non-profit management

Enlarging the Nonprofit Recruitment Matrix: The art of selecting new board members—Part II

Enlarging the Nonprofit Recruitment Matrix: The art of selecting new board members—Part II

By: Eugene Fram        Free Digital Image

There’s never enough to say about the selection of nonprofit board members. Following my last post on board behaviors and cultures I ran across a guide fo desirable skills/abilities for “for-profit” directors. From this list, I suggest the following additions to the recruitment matrices of 21st century nonprofit board candidates to improve board productivity. * Those included will have:

Executive and Non-Executive Experiences: These include planners with broad perspectives needed to have visionary outlooks, a well as persons with unusually strong dedication to the organization’s mission. It may include a senior executive from a business organization and a person who has had extensive client level experience. Examples for an association for the blind could be the human resources VP for a Fortune 500 corporation and/or a visually impaired professor at a local university.

Industry Experience or Knowledge: An active or retired executive who has or is working in the same or allied field. However, those who can be competitive with the nonprofit for fund development could then present a significant conflict of interest.

Leadership: Several directors should be selected on the bases of their leadership skills/abilities in business or other nonprofit organizations. Having too many with these qualifications may lead to internal board conflict, especially if they have strong personalities.

Governance: Every board member should have a detailed understanding of the role of governance, their overview, financial/due diligence responsibilities and the potential personal liabilities if they fail to exercise due care. In practice, nonprofits draw from such a wide range of board backgrounds, one can only expect about one-quarter of most boards to have the requisite knowledge. But there are many nonprofit boards that I have encountered that even lack one person with the optimal board/management governance knowledge. Some become so involved with mission activities that they do what the leadership tells them when governance issues are raised. Example: One nonprofit the author encountered, with responsibilities for millions of dollars of assets, operated for 17 years without D&O insurance coverage because the board leadership considered it too costly.

Strategic Thinking & Other Desirable Behavioral Competencies: Not every board member can be capable of or interested in strategic thinking. Their job experiences and educations require them to excel in operations, not envisioning the future. Consequently, every board needs several persons who have visionary experiences and high Emotional
Quotients (EQs.) Those with high EQs can be good team players because they are able to empathize with the emotion of others in the group. Finding board candidates with these abilities takes detailed interpersonal vetting because they do not appear on a resume.

Subject Matter Expertise: Nonprofit Boards have had decades of experience in selecting board candidates by professional affiliations like businessperson, marketing expert, accountant, etc.

Other Factors Relevant to the Particular Nonprofit: Examples: A nonprofit dedicated to improve the lives of children needs to seek a child psychology candidate. One focusing on seniors should seek a geriatric specialist.





Nonprofit Boards’ Relationship with Executive Directors: A Delicate Balance


Nonprofit Boards’ Relationship with Executive Directors: A Delicate Balance

By: Eugene Fram 

When an individual with business board experience agrees to serve on a nonprofit board, the result can be culture shock! The new arrival can become impatient with the deliberate crawl of action in the nonprofit sector. Or the fact that he/she has no stake in the organization’s financial outcome can diminish interest and participation. Even more disturbing is the fuzziness of the relationship between board member and Executive Director, a sharp contrast to the corporate director/ CEO interaction. In the nonprofit, the ED can assume a more entrenched position due to cultural and governance protocols.

  • Long before and after the new board member’s four to six year term has expired, it’s likely that the same ED will be in place. Based on national data, a nonprofit executive director’s average tenure is 12 years. In addition, directors’ career interests are likely to be very different from those operating the nonprofit. These two factors invest the ED with “institutional memory.” This requires him/her to structure a field of vision on which directors are often dependent. If the ED lacks foresight, the nonprofit will probably not reach its potential to serve clients during his/her tenure.
  • Board members will have a difficult time modifying a nonprofit’s conservative ambiance. Full support of the ED will be required for change. If a board is unable to modify his/her behavior, a termination action will be needed—this will likely create board conflict.
  • Nonprofit directors are often not eager to replace an ED who “minds the store” but doesn’t move it significantly forward. Without malfeasance or performance issues, many directors are willing to maintain an ED in place whose performance is, at best, undistinguished.

Based on my experiences with 12 nonprofit boards as a board member plus having consulted with dozens more, following are ways I have seen business persons become acculturated to the nonprofit ED’s leadership styles. Instead of resigning, as some do, there remain many who continue to work productively with the ED to enhance the organization. Following are profiles, albeit stereotypical, of undaunted directors with business board experience (and without). (more…)

The Nonprofit CEO Exceeds The Authority Boundary – What Happens Then?


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…)

An Important Guide to Creating High Performing Boards

                                                                                                                                                                                               Free Digital Image
The nonprofit governance model outlined in “Policy vs. Paper Clips”  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!

Gidget Hopf, Ed.D, President/CEO at Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired-Goodwill of Greater Rochester






Can A Nonprofit Find Strategic Ways To Grow in Unsettled Times?


Can A Nonprofit Find Strategic Ways To Grow in Unsettled Times?

By: Eugene Fram                                Free Digital Image

Viewer Favorite: Undated and Revised for Current Conditions

Nonprofits have always had to struggle to meet their client needs, even when economic conditions and social turmoil were much less constraining than today  and they have dim prospects for the next four years.  How can mid-level nonprofits uncover growth opportunities in the present environment? (more…)

Nonprofit Board Discourse: a Meeting of the Minds??

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Nonprofit Board Discourse: a Meeting of the Minds??

By: Eugene Fram

Several years ago, a nonprofit director complained to me that there was too little “conflict” at board meetings. Too few hands were raised to challenge or simply question the efficacy of certain important agenda items. Having participated in hundreds of nonprofit meetings, I can vehemently report that this laissez-faire response still typifies the majority of director attitudes, especially for items that deserve vigorous discussion. Why is that? And why is the term conflict perceived as an asset to an organization that is determined to move forward? Below are some answers based on my own experience in the nonprofit environment. (more…)

Resolution for 2017—Focus on Long-Term Nonprofit Sustainability


Resolution for 2017—Focus on Long-Term Nonprofit Sustainability

By: Eugene Fram                            Free Digital Photo

Nonprofit boards, like their business counter-parts, can become complacent and lose their vitality. This sets the stage for nonprofit disruptions by the social and technical environments that surround them.   Following are some crucial priority questions (listed in bold) that have been raised for business boards. * They easily can be modified to drive the thinking of nonprofit directors and help them keep nonprofits sustainable and productive. (more…)