Strategic planning

Can A Board Member Ever Wear Two Hats?

Can A Board Member Ever Wear Two Hats?

By Eugene Fram

Although this is not a good idea for nonprofit organizations, it is not an unusual occurrence, especially among start-ups. A director in a start-up nonprofit will need to assume some staff responsibilities as a volunteer. But he/s will need to organizationally report to the CEO. (more…)

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How Boards Develop Successful Business Practices In Nonprofit Organizations

How Boards Develop Successful Business Practices In Nonprofit Organizations

By: Eugene Fram

Every nonprofit needs a business plan to implement marketing, financial, human resources, etc. activities. The goal of the nonprofit business plan is to maximize the achievement of the organization’s mission within existing resources.

Strong service and business practices should be the hallmarks of any nonprofit board that effectively focuses on four business factors:  (more…)

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

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

By: Eugene Fram

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 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.
* 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.
• 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.

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, CA.

Do Nonprofit Board and For-Profit Boards Face Similar Major Challenges?

Do Nonprofit Board and For-Profit Boards Face Similar Major Challenges?

By: Eugene Fram

The answer is Yes! Although the nonprofit’s objective is to develop maximum impact for its mission, while the business organization wants to maximize shareholder returns, a listing of current major challenges by Deloitte Touche Tomatsu indicates the two types of boards face similar challenges*

1. Overseeing enterprise risk management
Many nonprofits facing reductions in financial support must make heartbreaking choices between focusing on financially viable programs and dropping needed programs. Fraud is a continuing concern for nonprofit directors, both from a reputational standpoint and potential personal liabilities. Developing new competitive services and products continues to be a top priority for business concerns.

2. Focusing on executive compensation programs and related regulations
Regulators and media outlets are focusing on outsized salaries for some top managers in both nonprofit and for-profit organizations, especially where nonprofit and commercial organizations are in the same field, e.g., health care. Increased governance attention to the expanded IRS form 990 and to the Intermediate Sanctions Act, covering granting illegal excess benefits, are challenges for nonprofit boards. I have noted that many volunteer directors and nonprofit executives are unaware of the latter piece of legislation.

3. Ensuring corporate strategy will achieve long-term value creation
Numerous nonprofit and for-profit reports indicate both type of boards need to focus more on strategic planning. Both types of boards are wrestling with the problems of making investment decisions about emerging technologies.

4. Addressing heightened levels of shareholder (stakeholder) activism
Nonprofit stakeholders, such as foundations, are expecting grantees to show impact results for their financial grants. Both types of boards are expected to respond to environmental and business sustainability concerns, whether they be forest conservation or child obesity.

Conclusion: A board is a board is a board … The Major Challenges Are The Same!!
* Deloitte Touche, Tomatsu (2014) “Selected Challenges for Boards of Directors in the Current Environment”

Can Nonprofit Boards Suffer From Agenda Deficits?

Can Nonprofit Boards Suffer From Agenda Deficits?

By Eugene Fram

In a recent study of 772 for-profit and nonprofit directors from around the world, McKinsey & Company found that 25% of the sample assessed their board impact as moderate or low, “… while others reported having a high impact across board functions. “ http://bit.ly/1iFEINR

Following, in italics, are brief abstracts from the study, followed by my analysis of the importance of the information to nonprofit boards. (more…)

A Special Relationship: Nurturing the CEO-Board Chair Bond*

A Special Relationship: Nurturing the CEO-Board Chair Bond*

By Eugene Fram

Here are tips to assure the best possible partnership between the board chair and CEO.

Keeping boards focused on strategic issues is a major challenge for nonprofit leaders. One problem is that non- profit CEOs are leaving their jobs in droves, partly because they’re reaching retirement age and partly due to the increased stresses of the position. ** This leadership crisis is intensified by the fact that board chairs tend to have short terms (according to BoardSource, 83% stay in office only one or two years). Thus, nonprofit CEOs and board chairs need to bond quickly. For the good of the organization, they must come together swiftly and create a partnership that works. Here are golden rules for the CEO and board chair to follow: (more…)