policy vs. paper clips

Nonprofit Boardroom Elephants and the ‘Nice Guy’ Syndrome: A Complex Problem

By: Eugene Fram

Top viewer favorite post–revised & updated            Free Digital Image

At coffee a friend serving on a nonprofit board reported plans to resign from the board shortly. His complaints centered on the board’s unwillingness to take critical actions necessary to help the organization grow.

In specific, the board failed to take any action to remove a director who wasn’t attending meetings, but he refused to resign. His term had another year to go, and the board had a bylaws obligation to summarily remove him from the board. However, a majority of directors decided such action would hurt the director’s feelings. They were unwittingly accepting the “nice-guy” approach in place of taking professional action.

In another instance the board refused to sue a local contractor who did not perform as agreed. The “elephant” was that the board didn’t think that legally challenging a local vendor was appropriate, an issue raised by an influential director. However, nobody informed the group that in being “nice guys,” they could become legally liable, if somebody became injured as a result of their inaction. (more…)

Better Board Governance. Is it the same for both business & nonprofit organizations?

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Better Board Governance. Is it the same for both business & nonprofit organizations?

By: Eugene Fram                  Free Digital Photo

Viewer Favorite: Updated & Enhanced

Both BoardSource in 2015 and the Charted Global Management Accountant (CGMA) in 2012 have issued reports on improving board governance. The former group focuses on nonprofit boards and the latter focuses on business boards globally.* Both the nonprofit and business organization reports listed the following prime areas for board improvement or focus: The CGMA report called for improved strategy development & risk analysis; better boardroom behaviors; better relationships between board & management. The BoardSource report asked for improved focus on strategy, with much less emphasis on operations; more board commitment, engagement, & attendance; better self-assessment, recruitment & development.

Although the CGMA report does not differentiate the types (strategic vs. operational strategy) the “risk oversight” notation can indicate there is a need for greater board focus on long-term strategy. For nonprofit boards, the strategic side of planning is often neglected. There has been a decades-long board culture support for directors’ involvement in operational decisions, often leading to board micromanagement and less strategic interest.

(more…)

Improve Your Nonprofit Director Onboarding Process

Improve Your Nonprofit Director Onboarding Process using Going For Impact

New guidebook covers

What to Know, Do and Not Do

As a veteran director with extensive experience on 12 nonprofit boards I have been “treated” to a wide variety of on-boarding sessions for new directors.

They’ve ranged from asking:

  • Every new director to read a 2.5 inch policy manual.  (I checked the size!)
  • Having experienced board members sit next to new ones at meetings.
  • Listening to the CEO review the entire policy manual.

Going For Impact: The Nonprofit Director’s Essential Guidebook lets you improve such sessions by making on-boarding governance material more meaningful and interesting. For example:

  • Use the book’s 150-item Index Strategically: Ask new directors to read specific topics (e.g., micromanaging; outcome vs. impact data; responsibilities of the board) and relate the readings to their new board.
  • Select Key Chapters in the Book: Choices include topics such as Nonprofit Culture Presents Challenges or There’s a Boundary Line That Shouldn’t Be Crossed. Then later – in either formal or informal sessions – have the CEO and/or board panels discuss the topics with the new directors.
  • Give All New Directors a Copy of the Book: Ask them to skim or read the book’s content, which encompasses 112 pages, and list topics of greatest interest.   Then hold three or four informal on-boarding sessions, led by experienced directors that relate to the selected topics.

Going for Impact can also be utilized by creative boards and CEOs to develop retreat agendas that can help enhance their board’s governance perspectives!

“Going for Impact” ©2016 https://goo.gl/Dwa9le

What are the most productive types of relationships between board & staff?

What are the most productive types of relationships between board & staff?

By: Eugene Fram

In the 21st century, building transparency and trust are two critical elements for good governance. In nonprofit organizations, these elements take on additional importance because organizationally staff members may only be or two levels below the board. Consequently, nonprofit staffs are probably more attuned to board changes and directives than their counterparts in a business setting. With more frequent rotations of nonprofit board members, many staff members can feel insecure. They have observed some nonprofits at which new board members sometimes can quickly bring about detrimental changes–it is not unusual for community boards to limit vetting new board members to friends and family. (more…)

Can A Nonprofit Organization Have A President/CEO & An Executive Director?

Can A Nonprofit Organization Have A President/CEO & An Executive Director?

By: Eugene H. Fram

Viewer Favorite Revised & Updated

Yes, if the organization has the following structure:

Board With A Volunteer Chairperson
President/CEO With Full Authority for Operations
Executive Director for Division A
Executive Director for Division B

However this structure can be confusing to persons in the nonprofit arena. The executive director should have final authority for all operational matters related to the organization, except those designated for the board in the bylaws. For example, pensions plan changes.

The big question is who carries the CEO title. Some nonprofits, in their early stages, have a volunteer, part-time, President/CEO and an operational Executive Director. This signifies the volunteer, representing the will of the board, can have final authority in all daily and policy issues. This is not a good structure because the CEO title might lead to the volunteer having liabilities that other board members don’t have. (more…)

Big Data Are Great—But Imperfect Metrics Work for Nonprofit Boards!

Big Data Are Great—But Imperfect Metrics Work for Nonprofit Boards!

By Eugene Fram

Nonprofit boards need to expand their evaluations of nonprofit managers and their organizations adding more behavioral impacts * to their evaluations.
For example it might be the number of volunteers that have been trained by the organizations. But boards must go to the next level in the 21st century.
In the case of volunteers, they must seek to understand the impacts on those trained. They need, for instance, to understand how well these volunteers are assisting clients and how they are representing the nonprofit to the clients. The training is a process, but their relationships with clients are impacts.

Qualitative data must be developed to the next level, and the average nonprofit CEO will argue that he/she doesn’t have the staff or expertise to develop impact data. Engaging an outside organization to complete a simple project can cost thousands of dollars. (more…)

Onboarding the New Nonprofit CEO: Who’s In Charge?

Onboarding the New Nonprofit CEO: Who’s In Charge?id-100423604

By Eugene Fram                  Free Digital image

When the chair of the search committee announces that a new CEO has been selected, there is visible relief in the boardroom. After the stress of a waning—or even absent executive at the helm, directors tend to relax, engaging in a series of social events that provide a pleasant if superficial acquaintance with the new executive.

What actually lies ahead is much more serious and vital to the future of the organization. Call it orientation, acculturation or transitioning; it is the board’s responsibility to see that the CEO is grounded in every aspect of the organization. And that requires a plan that is carefully structured and may take a year to complete. Major responsibility for the plan and its implementation rests with the board chair and one or more senior board members. While there are may formats to achieve this goal, the best, in my opinion, is what has been described as a customized format.

Under a customized format the nonprofit board tailors a program that helps the new executive develop a solid base in the organization and an understanding of its unique climate and culture.
Biweekly meetings should be scheduled. However, both sides should be wary if the time required does not decrease considerably as the year progresses. The CEO will then operate more independently, perhaps even making modest mistakes from which he/s can easily recover. Those handling the orientation must take care to delegate responsibility incrementally, based on the CEO’s background and experiences. Every custom designed orientation program should include nine steps. Some must be taken in sequence, while other steps can proceed concurrently. (more…)