Nonprofit CEO-Board Relationships

How Does a Nonprofit Board Know When a CEO Is “Just Minding The Store?”

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How Does a Nonprofit Board Know When a CEO is “Just Minding The Store?”

By Eugene Fram

Viewer Favorite Revised & Updated.       Free Digital Image

David Director (DD) has been the chief executive of a nonprofit for about 15 years. Currently, the organization has a budget of $1.5 million, mainly from governmental contracts and a sprinkling of donations. The nonprofit employs about 20 people full and part-time, and annually serves about 500 people in dire need.

Following is an abstract of the board’s evaluation of DD as the CEO.

High Job Satisfaction: * DD enjoys his work and his position as a chief executive. Staff turnover is very low, and last year, DD led a board-staff committee to configure the new sign in front of the building. An engaging personality, he is liked by both board and staff. He has good press relationships and frequently uses press releases to call attention to client success stories.

A Healthy Organization: During DD’s tenure, revenue growth has averaged about 2% annually. Client growth has been in the same proportion. Organizational finances are is good shape with a balanced budget plus a modest yearly surplus. He has a dashboard to monitor finances.

A Fully Engaged Board: Board members enjoy working on committees such as the new sign campaign (see above), the annual dinner-dance and selecting endowment investments. The audit committee only meets once a year after the completion of the financial audit and its accompanying management letter has been received.

Positive Community Impact: DD keeps records of clients who exit the programs each year, but has been unable to track their long-term impact on the community.

The big question is whether or not DD is just minding the store? I argue that he is.
This hypothetical organization is typical of the types of nonprofits I have encountered over a long time period. The basic fault is that the board is composed of well meaning people attracted to the mission as well as the personality of the chief executive. As a result, the operations of the organization are kept at a steady state with the active minutiae  support of the board. Their rationale for this support is the need to focus on the mission. There also might be a mistaken view that the board must protect staff positions.

Some directors come to the conclusion that there is little one can do to drive change, but stay on to enjoy the networking relationships that can develop. Others who join the board resign quickly, citing work pressures. Still others decline board invitations.

A number of other hints are contained in the case:
• Low staff turnover and DD’s interest in the sign committee. The committee can spend hours talking about its color and lettering!
• Revenue and client growth percentages are very low, probably supported by certainty, to date, that government dollars will continue to be available.
• The committees cited don’t contribute much to clients.  These are management not  boards tasks.
* Many directors who don’t have financial responsibilities seem to get some satisfactions out of making decisions about moving endowment assets around. A robust audit committee meets more than once a year. It is not unusual for fraud to occur in such a situation.
• There is no strategic planning indicated. Nonprofits, like these, also can confuse a SWAT analysis with a strategic plan. Where financial or behavioral objectives are established, measurement outcome data are not included to more rigorously assess outcomes and impacts.
• DD evidently does have the ability to become an effective development person but prefers to spend his time on smaller operational items, such as the new sign committee.
• DD does not provide any strategic insights or vision on trends in his service field. This gap needs to be closed, especially where most of the board members’ experiences are outside those of the nonprofit’s mission.

Summary
In my opinion, there are thousands of nonprofits like the one described. Making changes in their governance or operations is difficult; culturally changes can only take place after a long tenured CEO leaves. Since they never measure up to what they could be, are those organizations with “store minding” leadership limiting the financial and human (board and management) resources needed to serve more clients in dire need?

*Categories described by Molly Polidoroff, Executive Director, Center for Excellence in Nonprofits, Redwood City,

 

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Sustainability: Hot Nonprofit Governance Issue

 

 

 

Sustainability:  Hot Nonprofit Governance Issue

By: Eugene Fram                  Free Digital Imageid-10098886

In the next four years, nonprofit boards will face exceptional challenges affecting long-term financial and operational sustainability. It is likely that governmental grants will substantially decline. Business/individual donor gifts can be reduced should the economy teeter towards recession or the tax code changes in an unfriendly way. But, as usual, demand for nonprofit services will increase substantially.

Based on national survey data, Alice Korngold, highly regarded nonprofit consultant, concludes that these issues are driving the problems.

