Category Archives: Nonprofit Boards

The Link of Conversation to Good Fund Raising

Adrianne Geiger Dumond

Non-Profits face an extra challenge in these trying times as the fundraising season unfolds. Since large social events are restricted, many are struggling with creative zoom events to fill the void. In addition, the waive of the RMD (Required Minimum Distribution) from IRA funds in 2020 complicates the decisions of some donors.

Personal story: I donate to 4 large non-profits every tear from my RMD. This year, 2 sent me letters, 1 kindly called to tell me all the great things they were doing. The 4th (a man I barely know) called and started asking me questions. They were typical at first, and then he hooked me about some interest/activity I have and took an interest with me in the topic. I am sharing this because it was such a revelation to me as to how to get money from donors. I immediately decided I would take my RMD so I could continue to donate to this charity.

Moral of the story? Train and prepare all solicitors who contact your donors to master conversation and the art of asking questions!

The How To: Choose the Board members and staff who have the best social conversation skills to practice with each other. Call a training session just for this purpose – hopefully in person, at the office. Have them practice in 2’s with small talk until they grasp each other’s interests. It is not hard – just a lot of good questions.

These are very difficult times, and I hope these ideas will prove to be fruitful for you. Thanks for listening.


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

The Oral Briefing Goes Virtual

Adrianne Geiger Dumond

In the recent pass, for an oral presentation, you could see the faces of the audience and even ask for questions.

Now all we see is a camera. Are there ways to make this situation easier?

Trying to convey and support a culture of trust and transparency can be a challenge for those working remotely. Here are some ways that might help.

  1. Setting the stage: Make sure the camera lens is adjusted so that listeners can see not only your face but also your arms and hands. We do a lot of non-verbal movements that aid what we are saying.
  2. Speak to the camera: It may be a good idea to start the briefing/presentation with new information and updates. This gives you an easy and natural way to tell them the latest news. In the interest of trust and transparency, workers like to feel they are on the inside track for the latest news.
  3. Facial expression: This can be a tough one if you have to announce a new policy decision (that you might not agree with). This may be especially true as long as the COVID-19 rules change. But as the leader it is your responsibility to explain the changes as well as you can, and be supportive of the decisions. Remember that smirks, raised eyebrows convey a different viewpoint.
  4. Provide a way for feedback: The safest way for you to be assured that your listeners have heard you correctly – or want to ask questions – is to provide them with ways to contact you. This can be by email, text, phone – just so they feel informed correctly.
  5. Remember the Donors: After becoming comfortable with these steps it will be easier to prepare the presentation for the donors – supporters who will likely be sympathetic to the challenges you have faced, but who are also curious about how the mission is going. Representing the same trust and transparency you have given to staff and workers will hopefully engender in donors the opportunity to extend their contributions. Remember that donors also like to be on the inside track with updates and newest information. Given the uncertain times we live in, it is just as important for them to know the conditions as it is for the staff and employees.

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

Board and ED/CEO Relationships are Critical to Success in Times of Crisis

Adrianne Geiger Dumond

We often recommend that the relationship between Board and working staff be kept ethically separate.

But in times of crisis, especially when decisions are made quickly, the solid working relationship becomes all the more important.

This is especially true of the relationship between the Executive Director (ED)/CEO and the board.  I want to point out four (4) areas for your consideration.

  1. Board responsibility during a crisis. During times of crisis the Board has a fiduciary and personal liability to protect the mission and the health of the organization. When complex decisions are made quickly, it is imperative that the leadership team and Board are knowledgeable and have frequent shared information – operational decisions being important. The Board should be the best allies in the days ahead – if they are kept informed.
  2. Board engagement. When board members are truly engaged, they have a deeper commitment and are well informed. I heard a stressed, exhausted ED (because of all her challenges) report that the Board chair had informed her the Board wanted her to find a cheaper office space. He did not offer to help, suggest skills and competencies Board members might have to be able to help her. He was oblivious to the monumental changes she was handling. This leads me to the next point.
  3. Board and ED/CEO relationship. The basis forhigh performance governance during a crisis is the relationship between the ED/CEO, senior management and the Board. Building a trusting and transparent relationship requires time, intentionality, and vulnerability. Striving for this kind of an understanding not only makes withstanding the crisis easier, but also brings strength and stability to post-crisis planning and strategic thinking.
  4. Board and ED/CEO relationship. The basis forhigh performance governance during a crisis is the relationship between the ED/CEO, senior management and the Board. Building a trusting and transparent relationship requires time, intentionality, and vulnerability. Striving for this kind of an understanding not only makes withstanding the crisis easier, but also brings strength and stability to post-crisis planning and strategic thinking.

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

A Coach Can Help You Lead Through Disruption

Karen Haren

Leaders in not-for-profit organizations recognize the value of a coach as they manage through times of crisis. In my own experience as a leader and in coaching executives, here are three reasons a coach can help you lead through a significant disruption such as the pandemic of 2020.

