Category Archives: Nonprofit Boards

Performance Review for the CEO/ED

Adrianne Geiger Dumond

A performance review of the CEO/ED (Executive Director) one time a year is recommended as good governance. Yet, when I have asked some of these leaders in the past, the answer often is “ Oh, I’ve never had one” … or “I had one several years ago.”

The questions are, How can a leader grow and reach new heights without support and feedback from the Board? How can a Board really support a mission without understanding the leader’s challenges and strengths?

There are assessment tools and even resources on the Internet about this process and protocol, but I believe the simplest of discussions with everyone notified and involved produces the healthiest and most satisfactory outcomes.

• The Board chair meets with the CEO/ED to state purpose, ask about a future date, and ask if there are any items he/she would like feedback on.

• The Board chair reports to the Board the findings and sets a future date, asking that all members please attend.

In the meeting there are two (2) simple questions to answer:

1. What did the leader accomplish this year, what about effective communication with the Board, with donor and community relationships, success with leadership initiatives, and meeting the strategic goals of the nonprofit? What are his/her strengths?

2. What would the Board like to have him/her consider doing differently?

These questions should be tackled separately. That is, question 1 should be discussed by the entire Board – if small, in one group. If the Board is more than 6, then in small groups, and then each small group reports to the others. There is knowledge and information shared in this process that makes the Board a stronger team.

After there is closure to the first question, the second question is addressed in the same way.

The discussions and notes from these two sessions must be confidential and housed in the Board chair’s possession – never in the office. Feedback to the CEO/ED should convey support, appreciation, and should also touch on any development goals for the leader.

Author: Adrianne Geiger DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Three Reasons to Hire a Coach

Karen Haren

Leaders in not-for-profit organizations frequently ask why would I hire a coach. In my own experience as a leader and in coaching executives, here are three reasons you might want to hire a coach.

It can be lonely at the top. Even though there are others who work in your organization, you can feel isolated. As a leader, you wrestle with many issues that you can’t share with your colleagues, direct reports, boss or the board. A coach could help you talk through the problem or opportunity and develop your strategies.

You are dealing with change. You are stepping into uncharted territory with a new job, project or responsibilities. You may want to make a career move or you want to retire. A new phase can be unsettling and cause insecurity. A coach can listen to you and help you chart your course. A coach can accelerate your learning through the transition.

You are up to your assets in alligators. It’s hard to remember your objective was to drain the swamp. You may be stressing over a personnel problem or worried that you can’t raise enough money to keep the organization afloat. The three most frequent subjects raised by not for profit executives are personnel, fund raising and boards of directors. A coach can let you vent and help you work through options to chart your course.

Coaching is a relationship process that can help you solve problems, manage change and/or reach goals. Being clear about your reason for hiring a coach will accelerate the process of reaching your objective.

Author:  Karen Haren, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Don’t Forget to Plan for the Unexpected

Dave Blankenhorn

Often in our planning we forget to look at what might happen in favor what we want to happen. As we consider our goals for the coming year give some thought to what might upset your best laid plans.

What internal and external threats could disrupt your mission?

Internal risks could include unplanned expenses, disruptions in revenue, inadequate reserves, or IT crashes, internal fraud or theft, inadequate insurance coverage, hacking, or reputation risk.

External issues could be how to operate if there is a natural disaster, economic downturn, or regulation changes.

Identify the risks, measure the possible impact of each, determine the probability of the occurrence of the risk, then prepare a plan to mitigate those with the highest potential to damage your organization.

These should be then incorporated as part of your overall plan tied together with your contingency plan.

Continue to review and update your assumptions during the year. As the Boy Scouts say: “Be Prepared”.

Author:  David Blankenhorn, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Choosing Dogs & Board Members

The history of how dogs have been utilized to accomplish a wide variety of tasks is fascinating. The unique personality and physical characteristics of the breeds makes each one ideally suited for taking on some pretty demanding challenges.

Michael Kogutek, nonprofit management coach
Michael Kogutek

One of the biggest challenges that ECofOC coaches confront is helping Executive Directors figure out who are good candidates to become board members. I came across this article by Hardy Smith, a Non-profit consultant from Florida. I found it to be spot on. Haley gave me permission to reproduce it here.” When watching the annual Westminster Dog Show, I am always intrigued by comments about each breed’s particular purpose and capability traits.

There are hunters, workers, leaders, protectors, and companions.

From water repellent coats and webbed paws for working in water to thick warm coats for cold climates to small bodies with short legs to big bodies with long legs, each breed is equipped with the right tools for getting specific jobs done.

Owners have depended on their dogs and their unique performance abilities for hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of years. Each breed’s record of competence has been well demonstrated.