  • Demand for services has increased every year since 2008.
  • 50% of nonprofit survey respondents are unable to satisfy demand.
  • Half of the organizations surveyed only have three months of cash readily available.
  • Government contracts don’t provide full costs for programs. *

(more…)

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

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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…)

Unwritten Protocols for Directors Can Boost Nonprofits’ Effectiveness

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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…)

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)

BUT

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…)

Nonprofits in Limbo: Preparing for the Unexpected

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Nonprofits in Limbo: Preparing for the Unexpected

By: Eugene Fram

As the nation is reeling from the jolt of the 2016 election results, I happened to read a recent report from Deliotte Consulting suggesting ways that for-profit organizations can improve their performance in uncertain times. The report centers on key drivers of board effectiveness that, in my opinion, resonate with similar nonprofit situations. Most nonprofit boards typically live with uncertainty and are perennially “on the edge.” Here are some ideas from the Deloitte * report that, when adapted early, can bolster their operation in times of disruption.

  • Bold, decisive leadership: Nonprofit boards are responsible for donor and charitable types of revenues that place directors in a public trust position. In addition board members typically will only be active for a median tenure period of four to six years. As a result they often become overly conservative in their strategic views and may accept CEOs that “mind-the-store” with modest incremental growth annually.

To prevent the organizational boat from capsizing in the perpetual seas of uncertain times, the board needs rely on  the best forward looking information about strategy, culture, people and clients. All of this must be in solid  alignment with a substantial mission, or a modified one if the external environment requires it. This allows the  nonprofit to cut through the cultural barriers that impede strategy development. As Peter Drucker has noted, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast every morning.”

  • Opportunity mind-set: Even when the organization is prospering, the board has a responsibility to press for innovations and to support small-scale experiments as called for in a “Lean Management” structure. Within this structure, the staff can test the waters via experiments to move more boldly, as long as the experiments yield positive results. **
  • Stakeholders: Nonprofits have a multitude of stakeholders, complicated by the fact that often those who receive the service are not the ones who support or pay for it.   This requires management to balance the needs of the various groups and that can call for heart-breaking decisions. For example, should revenues be allocated to marketing or used for needed client programs? To solve the dilemmas Deliotte suggests, “Building valuable, open relationships across multiple stakeholder groups is key to building trust and organizational resilience”
  • Match fit: Boards have a responsibility to motivate the nonprofit to realistically evaluate the tensions between new models and existing ones. Two examples show contrasting results. Easter Seals boards perceived the market changes involved with polio vaccines and modified their missions.   Nonprofit counseling agencies failed to assess the positive impacts of new pharmaceuticals and the need for face-to face counseling declined. To develop a fit, Deliotte suggests, “the board and the organization need to be agile and open.”
  • Culture, culture, and culture: Nonprofit boards’ cultures play a key role in determining the level of risk the board is willing to take. With key drivers, nonprofit boards have to take reasonable risks to survive and even encourage management to take it. Small scale, yet bold, experimentations that are jointly reviewed by board and management provide a “Lean Management” approach that has been used by venture supported business firms.
  • Cracking the diversity Code: Instead of recruiting new board members and maximizing the best they have to offer, nonprofit boards try to orient new board members to the current culture. A new member with a financial planning background, for example, will be asked to work with the CFO on accounting related problems. Instead, he/s should be asked to develop a long term-term financial plan.   Board background (such as strategic planning abilities, critical thinking) diversity, as well as demographic (such as gender, ethnicity) ones, must be carefully crafted and utilized as well as demographics.
  • Curiosity is Key: Deliotte Consulting concludes, “Directors should get out of the ‘same old’ board room, and should even look across borders to learn from approaches in (different nonprofits) and companies… . Developing news skills and insights are essential for innovation and should be sought to create the questioning and challenging environment needed to imagine, inspire and deliver better outcomes (and impacts). Complacency (in uncertain times) can be a killer.”

*https://www.google.com/search?q=Sevn+ways+to+im%5Bprove+board+effectivness+in+uncertgain+times&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8#q=Seven+ways+to+improve+board+effectiveness+in+uncertain+times

**https://www.snpo.org/publications/sendpdf.php?id=2014

 

 

 

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Once Again: Who Should Be Involved in Fund Development and How?

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Once Again: Who Should Be Involved in Fund Development and How?

Updated & Revised

By Eugene Fram                            Free Digital Photo

This is a perennial issue. Following are suggestions that can clarify questions related  to it. (more…)