nonprofit governance

Once Again: How to Keep a Nonprofit Board Informed – Reissued based on viewer interest.

Once Again: How to Keep a Nonprofit Board Informed.

By: Eugene Fram

At high-performing nonprofit boards, members of the board will rarely be invited by the CEO to participate in operational decisions. Yet the board still needs to know that is going on in operations.

The name of the game is for the CEO to communicate the important information to board members and to keep them informed of significant developments. Still, there’s no need to clutter regular board meetings by reporting endless details about operations. (more…)

Critiquing My Blog: “All Nonprofit’s are a Business – Need to be Run Like a Business”

Critiquing My Blog: “All Nonprofit’s are a Business – Need to be Run Like a Business”

By: Eugene Fram

I encountered a torrent of comments from consultants, chief executives and staffers replying to the blog listed above. Following are some abstracts of support and questioning I received:

One could say this is true, if we know what is truth, but one should avoid ALL. … We are called to be faithful, not to be successful. Why do we… avoid all ethical questions? … Granted, one should hope to wind up with excess revenues at year-end but to affirm who you suggest doesn’t appear to be worked through.” Philip S. Wood, CPA.

Sorry I disagree. Many/most nonprofits are aimed at creating social good. To be run like a business means risk – (taking) decisions for the short/near term, based on financial tradeoffs. While I agree nonprofits benefit from excellent leadership, discipline, solid strategy and financial planning, they should be run as nonprofits. Linda Williams

If businesses exist to create and retain customers, then nonprofits exist to create and retain members. I think this could be a good learning for many of the nonprofits I have (encountered). This is terrific, but they cannot do this without capital. The more those inside the nonprofit are motivated by their own sprite of “contribution to the world,” the more they could undermine their ultimate survival. (Companies that focus) inside-out rather than outside in will run into trouble.
Elliott Schreiber

I work for an organization … that (has a) mind-set to a for-profit business, … keeping in mind our core values, mission and vision. …

• A research department … regularly checks to make our programs are successful. We follow clients for two years after receiving services.
• Though measuring programs, … our donors have confidence is what we do and we have expanded contacts in the community.
• Our strategy department ensures that expansion will not drain resources from other areas.
• Our direct service employees are results oriented and goal focused.
• Also we take our employees very seriously. We would hate to expand, hire people or have our staff relocate and then havet o close up shop one year later.
• We are more mission focused – we are fiscally solvent, jobs are not in danger and have the numbers to prove that what we do works. Catherine Hayley

My Reactions

Philip: You hit the nail on the head with you comments about “ALL.” I concede the adjective was not well placed. However, some businesses also have a mission or creed to generate social good, like Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. However, if you examine the product that emanates from the firm, one can easily view it as creating obesity. Businesses and nonprofits must be judged on their missions and how they execute them.
I would take Ben & Jerry’s over a commercial call center that says its mission is to help charities, but then takes, as fees, 75% of the money donated. Or it might be a nonprofit that gives excess benefits to its management. (The IRS now has become a watchdog over these giveaways.)

Linda: Some businesses also have a double bottom line. For example utility companies have to please their stakeholders and meet utility commission regulations. Unfortunately, the term “being run like a nonprofit has become a negative term and only a high senior nonprofit mangers, who execute the functions you listed at a effective and efficient levels, will contribute to improving the situation.

Elliott: In my opinion you are correct. Nonprofit strategic plans should always have a section showing the estimated economic impact of what is projected. For an example, according to Cynthia Montgomery, a Harvard business professor, a nonprofit hospital whose mission is to “save lives” will not succeed long term if it does not “save lives efficiently and effectively.”

Catherine: I just want to join the chorus of people who commented how fortunate you are to work with an organization with a structure that makes such impacts.
It really shows that many nonprofits need to move towards a business model.

As one other respondent stated, nonprofits in the 21st century need to be “SMART i.e., Sympathetic, Malleable, Active, Realistic and Timely.

Nonprofit Board Responsibilty for Social Media – What Needs To Be Done?

Nonprofit Board Responsibility Social Media – What Needs To Be Done?

By: Eugene Fram

Nonprofit boards, for several years, have been struggling to find proper uses for social media. Many of the decisions on this issue will become strategic board decisions because they will require using alternative promotional strategies, experimental trials and infusion of capital and human resources. The December 8, 2012 issue of the NACD Directorship* cites a Stanford study concludes for-profit boards should develop a better understanding of this new phenomenon. Following are how I think the steps should be applied to smaller and medium sized nonprofit board decisions: (more…)

Is Your Nonprofit a “Slim & Smart” High Performance Nonprofit?

Is Your Nonprofit a “Slim & Smart” High Performance Nonprofit? 

By Eugene Fram

The “slim and smart” nonprofit approach does not involve specific steps but instead calls for management to develop an overall transitional framework and climate for the organization.[i] It does, however, require planning with sufficient lead-time. (more…)

Nonprofit Alert: How Nonprofit Directors Can Acquire Independent Assurances.