Westminster Show announcers always stress the importance of considering a dog’s distinctive personality and physical characteristics as important factors when deciding which dog to bring into a home.

Some breeds are low maintenance and are great around children while others can demonstrate challenging behavior that requires patience and a commitment to training.

The consideration process for choosing the right dog can be applied to finding a new nonprofit or association board member.

What specific talents and abilities does your board need? What personality characteristics should be present to ensure someone will be a good fit?

What are your prospective board member’s demonstrated behavior and performance tendencies? Will patience and extra training be required?

Just as not all dogs are the same, neither are board members.

If you choose your board members with as much care and thought as you would take with choosing a dog, you will have a board’s best friend!”

  Hardy Smith Consulting http://www.hardysmith.com

Author: Michael Kogutek, Executive Coaches of Orange County, ECofOC.org

Do you have Board term limits?

Dave Blankenhorn

 

A recent survey on boards by a community bank trade group highlights issues pertinent to not just banks but also to nonprofit organizations.

While many board members are “baby boomers” and getting older many boards have avoided the issues of term limits. This is a touchy subject as many are “founders” and feel a proprietary interest in the group. On the flip side without limits directors can become stagnant or cliquish and can stunt the success of the organization. In some cases, the long-term directors may prevent a younger and more diverse crop of leaders from joining the board.

Advantages to setting term limits include: the ability to add directors with specific skills, avoids stagnation, group-think, boredom and loss of commitment, avoids the potential for unhealthy insider attitudes, allows for a respectful and efficient way to remove ineffective directors, and most importantly brings in new ideas, perspectives and contacts.

There are some disadvantages to term limits; potential loss of expertise, loss of organizational memory, the time spent required to recruit and educate new directors, a loss in board cohesiveness and possible donation losses.

It is important for the current board leadership to step back and view what is right for them. While new blood and fresh ideas are vital to any organization so to are the loyalties and knowledge of existing members.

A way to retain these valuable people would be to set up an “Honorary Board” informing them of current activities, soliciting their input, and giving them the recognition, they so deserve.

No matter the path you choose about this issue not making one is a decision in itself.

Author: Dave Blamkenhorn, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC,org

Can Nonprofits Meet the Challenge of Social Change?

Adrianne Geiger 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 Geiger DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Are You Prepared? The Breach of Data Security

Adrianne Geiger Dumond

 

 

I recently wrote about the benefits of data as a public relations tool – especially when the IRS Form 990 is available to the public. I would be remiss if I didn’t address the possibility of such data being hacked. “The philanthropy community is still catching up to the digital security needs faced by civil society” says two security experts, whose article is noted below.[1]

The article recommends four steps to take to be AWARE of the risk. They are:

  1. Commit to digital security as essential to all work. Although digital security work takes resources and energy, it is critical to keep a focus on its importance. Like fiscal responsibility and good governance, digital security needs to be part of strategic planning.
  1. Take big responsibility for big data. Organizations must take responsibility for stewarding their data seriously, or many people they serve, engaged supporters and institutions may be at risk.
  1. Prioritize “capacity building”. This means addressing the structural vulnerabilities that make it easy for an online adversary to attack the organization. This includes auditing the specific systems the organization uses to store, share, and process user data. The authors point out that individual training programs are not sufficient, since the ground is always changing. It takes focused, structural change. 
  1. See the shared threat as a call for interdependence. Digital security is a shared responsibility among funders, donors, partners, and our own customers and clients. Organizations need to be realistic about the interdependencies and work together to avoid the risks. But lastly, data security relies on a structural, system-wide focus in the organization to avoid the risk.

[1]Tackling Digital Security Across Civil Society”, Josh Levy & Katie Gillum, Stanford Social Innovation Review, April 20, 2018

Author:  Adrianne Geiger DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County, ECofOC.org

5 Traits of Effective Bylaws

Michael Kogutek, nonprofit management coach

Michael Kogutek

 

Bylaws can be intimidating and complicated. Benjamin Miller from the Community Legal Education Group,Ontario, Canada writes a very concise and pragmatic article on the topic.He has given me permission to reproduce this article.  No matter how good your bylaws are in theory, if they don’t get used, they aren’t effective. Here is a list of 5 key traits of bylaws that actually get used.

1) They reflect the realities of your organization. The rules and processes set out in your bylaws should reflect what you actually do as an organization. You may have read about some great practices other organizations have put in place. Even if you think that your organization should be working to put those practices in place, remember that your bylaws have to grow with you. Recommendation: You can’t draft effective bylaws simply by looking at the best practices of other organizations. You must start by learning what your organization currently does and values. If someone is writing your bylaws for you, even an expert, make sure they spend enough time familiarizing themselves with your organization.

