Category Archives: Nonprofit Boards

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

The Glossary for Nonprofit Governance

Adrianne Geiger Dumond

 

 

Many of us in the nonprofit world use terms and acronyms that may be confusing to newcomers – especially young employees trying to learn about the nonprofit as a business. I recently ran across a very useful tool for educating everyone in this business. The glossary should probably be in every manager’s office.

The Glossary is published by BoardSource and can be found under Nonprofit Board Fundamentals on their website. The glossary is alphabetized and runs five pages and has every term that is ever used in this business.

For example: have you ever wondered what the difference was between a 501(c)(3) and a 501(c)(6)? There are also simpler definitions: For example:

  •  Board Development
  •  Disclosure requirements
  •  Emeritus status
  •  Fiduciary duty
  •   Immediate sanctions
  •   Operational reserves

Possibly the most Important definitions provided for novices are the terms for IRS requirements, which can be confusing. For example:

  • Form 990
  • Form 990 – PF
  •  Form 990 – T
  •  Form 1023
  •  Form 1024
  • Or maybe a ‘Federated Organization’ ?

I recommend every nonprofit have a copy of this glossary – maybe even board members might appreciate the information.

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

Leading From Behind

Karen Haren

 

 

One of the biggest challenges nonprofit Executive Directors report is having effective boards. Effective boards don’t just happen, they are developed and supported by effective Executive Directors. The Executive Director leads the board from behind ensuring the board is prepared to fulfill the it’s role in governing the organization.  Here are 5 key responsibilities of ED.

  1. Build a strong partnership with the board chair. Keep the chair informed of any issues.  There should be no surprises between these two partners.
  2. See that officers and board members are oriented and trained. Spell out expectations, provide background on roles, structure of the organization, mission, programs, fund raising, finances, strategic plan, successes and challenges etc.
  3. Prepare for board meetings. Develop an annual strategic agenda calendar for board meetings. Draft the board agenda and discuss with board chair, prepare background materials for actions that the board is being requested to take, distribute packet to board members one week before the meeting. Consider having a web page for board members with bylaws, board minutes, board calendar, meeting materials etc.
  4. Ensure the organization has a strategic plan. Annual plans, budgets, and staff performance plans all flow from the strategic plan. Present a dashboard at each board meeting that shows the board where you are in achieving the targets in the strategic plan.
  5. Ensure there is a performance management process for the ED. The criteria for the review as well as the process and time line should be spelled out at the beginning of the fiscal year.  Compensation and an annual raise should be tied to the performance review process.

While the ED may not be the individual who completes all of these tasks, it is important that the ED ensures that these tasks are accomplished.  Leading from behind ensures an effective governing board.

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

Improving Board Governance: Part 3

Adrianne Geiger Dumond

 

The role of the CEO/Executive Director: Barriers and Risks

I have spoken in past blogs of the importance of a ‘generative mindset’ for enhancing the importance of Board governance. Generative mindset encompasses a macro level of thinking for Board meetings. There is a risk when Board members are confortable with a less strenuous mode of thinking. They may be uncomfortable with the new mode. It may take some time for Board members to accept and participate easily.

Perhaps the most important role for success is by the CEO/Executive Director (ED).  The ED is the primary conduit between staff and Board (as should be defined in the by-laws). The ED is responsible for educating the Board – to improve governance – and is accountable for the knowledge and information the Board receives. The ED also controls the pace of meetings so they are useful as well as informative – and this is an important necessity. Meetings can drag on, lots of talk, little new understanding or resolution on next steps.

Meeting guidelines for the CEO/ED:

  • In a separate meeting, beforehand, brief the Board chair, explain your goals so that he/she can support your quest.
  • Explain how governance is a partnership – between ED, staff, and Board.
  • Prepare and select carefully the project/subject for which the Board can provide guidance.
  • Encourage Board members to ask more questions than statements – challenging suppositions.
  • Ensure that nothing is “undiscussable” in the board room, and assure confidentiality.
  • Encourage different opinions.
  • Share information and leadership opportunities – asking questions can prove this to members.
  • Control discussion where a member dominates – one way to do this is to say,  “Sam, in the interest of time, let’s meet after the meeting to hear your viewpoint so that others can express their opinions here more openly”.
  • Don’t be too wedded to the past, but also not too far ahead of the Board.

