policy vs. paper clips

More Than Passion Needed in Prospective Nonprofit Directors

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More Than Passion Needed in Prospective Nonprofit Directors

By: Eugene Fram

What nonprofit selection committee would reject a candidate who demonstrates passion for the organization’s mission?   I can attest to the fact that in many recruitment processes, an interviewee who shows strong empathy for the cause is a “shoe-in” for the director position regardless of any obvious weakness in other skill areas. By contrast, one who appears ambivalent about the organization’s mission can be overlooked or even eliminated from the list. (more…)

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Eliminating the Nonprofit Board’s Addiction to Micromanaging

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Eliminating the Nonprofit Board’s Addiction to Micromanaging

By: Eugene Fram

Micromanaging is the DNA of many nonprofit boards. It all starts with the community model culture of start-up periods. Board members have to assume staff roles to drive the nonprofit operations. But it often continues long after an adequate staff is in place. By habit, the board still focuses on operational details—also known as “reviewing the weeds.”   I recently observed a board that was making a policy decision about the change in timing of an annual development event.   Once the decision was made, the directors continued a “weed type” discussion about about table locations, invitations and other issues that were in the job of management to implement. The nonprofit is about 50 years old and has a budget of $10 Million with a 100 person staff. (more…)

Too Much Information Can Cloud Nonprofit Board’s Decision Making–Tread With Care

Too Much Information Can Cloud Nonprofit Board’s Decision Making–Tread With Care

By Eugene Fram            Free Digital Image

In this age of information overload, nonprofits need to continually scrutinize the quality and source of the material received in preparation for major decisions. Since directors often come without broad enough experience in the nonprofit’s mission arena, they may not be prepared to properly assess its progress in moving forward–and not equipped to make relevant comparisons with similar nonprofits.  In addition, naive or unscrupulous CEOs and highly influential directors may inundate their boards with information and data as a  distraction tactic to keep them busy in the “weeds,” reviewing what has been presented.  Board members need to avoid donning “rose-colored glasses” when assessing proposals from these sources.

I once encountered a nonprofit whose board was about to acquire a for-profit organization, headed by its founder.  Pushing for the “deal” ere the nonprofit CEO and an influential board member who were not, it turned out, capable of the due diligence needed for a project of this complexity. But the board accepted their work without question.  When the acquisition was consummated, the founding CEO of the subsidiary refused to take directions from the CEO of the nonprofit. In addition, although the normal financial settlement of the project requires that a portion of the price be withheld pending adequate performance, the nonprofit had paid cash for the acquisition.  Based on  a lack of performance, the operation was finally closed with a substantial loss. (more…)

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…)