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 have to wrestle with many issues that you can’t share with your colleagues, direct reports or the board.  A coach is there to listen to you without judging. She can help you talk through the problem or opportunity and develop your strategies.

During the pandemic, you are dealing with sudden seismic change. You are stepping into uncharted territory with new challenges opportunities and responsibilities. There isn’t a road map when you are continually coping with the new normal.  This 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 crisis and provide encouragement to build your confidence.

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 personnel issues or worried that you can’t raise enough money to keep the organization afloat. You might be struggling with communicating with the board. 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 lead through a crisis, solve problems, manage change and/or reach goals.  EC of OC is here for you!  We provide no cost coaching to nonprofit executives to help nonprofit organizations accomplish their mission. To sign up for a coach visit www.ecofoc.org.

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

COVID-19 Adaptive Leadership Checklist

Adrianne Geiger Dumond

Challenges and responsibilities for non-profit leaders have increased exponentially with the pandemic.

This article encompasses the many challenges and is published by One-Justice, a legal resource business. I have given the website as a footnote below.[1]

I can’t list all of the challenges covered, but I want to provide a list of priorities that require attention as non-profit leaders start to open up.

• Employee health and safety – regulations covering workplace safety

• Legal – contact legal experts – jurisdictional designations (remote services, sick leave, legal ethics). I had an ED ask me today if a mental health leave was ‘sick eave’.

• Human Resources and Operations – workers’ comp policy, furloughs and lay-offs are handled properly, return to the office plans, appropriate equipment for remote workers.

• Financial relief – use Payroll Protection Plan, contact funders, request relief from conversion of funds to general operations, work with Board on any layoffs or furloughs.

• Remote working – establish remote policies, safeguard confidential information.

• Program design – any change to ongoing programs, check with clients on service needs, check security measures for teleconferencing.

• Culture – promote self-care and coping resources; ensure transparency with staff and employees.

Even though the challenges seem exhaustive it is comforting to know where help is available. This information was found on the BoardSource website, a valuable tool for getting answers.


[1] www.onejustice.orgLos Angeles phone number, (213) 784-3937: San Francisco phone number, (415) 834-3937.

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

Nonprofit Board Accountability

Michael Kogutek, nonprofit management coach
Michael Kogutek

Board accountability is always an issue in the nonprofit world. Dr. Eugene Fram, Emeritus Professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology has written a terrific article that is spot on!! 

“Clearly the purpose of a nonprofit board is to serve the constituency that establishes it—be it community, industry, governmental unit and the like. That said, the “how” to best deliver those services is often not so clear.

An executive committee, for example, can overstep its authority by assuming powers beyond its scope of responsibility. I encountered this in one executive committee when the group developed a strategic plan in an interim period where there was no permanent ED. The board then refused to share it with the incoming executive. In another instance, an executive committee took it upon itself to appoint members of the audit committee—including outsiders who were unknown to the majority on the board.

The fuzziness of boundaries and lack of defined authority call for an active nonprofit system of checks and balances. For a variety of reasons this is difficult for nonprofits to achieve:

  • A typical nonprofit board member is often recruited from a pool of friends, relatives and colleagues, and will serve, on a median average, for four to six years.   This makes it difficult to achieve rigorous debate at meetings (why risk conflicts with board colleagues?). Directors also are not as eager to thoughtfully plan for change beyond the limits of their terms. Besides discussing day-to-day issues, the board needs to make sure that immediate gains do not hamper long-term sustainability.
  • The culture of micromanagement is frequently a remnant from the early startup years when board members may have performed operational duties. In some boards it becomes embedded in the culture and continues to pervade the governmental environment, allowing the board and executive committee to involve themselves in areas that should be delegated to management
  • The executive team is a broad partnership of peers–board members, those appointed to the executive committee and the CEO. The executive committee is legally responsible to act for the board between meetings–the board must ratify its decisions. But unchecked, the executive committee can assume dictatorial powers whose conclusions must be rubber-stamped by the board.

Mitigating Oversight Barriers: There is often little individual board members can do to change the course when the DNA has become embedded in the organization. The tradition of micromanagement, for example, is hard to reverse, especially when the culture is continually supported by a succession of like-minded board chairs and CEOs. No single board member can move these barriers given the brevity of the board terms. But there are a few initiatives that three or four directors, working in tandem, can take to move the organization into a high-performance category.