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

Improving Board Governance: Part 2

Adrianne Geiger Dumond

The Importance of Effective Board Meetings

Board meetings can be comprised of dedicated supporters, and/or highly trained professionals – all committed to the cause, but with different skill sets for good governance. Part 1 of this series named the three ‘mindsets’ that Boardsource likes for adequate governance of a nonprofit. They were: Financial Insight, Strategic Insight and Generative Insight – the third mindset being the most challenging to grasp.

Generative governance requires time being spent to feel comfortable with the concepts – critical thinking, problem analysis, and tackling ambiguous Board circumstances. It’s more than the usual Board meeting agenda. Board, staff, and CEO must work as partners to handle the strategies going forward. A generative mindset might be quite healthy in a nonprofit’s staff and its teams. For example, a problem arises, the appropriate team analyses cause and effect, researches possible solutions, proposes recommendations to the CEO – who then takes it to the Board. A generative mindset might mean that the staff person/team leader also present their reasoning to the Board, since the Board may need to approve a large expenditure. This thinking for the Board is at a macro level that may feel uncomfortable at first. And it requires better preparation for Board meetings – asking better questions instead of focusing on immediate, short-term considerations – like balancing the budget.

Operating in a generative mode is educating Board members and requires more meeting time and resources for critical thinking, discussion and debate. Here are some tips for making the transition easier.

Consent agendas:  Sending out an agenda ahead of the meeting allows quick acceptance of routine reports and approval of recurring actions.

Pre-reading: No meeting time should be spent reviewing documents for information and knowledge, Information should be sent early enough for Board members to be prepared for discussion and to provide their opinions.

Board Composition: A diversity of thinking styles and problem solving is important. This is a great learning opportunity for all involved. Often, great team work is the outcome – members having better understanding of each other.

In Part 3 I will cover the important role of the Chief Executive in this process, and the risks and barriers.

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

 

Improving Board Governance: Part 1

Adrianne Geiger Dumond

 

Three Important Precepts – or ‘mind sets’

How many of us as Board members go to meetings, approve the minutes, the budget, listen to program staff or a video on a success story (that matches our mission), exchange pleasantries, and go home feeling quite satisfied that we have fulfilled our volunteer commitment? Is that good governance of our organization? Should we be thinking deeper?

I recently ran across some excellent concepts on Boardsource.com that I would like to share with you. Boardsource calls it ‘generative governance’, and although I don’t favor the esoteric title, there are some precepts that compel me to write several blogs. The concepts are very practical. Boardsource calls the precepts ‘mind sets’. There are three of them, and two are quite traditional and recognized. They are:

  • Fiduciary oversight – review budgets, oversee financial policies, ensure reserves, avoiding unnecessary risk.
  • Strategic oversight – the chief executive, board and staff work together to develop and determine strategic goals and initiatives. They must also work together as strategic partners to determine the organization’s direction.
  • Mindset 3 – ‘Generative insight’ – is the use of critical thinking (challenging suppositions) and problem analysis, tackling ambiguous situations, so that both board and staff partner to establish mission and goals.

The generative mindset tends to take everyone out of their comfort zone – the chief executive (who plays a major role in the transition), staff and board. But there are steps to be taken that ensure board members learn to be part of the decisions and feel comfortable with the process.

In Part 2 of this series we will define those steps, and provide tips for restructuring the board meetings to facilitate the mindset.

In Part 3 we will consider the importance of the chief executive’s role in leading this change, and the barriers and risks involved.

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

No-cost Nonprofit Training Opportunities

Bob Cryer

 

NonprofitReady.org (NPRO) is a website of 43 interactive E-learning curriculums and 385 online classes and videos on a wide variety of nonprofit best practices, all at no cost to any user.  I took one of the curriculums (Management Essentials) and was impressed with the content and interactive presentation. More importantly, sixty thousand people have used the site in the past year, and six thousand new users join each month.

