Category Archives: Adrianne Geiger DuMond

Can Nonprofits Meet the Challenge of Social Change?

Adrianne DuMond

There is a movement afoot that supports “collective impact” by nonprofits. That is, for agencies serving similar (or the same) target populations, they should consider collaborative planning and actions with government, funders, and foundations, to better maximize resources. With trends that predict less government funding and an exponential need for services, proponents of this movement tend to minimize the effectiveness of individual organizations tackling a major social problem.

Perhaps the best example of this approach is the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force that unites the various services that respond to this need. There is law enforcement, rescuing agencies, housing agencies that all must play an important role in fulfilling the mission. I have written in a past article of the changing nature of governance in nonprofits because of similar opinions about how social change needs can be more effectively handled. And there are other national sources who are expanding on this theme.

There is UCLA and the Center for Civil society that has collaborated with consultants to espouse the Nonprofit Sustainability Initiative. The Stanford Social Innovation Review has an article and movement titled “Collective Impact” which I highly recommend for any agency thinking about the shift.

The thesis for Collective Impact is that ‘large scale social change comes from better cross-coordination rather than from the isolated intervention of individual organizations.’ The article states five conditions of collective success:

• Common agenda – a shared vision of change.

• Shared measurement systems – claiming web-based technologies have enabled common systems for reporting performance and for measuring outcomes.

• Mutually reinforcing activities – participants undertake activities for which they are best trained and accountable, but that support and coordinate with the actions of others.

• Continuous communication

• Backbone Support Organization – a separate organization and staff with a specific set of skills that provides the infrastructure that is required for the collaboration to succeed.

I encourage you to be aware of these changing trends even if your organization is thriving. I believe that this knowledge should be part of a strategic planning process to help participants know the reality of what is in the nonprofit universe of thinking.

Author:  Adrianne DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County,

The Changing Nature of Non-profit Governance

Adrianne DuMond

Recent research into the changing evolution of board governance sheds some interesting insights into the complexities of present and future governance for non-profits. We already see causes such as homelessness, human trafficking, and others clouding the boundaries between agencies and regional/government bodies.  What do these changes portend for how non-profits govern?

The recent Nonprofit Quarterly has published very challenging articles about the on-going changes. Dr. David O. Renz, University of Missouri, has compiled the latest research findings for an article in the Quarterly. My findings come from his article, which is annotated. He notes that in the field of ‘organizational studies’ it is widely accepted that any organization which does not align its design and structure to the challenges posed by its relevant external environment will not succeed. The design and structure must be contingent on the characteristics of that external environment. So what does this mean for non-profit boards?

Canadian researcher, Patricia Bradshaw, has said,” Traditional models of governance are no longer resilient enough to be effective in these new, complex environments. As these new, ‘messier’ forms of governance emerge they will need to meet systems that are more politicized, complex, and conflict ridden.”

Renz ends his article by stating that we are still learning. One thing we know is that there is no perfect model. He goes on to say, ” It is both useful and important to draw a closer distinction between the function of governance and the work of boards. The work of governance is no longer necessarily synonymous with the boundaries of any individual non-profit board, and even when it is, the alignment of the two constructs is not as simple as it once appeared to be”.

I propose that there are some elements of the construct (board) that are worth considering as boards struggle with governance issues. 

1) Composition of board membership: Assuring diversity and representation in the community, selecting experiences that reflect the politics of the alignment, good negotiating skills. 

2) Collaboration in strategic planning: Where are the efficiencies, the new needs, who best addresses those needs. How do those needs affect our mission and planning. Where are the overlaps?  

3) Transparent financials: Revenue and size may be listed in an annual report for a non-profit’s website.. But do we share the financials with other bodies? 

4) Partnering for public relations and marketing: Do we get a bigger ‘bang for the buck’ by partnering with other bodies that influence or serve our constituents? 

I would like to hear from those who are dealing with these changes. Please comment about your experiences and any advice you might have.

Author:  Adrianne DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County,

Finding the Right Board Member

Adrianne DuMond

I recently attended a presentation by a very successful Executive Director who was speaking about the selective qualities which they use to nominate board members. I have often mentioned in prior articles, the importance of NOT selecting board members just because they are friends, or prominent in the community. There are other factors to be considered. I would like to share with you her ‘Board Member Candidate Profile’. Note that there are attributes and expectations.


  • Mission-driven influencer
  • Dedicated, innovative, and strategic thinker
  • Advocates and a community connector
  • Financial and fundraising steward


Engagement and active participation as a member of the Board of Directors includes:

  • Attending four board meetings per year, plus the annual board retreat, and joining one standing committee  task force per year.
  • Attending key events, such as fundraising, each year.
  • Encouraging the involvement of friends, and enhancing the organization’s public image throughout the community.
  • Assuring best practices for governance, strategic planning, fund development and financial controls.
  • Making a meaningful personal gift to the organization on an annual basis.

