Trustee Responsibilities

Guidelines for Forming Nonprofit-Business Partnerships

Guidelines for Forming Nonprofit-Business Partnerships

By: Eugene Fram

Ashley Halligan, an analyst at Software Advice,, has conducted a pilot study involving business and nonprofit managers, “4 Steps Nonprofits Can Take to Establish a Lasting Business Partnership.” The study has recently been mentioned in the New York Times. Following are a few ways she (in quotations) and I suggest the steps can be implemented to initiate partnerships with business organizations.

1. Assess your Goals – The nonprofit should try to align with businesses that roughly have similar client goals as expressed in terms of the nonprofit’s mission, vision and values. <!–more–>

“For instance, Trees for the Future, a nonpro0fit, wanted to plant more trees in developing countries.” Partnering with international Celestial Seasoning, the nonprofit was able to sponsor the planting of more than one million trees. The relationship between the two was evidently based on the firm’s need for international PR & sales, and the nonprofit’s mission to sponsor the planting of more trees in developing countries. There often does not need to be based on a direct product/service relationship such as cancer prevention nonprofit and a drug company selling cancer drugs.
2. Develop a Shortlist of Potential Busyness Partners – “Look (first) for (local) businesses that have commonalities with the (nonprofit) organization.” They are the most likely to know about the nonprofit’s social values, present and past directors, staff professionals and clients the nonprofit has helped. Seek higher-level executives from the short list companies as nonprofit directors.
3. Start Some Conversations – In developing these conversations, make sure that persons representing the nonprofit are fully comfortable in dealing with senior level business executives. My observations are that few executive directors have a high comfort level in these situations. That is why I strongly recommend the nonprofit’s chief executive officer hold the title, president/CEO. This allows the businessperson to quickly know who has final operating authority. An old adage concludes, “Principals Talk With Principals.”
4. Initiate & Nurture the Relationship – “…[A] Nonprofit-Business relationship requires time and nourishment to flourish. … While the (relationship is) business (to the nonprofit), it is important to remember that the relationship is a highly personal one. Demonstrating a return on investment (ROI) is also important. … Track as many benefits to the company as you can, so you can provide a strong ROI.” *

*See my blog site: and my article: “Using Imperfect Metrics Well: Tracking Progress and Driving Change,” Send request for copy to:

Failure in Nonprofit Succession Management – What to Avoid

Failure in Nonprofit Succession Management – What to Avoid

By Eugene Fram in its October, 11, 2012 issue carries an op-ed item by Nathan Bennett and Stephen Miles titled, “Is your Board About to Pick the Wrong CEO.” Although targeted to for-profit boards, all of the five items listed can be applied to nonprofit boards. Following are my applications to nonprofit boards.

1. Is There Interpersonal Conflict on the nonprofit board? If there is a high level of interpersonal board discord, the board is setting up the new executive director for failure, no matter how strong the e executive’s background or talents. The same can be said if the staff is “at war” with the board. No matter who the board chooses, the new person is tainted as the board’s change agent, not a collegial leader. (more…)

A 21st Century Nonprofit Reality – The Chief Executive Needs to be a President/CEO

A 21st Century Nonprofit Reality – The Chief Executive Needs to be a President/CEO

By: Eugene Fram

Many of my viewers* know that I strongly favor nonprofit boards, which develop a budget level of more than $1 million (US) and employ about 10 full and part time people, should designate their chief executive as the President/CEO. A volunteer director then becomes the board chair. Below, in italics, is a response I received to my viewpoint listed on the Board Source blog site:

Interesting points. However, where I come from, executive director is the recognized title for the heads of non-profits, with the possible exception of multimillion-dollar agencies. Everyone understands it. Even when the ED is recognized (in bylaws and/or policies) as the CEO of the agency, they still tend to use the ED title, The CEO title smacks of the for profit sector, which may be off-putting to the social service sector, perhaps a tinge of “playing out of your league.” President is definitely from the for profit sector, and could be confusing from the perspective that some boards still refer to their chairs as “presidents.

ATTN: Nonprofit Directors & Trustees – Find Value From Business Successes.

ATTN: Nonprofit Directors & Trustees – Find Value From Business Successes.

By: Eugene Fram

According to a blog appearing in the September 22, 2012 issue off Board Member. Com, Value Bridge Advisors identified only 34 of 500 S&P members who, “had growth over 3% plus year average annual revenue growth over 10%.” For this highly successful group, the blog also identified what they had in common to achieve a top rating. Following are only the board related items that may be readily adapted by nonprofit and trustee boards. (more…)

Custom Designing A New Nonprofit’s Chief Executive Orientation

Custom Designing A New Nonprofit’s Chief Executive Orientation

By: Eugene Fram

Under a customized format, the nonprofit board tailors a program that helps the new executive develop a solid base in the organization and understand its unique climate and culture. Properly structured, this orientation takes about a year to complete. (more…)

How does a CEO turn down advice about operations from the board?

How does a CEO turn down advice about operations from the board?

By: Eugene Fram

With difficulty! It all depends on the kind of culture that has been established on the board. Ideally the CEO should be comfortable (more…)

Once Again: What Type of Leaders Do Nonprofits Need in Turbulent Times?

Once Again: What Type of Leaders Do Nonprofits Need in Turbulent Times?

By Eugene Fram

Reporter Thomas Betar, writing in the August 5, 2012 issue of the Desert News, makes some interesting points about current leadership challenges (more…)