In my opinion, the more people in a nonprofit who know nonprofit best practices, the more effective that nonprofit is likely to be. NPRO best practice trainings can be accessed at no cost, at any time, from anywhere, for as long a session as the user has time for at that moment. It is, by far, one of the most convenient and cost effective methods that I am aware of for acquiring know-how in nonprofit best practices.

Here is a sampling of a few of NPRO’s most popular online courses, videos and curriculums:

  • Managing Expectations This 8-minute micro-learning online course on managing expectations contains a 3 minute video, quiz, summary document and additional short audio clips. Managing expectations is a crucial part of any professional relationship, from your colleagues to your customers.
  • Managing Your Boss This 8-minute micro-learning online course on managing your boss contains a 2 minute video, quiz, summary document and additional short audio clips. Your boss can have a big impact on the way you do your work, but your actions can also influence their management style.
  • Introduction to Proposal Writing This 27 minute video is designed for anyone involved in the proposal writing process. Course Objectives: • Understand the basic components of writing and submitting a project proposal
  • Introduction to Finding Grants This 30 minute video is designed for anyone seeking to better understand the grant-seeking process. Course Objectives: • Identify the 10 most important things you need to know about grant-seeking • Understand the primary misconceptions about grant-seeking
  • Project Management Essentials – Part A This 20-minute online course is designed for anyone responsible for managing projects and/or programs. Objectives for Part A and Part B: Define the life cycle of a project and structure it around milestones, Control your project using flexible tools, Create a plan for day-to-day project management.
  • Grantsmanship Essentials Pack In this 1 hour and 50 minute curriculum from the Foundation Center, you will learn the basics on how to find grant programs and funders as well as how to write a proposal that aligns with the funder’s criteria. Objectives: To understand how to identify funders aligned with your organizational mission and cause, To articulate what is required in receiving and managing grant funds, To identify the best practices for writing a successful grant proposal.

Please visit NonprofitReady.org to learn more.

Author:  Bob Cryer, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

The Impact of Social Change on Non Profits

Adrianne Geiger Dumond

  • “I would expect that more than one third of all men in the U.S. between the ages of 25 and 54 will be out of work at mid-century.”[1]
  • “The collapse of work for America’s men is arguably a crisis for our nation – but it is a largely invisible crisis.”[2]
  • “And the troubles posed by this male flight from work are by no means solely economic. It is also a social crisis.”[3]

This writer is neither an economist or a sociologist, but I feel compelled to pass on some critical information noted by economists. The staggering statistics will make the non profit world all the more important, and also stretch their work load to the extreme – if not already there.

John Mauldin, the economist in his weekly newsletters, has recently covered the findings of a book entitled Men Without Work, America’s Invisible Crisis by Nicholas Eberstadt. The findings portend the social change that will require ever more help from social agencies. The book claims that “…there are some 10 million men of prime working age (25-54) who have simply dropped out of the workforce, and the great majority of them have not only dropped out of the workforce, but they have also dropped out from any commitments or responsibilities to society.”

The trend is not recent. Manufacturing jobs have been waning for decades, Trade policies, technological advancements have also snuffed out jobs – especially for low skilled workers. “As economic life has become less secure, low skilled workers have tended towards unstable cohabiting relationships rather than marriages……The growing incapacity of grown men to function as breadwinners cannot help but undermine the American family.” The book also explains the drastically increased mortality rates ( e.g. up 190% since 1998 for white men, unskilled, ages 50-54) from alcohol drugs, depression and suicide.

I highly recommend the book. It is only 216 pages of serious warnings for the future.

 

[1] Thoughts from the Frontline, weekly newsletter by John Mauldin, March 28, 2017

[2] Ibid, Men without Work by Nicholas Eberstadt, a book referenced in the above article.