Nonprofit Alert: How Nonprofit Directors Can Acquire Independent Assurances.

According to Dr. Richard Leblanc, York University Law School, “Canada’s bank regulators recommended last week that independent third party reviews of (i) of the institution’s board and committee practices; (ii) the institution’s oversight functions and processes.” He and I feel this can set the tone for non-banks and even for nonprofits (more…)

Trustee’s Lament: “We are accountable for what’s happened… We are deeply ashamed.”*

Trustee’s Lament: “We are accountable for what’s happened…  We are deeply ashamed.”*

Like the Penn State trustee, who bemoaned the board’s inaction, other nonprofit trustees, directors and managers easily can find themselves in similar situations, if they fail to impartially investigate negative news or even rumors.  In fact, those who serve on small and midsized nonprofit organization’s boards may even be in more perilous situations than larger nonprofits for four reasons.  Small & midsized companies may be affected for some of the same reasons. (more…)

The 21st Century Nonprofit President/CEO

The 21st Century Nonprofit President/CEO

Nonprofit presidents/CEOs in the 21st century should have much more responsibility for their organizations than do executive directors in traditional nonprofit groups. (more…)

How Long Should A Nonprofit Director Serve?

How Long Should A Nonprofit Director Serve?

By: Eugene Fram

Nonprofit board terms are like clothing sizes.  They come in all shapes and sizes!

Some terms are as short as two years, with the charter specifying the person remain off the board for one year.  Other charters have systems that allow a director to remain for decades.  The most common format allows the director a two three-year terms, with some exceptions relating to whether the person is originally filing an interim year or chairs the board in his/or her final year. (more…)

Attn. Nonprofit Board Recruiters: Marketing & Sales Are Not The Same!

Attn. Nonprofit Board Recruiters: Marketing & Sales Are Not The Same!

By: Eugene Fram

What are the differences and what do these background differences mean when a nonprofit board concludes that a person with a “marketing background” needs to be added to a board. ! 

If the nonprofit board needs a person help define and/or segment a market, a director with a strong marketing resume is needed.  For example, if a teen social center finds that its clientele is shifting from one ethnic group to another, a marketing person can help with the research to determine the overall differences between the two groups.  Then a marketing plan can be established to show how the organization can help solve the problems being faced by the new ethnic group.

Assume the board has a good knowledge of its market but has a critical need for action in the fund development function, and then the need is for a director with a strong sales background.  This person can help with planning fund raising events, provide techniques for “making the ask,” educate senior management and directors on the fine points of presentations to senior business executives and, in general, help spark the fund development effort.  However, some of the suggestions might seem to be “outlandish” to a conservative nonprofit board.  For example, it took me two years to establish a highly successful annual fund raising dinner for a human service nonprofit.

Another background to consider is a person with a marketing communications (often called Marcom) person who can assist with the website, developing print promotions and advise on communications to stakeholders and staff. 

In nonprofit board recruiting, a person with “marketing” background can vary greatly.  Be sure to define specifications. 



A 2012 Agenda for Nonprofit Audit Committees

A 2012 Agenda for Nonprofit Audit Committees

By: Eugene Fram

Nonprofit audit committee members might want to view a video presentation at the Corporate Board Member Website (June 9th) for a list of top issues being faced by for-profit audit committees.  Catherine Bromillow, PwC Center for Board Governance, presents the list. 

Following, in her order of importance (high to low), are those that I feel can apply to nonprofit organizations.

RISK MANAGEMENT – Focusing on the known risks and estimating the unknown ones.  For example, how will the greater use of psychiatric drugs impact nonprofit counseling organizations?

INCREASED USE BY REGULATORS – What use will the IRS make of the governance information now being collected annually via the expanded 990 Forms?  Do volunteer directors know the potential impact of the Intermediate Sanctions Act?

CHANGES IN REGULATIONS & ACCOUNTING STANDARDS – What impact, if any, will Dodd-Frank have on nonprofits?   (Although not directed to nonprofits, Sarbanes-Oxley has had some indirect impacts.)  What changes in accounting standards need to be reviewed by a nonprofit audit committee?

TURBULENT ECONOMIC CONDITIONS – What plans are in place to survive more turbulence in the world economy? 

INTERNAL CONTROL STRUCTURE – How does the internal control structure need to be changed after a merger or acquisition transaction between two nonprofits?

TAX COMPLEXITY- How do changes in state or federal tax regulations impact a nonprofit organization’s business plan?

OPERATION COMPLEXITY – For those nonprofits that operate from multiple sites, the audit committee needs to understand key issues for each site.  Visits to all sites by the committee or individual directors are important.

COMMITTEE EFFECTIVENESS – With frequent rotating membership, how do nonprofit audit committees go about improving their operations?

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