following conclusions, using the proverbial rose-colored glasses.*
Our board is doing a great job!
We have no worries—we have (or just hired) a great CEO or Executive Director!
When push comes to shove, our board can raise big dollars!
Our board of directors is like a good family!
But nonprofit realists know it can happen—they point to Easter Seals that successfully modified its mission when polio vaccine was introduced. In contrast, many nonprofits offering face-to face counseling services failed to understand the impact of new pharmaceuticals, the number of counseling agencies declined. (more…)
An Important Guide to Creating High Performing Boards, February 14, 2017
The nonprofit governance model outlined in Policy Vs. Paper Clips (https://goo.gl/j4EK5) has served my organization extremely well for more than two and a half decades. The proof of the model’s value is the growth and performance of our organization, our respected stature in the community (and beyond), and our ongoing ability to recruit top talent to our Board. Our Board governance structure has made possible several bold decisions over the last 30 years that have changed the trajectory of our organization.
Thirty years ago I was a brand new leader of a not for profit agency in Rochester NY with an annual budget of $5M and 160 employees who served 800 clients a year throughout 5 counties. Today, I am still the CEO; however it is a very different agency, having expanded its services significantly, broadening the populations we serve throughout 35 counties with a budget of 37M and 800 employees with a much bigger impact of 150,000 clients served annually. I feel very fortunate that early in my agency career that the book’s author (then a respected professor at a major university in my city) accepted my invitation to come talk to my Board about the model and its advantages for our nonprofit.
We adopted the model soon after and ever since it has defined our governance structure. We’ve only made one modification (creating a separate audit committee) because it was required by state regulations. Here’s why I think the model has been so powerful for us:
The basic premise that the Board and CEO are partners who mutually respect each other’s roles is paramount to our success.
The Executive Committee serves as the “steering committee” and sets the Board’s annual agenda and priorities, and fulfills the key role of being the CEO’s “sounding board.”
Our lean committee structure(Assessment & Planning and Resources) allows for substantive discussion on important issues. Board members who aren’t officers have only one commitment and can devote both time and attention to their committee’s mission.
As CEO, I work very closely with the Executive Committee to ensure the right leadership is selected to serve in officer roles. The Executive Committee also provides “succession” for senior Board leadership. Typically committee heads are groomed for Board Chair, though this position can also be filled from other officer roles.
I’ve lived the model for a very long time and happily attest that it works!
A. Gidget Hopf , Ed.D., is President and CEO of Goodwill of the Finger Lakes and its affiliate The Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired-Goodwill Industries of Greater Rochester.