2) They reflect the delicate balance of interests in your organization. Every organization has to balance the interests of many groups, including directors, donors, funders, members, users, and others. If your bylaws exaggerate the power of any of these groups, you are on the road to either conflict or having those rules ignored. Recommendation: Just because only a few people are actually interested in the bylaws doesn’t mean their say should count for more. You should reach out as much as you can and make consultations as fun and social as possible.

3) They are easy to navigate and read. People don’t have the time to read bylaws back to front to collect all the relevant rules for a particular decision. On the spot in a meeting, you must be able to know exactly where to look for all the relevant rules and be able to scan them quickly for the right information. Recommendation: Organize the sections of your bylaws according to how they’ll be used, e.g. AGM, Directors Meetings, etc. Use generous margins and lots of space between sections that express different ideas and topics. Have a table of contents.

4) They are written clearly and efficiently. If you can’t understand your bylaws then you can’t use them. It’s that simple. Recommendation: Make a special effort to write your bylaws in plain language.

5) They are designed for the beginner. Your bylaws need to be used by your most junior board members, who may have no previous experience with this kind of document and may represent a vulnerable community. In fact, ideally your members should be able to understand your bylaws to hold you to account. Recommendation: When writing the bylaws, ask yourself “could an average member easily use these bylaws to hold our board to account?”

Finally, remember that your bylaws also need to be legally compliant. Consult with an appropriate legal advisor to make sure your bylaws are not only useful but legal too.

*This list is based on The Drafting of Corporate Charters and Bylaws (2nd ed.) by Kurt Friedrich Pantzer. (1968).

Author:  Michael Kogutek, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

A Guide to Succession Planning

Adrianne Geiger Dumond

 

 

Succession planning is one of the hardest activities that non-profits take the time to consider. I was recently given a document that I feel every non-profit leader should read. This is because it provides every single consideration, every step, and many resources for completing the task. It is called, ‘Building the Organizations:Succession Planning for NonProfits’, funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The author is Tim Wolfred of CompassPoint Nonprofit Services (compasspoint.org).

The document is 20 pages, and I would like to just tell you some of the subjects included, in the interest of space.

  • Three ways of thinking about succession planning:
    • Strategic leader development – assuring the right skills are present for the leadership in the strategic planning process.
    • Emergency succession planning – the document does an excellent job of laying out first steps, of demystifying the hesitancy that ‘being prepared’ might engender, and providing care for the departing leader.
    • Creating the probability for successors to the Executive Director and other important leaders to emerge from your talent pool.
  • A Succession Readiness list
  • The importance of sharing knowledge – to increase bench strength
  • The nuts and bolts of Departure-Defined Succession Planning – when a leader announces a departure date ahead of time.
  • Getting the Board on board
  • The Tough Issues
  • Finding an Interim Executive Director
  • Tools You Can Use – and where to get them
    • Staff surveys
    • Stakeholder Surveys
    • A sample of an Emergency Succession Plan – with steps to how to accomplish the plan (compasspoint.org/et).

I hope this information will encourage you to consider succession planning as vital to the success and sustainability of your organization.

Author:  Adrianne Geiger DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Can Your Data Tell a Story?

Adrianne Geiger Dumond

 

 

 

How many of us input data, and never see it again, lacking an effective way to use it? What if the data could tell a compelling story that might inspire others to support the mission? An article on the Stanford Social Innovation Review website provides some recommendations for helping your data tell a story/[1]

 

1. Data storytellers answer a question – “so what”. I recently had a client whose services had added 20 customers for the quarter. That number had no significance until he asked some questions:

  • What percentage is 20 of our customer base?
  • How does this effect our operation?
  • Who needs to know these numbers?

Analysis of the data leads to clarity and to more questions.

2.  The data should inspire us to ask more questions.

Back to the example:

  • What factors contribute to this increase?
  • How does it effect staffing?
  • What external factors are contributing to the increase?
  • How can we portray this information graphically for social media purposes?

3.  The use of rigorous analysis is better than numbers on a page. A concise Executive Summary of the findings from the analysis is a first step.The author, Jake Porway, favors visualization of the data over raw numbers – a graph or pie chart to crystallize understanding for an audience. Porway has several websites in his article for learning more about data visualization. This may be difficult for some IT personnel. But the goal may be worth the investment in order to impress upon donors and volunteers, viewing the media source, that their service and contributions are needed and welcomed.

[1] Three Things Great Data Storytellers Do Differently,  Jake Porway, author, Stanford Social Innovation Review, June 8, 2016

Author:  Adrianne DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org