I am indebted to Ms. Dawn Reese, Executive Director and Co-CEO of The Wooden Floor, Santa Ana, CA. for allowing me to publish parts of her presentation.

How to Prepare for the Board Member Candidate

Adrianne DuMond

I recently sat in on an interview for a potential new board member. I was more impressed with the interviewee than I was with the board members asking the questions. That’s because the interviewee had questions of her own and showed that she had prepared well. These are some of the questions she asked. And it is important for those interviewing the candidate to be equally prepared to answer.

* Why are you interested in me as a board member?
* What role do you see me playing on the board?
* What do you feel is unique about your board?
* What are the major issues the board is facing?
* What weaknesses does the board have working together?
* How well does the board work with staff?
* If I were to join the board, what would you expect me to do my first year?

It is a good idea for those interviewing a potential candidate to meet beforehand and to review these questions so they are on the same page and have thought through the responses. They should also be prepared to give the candidate a timeline so she/he knows when to expect an answer.

Selecting the appropriate candidate in the beginning is far more effective than making a mistake and dealing with the fallout later, even if it takes a little more time.

Author:  Adrianne DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County,

Qualities of a Charismatic Leader

    Adrianne DuMond

    Non-profit leaders are often charismatic. Why? Because they have a passion for a cause and a compelling story to tell. But since quality leadership of people is so important in the non-profit world, let’s revisit what constitutes charisma. I recently heard a psychologist talk on the subject. 

Charismatic leaders do the following: 

  1. They listen more than they talk. 
  2. They ask questions to confirm their interest in what is being said. 
  3. They treat all people the same; that is, they listen to the busboy the same as listening to the boss, to convey they have something in common with the speaker. 
  4. They don’t act self-important.
  5.  They don’t switch the conversation to themselves; they put their ‘stuff’ aside. 
  6. They give before they receive. Forging a connection or relationship is built on giving – support, help, contacts. 
  7. They shine the spotlight on others. 
  8. They are tactful and choose their words carefully. Words chosen can affect the attitudes of others 
  9. They don’t discuss the shortcomings of others. 
  10. They readily discuss their own shortcomings; being humble, genuine, admitting mistakes, and being able to laugh at self are all qualities of the charismatic leader.

Author: Adranne DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County,

National Nonprofit Board Statistics

Adrianne DuMond

How does your Board of Directors compare with some recent national statistics on governance by non-profit Boards? The statistics were compiled by bOHSE and Associates out of New Jersey, from recent findings by BoardSource and three other national organizations. I think some of the findings may be of interest as we ponder what comprises good practices of governance.

• Average size of U. S. non-profit boards is 16 members, compared to 11 for profit boards.

• Board size tends to increase with non-profit group’s income.

• Boards average 74% in member giving, and those with 100% board giving = 46%.

• Eighty six percent of non-profit board members were white, compared to 92.7 % of corporate boards; 14% were minorities (African American = 7%, Hispanic/Latino = 3%)

• The average number of board meetings per year is 6.9.

• The average board meeting takes 3 hours.

• Thirty-six percent of board members were age 30 – 49, 49% were 50 – 64.

• Under half (43%) of non profit board members were women. That contrasts sharply with corporate boards where only 6% are women.

• Boards requiring personal contributions from members – 68%.

• Boards requiring attendance at fund raising events – 60%.

• Members average 10 hours per month on board/committee business.

• Ninety two percent of boards have an external financial audit.

The organizations contributing to these statistics, besides BoardSource, were the National Center for Non-Profit Boards, the National Association of Corporate Directors, and the National Governance Survey of Chief Executives.

Author:  Adrianne DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County,

Questions for the Prospective Board Member

Adrianne DuMond

The meeting with the prospective Board member is not just coffee or lunch, but requires some pre-planning to ensure that objectives are met. It is a question of what that person can do (add) for the agency more than who he/she is. Think about what skills/qualities that person brings to the governance of the agency. Here are some questions to consider, after the formalities of greeting and welcoming the person. 

  • What interests you about our organization? What interests you the most?
  • What appeals to you about being a volunteer on a Board?
  • What are some of your experiences as a leader in a volunteer role?
  • What skills, expertise, and qualities do you bring to serving on a Board?
  • If you were to join our Board, are there any experiences you’d like to have as a Board member?
  • Do you have any concerns about joining our Board.
  • We hope you will consider being a part of our fundraising effort. Is this something you think you could do?
  • We have a Board meeting ( once a month) and like to have good attendance. Would you be able to devote time to serving on the Board regularly, as well as any committee assignments you may choose?

Board members may come and go, but selecting the interested and committed Board member takes work. It is sometimes difficult to sort out the people who volunteer for a Board, just because it looks good on their resume, but they really don’t have the time.. Asking good questions may forestall this problem.

Author:  Adrianne DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County


Qualities of a Chief Executive

Adrianne DuMond

We often recruit the Chief Executive based on competencies – strong leadership, selecting and managing qualified staff, and mastery of complex financial structures. What are the other qualities we need to consider?

