nonprofit board culture

Nonprofit Board Discourse: a Meeting of the Minds??

id-100147926Free Digital Photo

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…)

The Wells Fargo Debacle—Insights for Nonprofit Directors



The Wells Fargo Debacle—Insights for Nonprofit Directors

By: Eugene Fram                          Digital Free Image

Like apples and oranges, a comparison between a $23 billion corporation and a typical nonprofit organization is hardly appropriate. Yet the recent upheaval at the Wells Fargo Corporation provides a cautionary tale for those who serve on nonprofit boards.

On September 8, 2016, the following report appeared in The New York Times: (more…)

Unwritten Protocols for Directors Can Boost Nonprofits’ Effectiveness


Unwritten Protocols for Directors Can Boost Nonprofits’ Effectiveness

By:  Eugene Fram                                        Free Digital Photo

Nonprofit boards are governed by a series of obligations —some are clearly defined as legal responsibilities such as financial actions. Others, however, are less clearly defined and relate to people who are, in some way, associated with the organization. Guidelines to these diverse interactions are not typically archived in policies but are important to the overall professionalism of the board. They include consideration of its: board structure, internal operations, recruitment methods and leadership style. (more…)

Practical suggestions to improve nonprofit boards’ outcomes and impacts.


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Do any of these describe you or your nonprofit board members?

·         Don’t have a way to effectively measure “client impact.”

·         Must build CEO/board fundraising capacity.

·         Have trustees who “micromanage” management.

·         Never get to strategic discussions. Focus is strictly operations.

·         Need a broad framework that separates policy & strategy development from operational activities.

·         Have a board/staff relationship that isn’t built on trust.

·         Need task forces that deliver more effective, timely results.

These books can help!    Please share this email with others who can benefit!


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Eugene Fram, Ed.D, Professor Emeritus





Stay on That Nonprofit Board!

id-100264818Stay on That Nonprofit Board!

By: Eugene Fram                      Free Digital Photo

Viewer Favorite Updated and Revised

Gene Takagi, noted San Francisco attorney, who specializes in nonprofit organizations published an article listing 12 reasons for resigning from a nonprofit board. It is worth reading. (http://bit.ly1r2M5Hi)


Nonprofit directors often become impatient with the slow pace of progress toward positive changes that will  impact client services. Here are some actions that may change the situation, improve service to clients and prepare the organization for any long-term mission disruptions. These changes may be necessary to sustain the nonprofit in uncertain times.    (more…)

How Does Cultural Intelligence (CQ) Impact A Nonprofit Board?


How Does Cultural Intelligence (CQ) Impact A Nonprofit Board?

By: Eugene Fram                   Free Digital Photo

There are many ways to assess the balance of capabilities on a nonprofit board. EDs and board chairs are generally familiar with the implications of terms like IQ (cognitive ability) and EQ (emotional intelligence). New research has added a third characteristic— cultural intelligence or CQ. * Obviously, CQ comes into focus when boards are dealing with global or international issues. But its usefulness is still germane to community-based and/or domestically focused professional/trade associations. Making a change in board strategy is at best a challenging process. But when that plan collides with cultural differences, board culture will trump change. To paraphrase Peter Drucker’s pronouncement—“Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch.”

Following are a few of the many types of nonprofit CQ divisions that I have observed:


Nonprofit Board Recruitment Process Calls For New Approach

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Nonprofit Board Recruitment Process Calls For New Approach

By: Eugene Fram

One thing is certain about nonprofit director turnover is a board completely turns over about every four to six years. * With that fact in mind, both board and management need to act as interim “talent scouts” for potential directors who will be competent to tackle the sometimes unpredictable challenges of the future. Just as unexpected crises will confound the new president elect and his colleagues, those who occupy the nonprofit boardroom must be well equipped to deal with the inevitable issues that are certain to arise.  **

Current recruitment processes in many nonprofit organizations commonly rely on familiarity with past directors whose terms have taken the obligatory year hiatus between tenure periods. Or a superficial scan is done of who’s “available” that may conveniently favor friends and relatives—indeed often legacy directors. The process rarely includes “dark horse” candidates that could allow fresh viewpoints to broaden meeting discussions. And although recruitment grids can be filled by mid-career professionals with special expertise, they lead time compressed lifestyles and may show little interest in the governance function or strategic planning– so critical to running an organization. It becomes clear that the board needs new and different recruiting options.

Following are different approaches that nonprofits can apply when seeking 21st century board members. ***

Find atypical candidates.

This can involve identifying active board members in other nonprofits that are about to term-out of their current positions. In some instances, colleague CEOs or friends on other boards may help identify some of these types of candidates. Also seek the names of people who have had broad experiences in business or professions and are about to retire from full-time positions. Make finding atypical candidates a plank in the strategic plan because it calls for a different and more difficult approach to recruiting.

Look beyond the resume to candidates’ behaviors.

Nonprofit organizations have generally recruited board members on the basis of their working background title. Any attorney with expertise has been acceptable. But, for example, a board  most often needs a corporate practice attorney who will become a behavioral role model for the other directors. It also needs several directors with strategic planning experiences. In recruiting a business CEO, it becomes necessary to assess personality. Some CEOs are great team players. Others have been successful as authoritarian figures. Taking recruiting actions like these have not been built into the DNA of nonprofit boards.

Make diversity a priority

Diverse boards are usually a requirement for nonprofit organizations. But many boards do not pay serious attention to this requirement. Community centered boards, for example, may have gender diversity but continually recruit from family, colleagues, neighbors and friends, a homogeneous cohort. The 21st century calls for boards to be both diverse and inclusive and must recruit well beyond these four cohorts.

Recruitment needs to be speedy and efficient.

Knowledgeable candidates will first judge the nonprofit as to how well it has been managed or whether or not it is on the road to becoming better managed. Except for a person who is highly dedicated to the mission, nobody wants to join a board or organization in conflict. A desirable candidate will also judge the nonprofit board on the basis of how the recruiting process is conducted. A rapid, transparent and efficient recruitment process provides positive evidence.

In my view, much of nonprofit board recruiting is focused on who is available, rather than the board rigorously seeking who should be available.   There is a need to use the four points listed above to add more rigor to the process in order to seek tomorrow’s leaders today.

* The national median board tenure for nonprofit board members cited by several studies.

**Example See: “Going for Impact” ©2016