[3] Ibid

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

Facilitation Skills for the Leader and Workplace Technology

Adrianne Geiger Dumond

 

 

Facilitation skills can be used in many settings – running Board/Staff meetings, strategic planning, problem solving meetings, even conducting performance evaluations. The mission of facilitation is to disclose the facts, and the truth, which means the leader, must be objective and unbiased. If this demeanor cannot be attained, it is better to contract for an outside facilitator.

In a March 13, 2017 issue of the Wall Street Journal there was a whole section on WORKPLACE TECHNILOGY, “How is AI (Artificial Intelligence) Transforming the Workplace”. The premise is that in the future managers will decide who to hire, how employees might work together on special teams, how they might be evaluated – even predicting how long employees will stay or leave – based on the analysis of mounds of data and a search for certain patterns. This is the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and its potential.

Working on this article about the use of facilitation skills led me to conclude that the future must be even more open, transparent with how people work together in this new world. With leaders facilitating how decisions are made, goals are determined, may help to retain trust and faith in the leadership and ultimately the organization. Here are some tips for successful facilitation practices.

Getting started: Setting expectations is an important part of getting started. The facilitator should state the purpose of the meeting and what outcomes might be expected at the end of working together. If confidentiality is an issue, the leader must ensure that ‘what’s said in this room, stays in the room’. If the facilitator is the boss, it is critical to state that she/he will be non-judgmental and unbiased in the discussion.

Asking good questions: Asking good questions takes skill and practice, especially for the facilitator. They must further the truth and circumstances, but remain non-judgmental and unbiased. Open-ended questions are a good start. For example, it is better to ask, “What led up to this situation”, than “How did Jane get involved in this situation?” But the follow-on questions can be a challenge. Here are some examples:

  • Can you tell us more?
  • Can you give us an example?
  • What led you to that conclusion?
  • What should we do next?

Facts and Evidence: The purpose of good facilitation is to put the audience at ease. They must have enough facts to understand the subject and can make an educated conclusion about the decision.

Final expectations: Facilitators owe it to an audience to summarize the discussions and answer the question “where do we go from here?” After taking time to elicit an audience’s opinions and knowledge, it is respectful of their time to be clear about outcomes. They really expect that.

I urge you to read the WSJ section. It is startling – especially for privacy issues. Successful working relationships are built on trust and respect. The future workplace rules will need to consider inhuman data and maintain respect, trust and privacy – a challenge for good facilitation skills.

Click here to learn more about our no-cost coaching program to help you develop your nonprofit leadership and management skills.

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

Checklist for Board Members

Adrianne Geiger Dumond

 

 

 

 

Is your Board functioning, as you might like it to? Even if it is, the New Year presents a good opportunity to review the checklist below. The checklist comes from an excellent article[1] on orientation to Board membership and the expectations for that responsibility – both for the Board and new members. This blog only covers the expectations for Board members in the interest of space. But I highly recommend the entire article.

  • Know the organization’s mission, purposes, goals, services, POLICIES, STRENGTHS, and NEEDS
  • Follow trends in the organization’s field of interest and keep informed.
  • Faithfully read and understand the organization’s financial statements and otherwise help the Board fulfill its fiduciary responsibility.
  • Avoid prejudicial judgments on the basis of information received from individuals, urge staff members with grievances to follow established policies and procedures through their supervisors. All significant matters coming to you should be called to the attention of the Chief Executive and/or the Board’s elected leader as appropriate.
  • Prepare for and conscientiously participate in Board and committee meetings, including appropriate organizational activities when possible.
  • Act as ambassador for the organization when in public, speak only with one voice outside of the Boardroom. Volunteer outside of Board role when appropriate.
  • Suggest to the appropriate committee, possible nominees for Board membership, who would make significant contributions to the Board and organization.
  • Serve in leadership positions and undertake special assignments willingly.

It may be time for a refresher of duties and responsibilities even if the Board is working well together. Click here if you think it might be helpful to have a coach to help you work more effectively with your Board and/or make your Board more effective.

[1] Board Member Orientation Checklist, BoardSource, Resource and Solutions (R&S) Weekly,

December 21, 2016.

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