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Board Relationship
9/22/2017 12:00 AM

CEO Bob Benes explains how a “look back” can amp up your board’s motivation in this B&A feature.

CEO Bob Benes (bob.benes@lakesandpines.org) said that one way for the nonprofit executive to uplift his board is to show them how far the nonprofit has come in terms of achievement and capacity.

“One thing I have always done is promise to work them hard and then I keep that promise,” Benes said. “Nobody comes to sit on a board to do nothing.”

So when his board is committed to hard work, Benes periodically shows them the concrete results.

Benes has this to say about his “look-backs” with his board: “I do this to show where we were and where we are now and point out their role in that progress.”

Benes’ look-back covers a variety of “accumulated work,” he said. “It’s a review of grants reviewed and approved, decisions on policy, self-evaluation, my appraisals, renewal of staff benefits and strategic capacity work,” Benes said. “It all adds up.”

When a board is digging into these types of issues on their meeting agendas, their accomplishments may not hit home to trustees at the time, Benes said. “But when you go back to point A and look at it from point Q or R, you realize you have come a long way just doing the routine work plus handling the unexpected challenges that come up,” he said.

Since boards meet only monthly or bimonthly for the most part, this can be a key point to bring up, Benes said. “It is sometimes hard for them to connect agency progress from one hour-and-a-half meeting to the next, so making that connection from time to time is helpful,” he said.

Benes also said that food at meetings and a good sense of humor can help the nonprofit executive keep the board engaged.

Board/Staff Relationship
9/14/2017 12:00 AM

A Board Issues Hotline caller describes a thorny problem concerning board/staff contact in this Board & Administrator feature.

I received a Board Issues Hotline (515.963.7972; jeff_stratton@msn.com) call from a Missouri administrator who has a serious problem.

His newly formed board personnel committee is concerned about staff morale and is planning to make a “suggestion box” available to the organization’s employees. The committee chair’s method for this suggestion box? Just email your complaints, suggestions and thoughts to the committee chair!

“I don’t even know where this idea came from,” said the Missouri executive director.

Here’s where this type of board action comes from: Board members are volunteers, and for the most part are well-meaning when they propose “suggestion boxes.” As volunteers, they typically have very little day-to-day contact with the organization, so they often wonder how things are going in certain areas—such as “Are employees happy?”

When enough board members start thinking this way, watch out. Management of staff is the CEO’s responsibility. It is your job to ensure that staff is being listened to—that their complaints and suggestions are given thorough and fair hearings and then acted upon when they are good for the nonprofit.

When board members express a desire to know more about employees and their work, show them turnover rates, evidence of how you resolve standard staff grievances, staff awards and testimonials from those you serve that focus on employee care and interactions.

Maybe the best way to keep a personnel committee or the board from stepping out of line is through an online survey to find out what is on your employees’ minds. A survey on Survey Monkey (https://www.surveymonkey.com) will help you uncover any below-the-surface issues that staff are hesitant to bring to your attention. These might be occurring in the areas of morale, communication, accountability or the direction the nonprofit is taking.

This activity may be well worth your while, because if you do not undertake it, someday the board may do it for you.

Sincerely,

Jeff Stratton, Editor

515.963.7972; jeff_stratton@msn.com

Governance
8/31/2017 12:00 AM

Use these exit interview questions from Executive Director David Cook (Hendersonville, N.C.) and his board to improve governance at your nonprofit.

Name of Board Member:

Interviewer:

Date:

 

1) How, when and why did you first become associated with IAM?

2) Reason for leaving the Board?

3) What did you enjoy most about your service on the IAM Board? What have you liked least?

4) I would describe my experience serving on the Board as

    A) Excellent   B) Good  C) Satisfying   D) Frustrating  E) Nonproductive

5) Were your talents and expertise utilized? Was there a difference between what was expected of you and what is reasonable to expect?

Comments:

6) I would be willing to return to service with IAM at another time. Yes   No    When?

7) I would recommend the Board experience to my friends and associates. Yes   No    If Yes, please recommend someone.

8) What are the two most important issues IAM needs to address in the short term?

  • a.
  • b.

9) What are the two most important issues IAM needs to address in the long term?

  • a.
  • b.

10) Please give any other comments or suggestions regarding your experiences with IAM that might be helpful to present or future members.    

Source: Executive Director David Cook, Interfaith Assistance Ministry, Hendersonville, N.C.

Resource
3/10/2017 12:00 AM

This resource from Board & Administrator helps board members assess their engagement level with the organization.


Resources
2/24/2017 12:00 AM

In Brian Foss and the Horatio Alger Association’s book, Governing Effective Nonprofits in the 21st Century, board members can find a wealth of practical information about serving on a board.

Below, you’ll find a terrific job description for a nonprofit board member.

A Sample Board Member’s Job Description for Any Nonprofit

  • Understand and support the mission, programs and services of the organization.
  • Accept the responsibilities of being a fiduciary of a corporation that exists for the public good using tax-exempt, tax-deductible funds.
  • Make a multiyear commitment to participate actively in governance meetings and programs.
  • Be among the first, most generous and consistent annual donors.
  • Invite new people to become involved in the organization’s work and to contribute financially.
  • Assist other governance leaders in building relationships that will help the organization fulfill its mission.
  • Be a steward of the public trust and a trustee of the organization’s mission and resources.
  • Keep the board’s work focused on governance issues, policy creation and setting strategic directions for the organization’s future in a transparent and ethical manner.
  • Keep the board focused on effectiveness in fulfilling the mission and programs, and creating an organization that is best-in-class.
  • As a fiduciary, ensure that the organization is diversely funded, approve the annual budget and monitor fiscal affairs, conduct an audit annually, have fiscal controls in place, review IRS Form 990, and plan for the financial future of the corporation.
  • Ensure the board has policies in place regarding board and staff conflicts of interest, self-dealing and transparency.
  • Understand how the organization raises its funds and approve all of the fundraising practices and external contracts for fundraising.
  • Leave management matters to the organization’s CEO and help the board and staff continuously differentiate the roles of governance and management.
  • Be an advocate and ally for the CEO, assuming such support is merited. Participate in the hiring, nurturing and evaluation of the CEO.
  • Keep the board focused on the organization’s mission.

 

Source: Brian Foss, Governing Effective Nonprofits in the 21st Century. Reprinted with permission.

Resource
1/27/2017 12:00 AM

Use the following exercise from The Board Doctor to assess your board’s understanding of its role.

Use the following exercise to determine how clearly your board understands its role. Identify those areas where the board lacks either knowledge or information, and make plans to find them the training they need. Remember: An untrained board is a disaster (for the CEO) waiting to happen.

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  • Meet the Editor

    Jeff Stratton
    Editor

    Jeff Stratton has edited Board & Administrator since 1992. As the Board Doctor, he has advised thousands of executive directors and board members on issues like prevention of
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