Integrity: I like to hear when checking references “He/she has always been honest with me – a straight-up person.”

Credibility: In addition to credentials and professional background, it is important to believe this person has credibility and passion for the mission in the marketplace.

Presence: Does this person command respect in the community, communicate effectively, with a powerful and compelling story about the agency.

Initiative: In these trying economic times, it is important for a chief executive to be adaptable to changing circumstances, exhibiting resourcefulness and ingenuity.

Vision: Some nuts and bolts executives have a difficult time with vision – thinking strategically and planning effectively. Smart executives recognize this weakness and seek input from the Board, staff, and seasoned professionals.

Responsiveness: This is best accomplished by listening well – to community, staff, Board, donors, grant makers, and partners, and responding effectively.

Political Astuteness: I have discovered that successful executives have a mastery of political astuteness. They have to survive and grow by being aware of all the countervailing forces in their environment, handling the challenges with tact and skill.

The role of the chief executive is pivotal and essential to the non-profit sector. It is crucial to the success of the sector to spend time attracting and retaining strong leadership.

Author:  Adrianne Dumond, Executive Coaches of Orange County,

Lifecycle of a Nonprofit (Part 3): The Mature Stage

Adrianne DuMond

In these times of economic uncertainty, even mature nonprofits work hard to sustain their effectiveness. The most important criterion for staying power is adaptability. As they did budgeting for 2013, two of my well-endowed clients spent time in strategic planning to determine which programs needed fine tuning, whether any should be cut, and looking at the competition for where they might combine resources. One moved from grant-funded programs to fee-based programs.

As a nonprofit enters the mature stage the responsibilities of the Board shift. The Board may expand and formulate a committee structure that adds specific skills needed. They may decide on an advisory Board to ensure a positive impact of the organization in the community, its programs, and its focus on fulfilling the mission. Some may call it capacity building, but it’s also responding to the environment and being adaptable.

Let’s look at some of the ways an agency might be adaptive.

  • Link strategic initiatives with other nonprofits to provide services and programs.
  • Be involved in community-level decision-making bodies to learn how they advance programs and determine policies.
  • Have evaluation systems in place to monitor community feedback, program quality and quantity, and client expectations and outcomes.
  • Make sure that all programmatic decisions include discussions of evaluations findings with staff and Board. Chief Executive input, understanding, and agreement are crucial for any changes to be effective.

We know that it is impossible for a mature organization to progress without being adaptive to change. For a fuller discussion of these concepts please see “Navigating the Organizational Lifecycle” by Paul. M. Connolly”. Author Connolly provides detailed examples and case studies of the lifecycle stages and the book can be ordered through BoardSource.

Author:  Adrianne DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County,

The Lifecycle of a Nonprofit: (Part 2) The Adolescent Stage

Adrianne DuMond

This article continues a series I started earlier for the blog. Part 1 looked at the Start-Up nonprofit and included the steps to success and the risks involved. The Adolescent Stage may occur between the third and sixth year of operation and be filled with uncertainty and challenges. According to a report by the Gianneschi Center for Nonprofit Research (CSUFullerton) only 57% of nonprofits have enough cash to cover 3 months or less of expenses. And in these difficult economic times we find nonprofits trying to do more with less.

So how do we sustain an agency and help it survive?

The Chief Executive:

Many nonprofits may face a crisis when the role of the chief executive starts to change. It is time for the Board to be clear about the job description as the role shifts from a more entrepreneurial one to a managerial role. Governance issues will surface – that is, staff job descriptions, personnel policies, written policy manual, performance review processes. and budget targets to meet established goals.

If the chief executive is the founder, then that person must delineate between his/her personal goals and the good of the organization. Sometimes the Board is forced to decide that the current executive is not competent enough for the job, as it grows and matures. This may require legal counsel to execute safely, plus a well-defined job description. If, however, the present executive has established broad-based respect in the community, and has shown adeptness to learning quickly, it might be advisable for the Board to offer and pay for training and education to assure his/her success.

Board of Director’s Responsibilities:

Leadership capacity must be cultivated at both the staff and Board level. Board membership in the start-up stage may have been less formal and dependent on supporters who love the mission, but are not necessarily the skills needed to guide and direct growth. The Board may want to conduct a needs assessment for its Board to determine, consensually, what leadership is lacking.

The Board’s responsibilities now shift to:

  • Members chosen on merit, background and skills;
  • Clear goals, strategic planning;
  • Focused future vision;
  • Clear Board expectations that are measured and enforced;
  • Staff driven programs, with sound management;
  • Diversified funding base;
  • A Board that sees its role as fund development, stewardship and advocacy.

As I have stated earlier, the boundaries between stages of the lifecycle are often blurred. But an agency is progressing when leadership and management capacity are growing, and the mission is clear, and being fulfilled by a growth in program delivery.

Author:  Adrianne DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County,