  • Meetings: At the top of every meeting agenda there needs to be listed at least one policy or strategy related item. When the board discussion begins to wander, the chair should remind the group that they are encroaching on an area that is management’s responsibility. One board I observed wasted an hour’s time because the chair had failed to intercept the conversation in this manner. Another board agreed to change its timing of a major development event, then spent valuable meeting time suggesting formats for the new event—clearly a management responsibility to develop.
  • “New Age” Board Members: While millennial managers are causing consternation in some nonprofit and business organizations, certain changes in nonprofits are noteworthy. Those directors in the 40- and- under age bracket need some targeted nurturing. I encountered a new young person who energized the board with her eagerness to try innovative development approaches. She was subsequently appointed to the executive committee, deepening her view of the organization and priming her for senior leadership.Board members who understand the robust responsibilities of a 21st century board need to accept responsibilities for mentoring these new age board people, despite their addictions to their electronic devices.
  • Experienced Board Members: Directors that have served on other high-performance boards have the advantage of being familiar with modern governance processes and are comfortable in supporting change. They are needed to help boards, executive committees and CEOs to move beyond the comfortable bounds of the past. They will be difficult to recruit, but they are required ingredients for successful boards.’

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

Leadership Qualities for the Crisis

Adrianne Geiger Dumond

How many of you are as sick as I am of hearing and seeing the words COVID-19.

I couldn’t even put it in this title. But it is affecting all of our lives – and each person differently. As quoted in an article I just read, “a paramedic will understand only that the hospital is overloaded, a hospital administrator will only know that the generator is not working.”[1]

I believe it is time to consider what leadership skills and qualities can best guide this situation. I will quote generously from an author, Gene Klann who has written a book on crisis management and is referenced in the article below.[2]

Klann cites 5 ways to lead and adapt to the crisis. I will briefly cover those:

  1. Seek credible information. I think this is difficult because there is so much information available. I believe it is important to check with staff and employees to see what information they are following. This is a good opportunity for leaders to calm, support and build a reassuring culture.
  2. Use appropriate communication channels. Of course transparency is of the utmost importance in a crisis. Klann has these points to stress: Information
    • reduces emotional distress caused by the unknown;
    • diminishes fear;
    • provides tactical guidance;
    • demonstrates to employees that their leaders are concerned, involved, knowledgeable, and on top of the situation.
  3. Explain what your organization is doing about the crisis. If you are in charge take charge, be proactive, take initiative. Do something even if it might be wrong. Paralysis and over analyzing may be riskier. 
  4. Be present, Visible, and Available. Let employees know how they can best reach you for status updates and any questions they may have. Flexible leadership ranks over organizational protocol and bureaucracy.                                                                                          

Dedicate organizational resources for future needs. Many organizations don’t take advantage of what they have learned after the crisis. This time is valuable to track lessons learned as a critical step to a Crisis Action Plan.                


[1][1] Gene Klann, 5 Ways to Lead and Adapt Through a Crisis, Center for Creative Leadership, March 24, 2020

[2] Gene Klann, Crisis Leadership, Using Military Lessons, Organizational Experiences, and the Power of Influence to Lessen the Impact of Chaos on the People You Lead.

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

Do You Have A Balanced Board?

Dave Blankenhorn

Do you have one or two members that dominate the meetings and the conversations?

If that is the case it is the job of the Chair or E.D. to bring it back in line and to prevent an imbalance in the first place. A good Chair knows that that no one member can possibly know everything and should emphasize that the Board can only thrive with input from every member.

Even with the best guidance and intentions some Board members may still drown out other opinions. While these members can add to the discussion, they often tend to eliminate other points of view. If this is allowed to continue the Board may lose its balance and engagement.

To deal with these types of members the Chair should not allow them to dominate the meeting by thanking them for their contributions and asking others to offer their opinions on the topic at hand. If this approach doesn’t work perhaps a quiet private meeting is in order to let them know they tend to stifle other member discussions which is not healthy in the long run. If the member does not change his/her behavior you might consider their resignation.

On the flip side of the issue the Chair or E.D. should also meet with quiet or disengaged members. You need to let them know their opinions are valued and needed by the organization.

Another helpful tip for a balanced Board would to have annual discussions on how your meetings are going. What the pros and cons are and what needs to be improved? Talk about the items on the agenda, the time taken on each item and whether all members are involved. This may tie in with the annual director evaluations.

Following these best practices should be very helpful for the organization in achieving its mission.

 

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

Do You Have An Effective Board of Directors?

Dave Blankenhorn

Do you have an effective Board of Directors? Are they providing the kind of direction that is important to fulfill the organization’s mission or do they meet without any meaningful outcome?

One way to find out is to have the Board do an annual self-assessment of themselves or one another. A good self-assessment can lead to improved performance for the Directors and the organization but only if you are intentional about the questions you ask and constructive about the follow up.

To do director self-assessments you can either hire a consultant to help perform them, handle them internally or pursue a blended strategy. Handling them in house maybe the least expensive option but an experienced consultant may save you time, bring impartial outside perspective and help you gather and present results to boost group performance.

If the decision is made to go it alone the Chairman and a few key board members should meet to identify the assessment goals and design the process including questionnaires and interviews. Goals should include producing a report with a SWOT analysis, spotlighting the successes or failures of commitments made by the Board and the overall effectiveness of the Board leadership. The report should also include whether they need to add new board members with specific skill sets, identify training needs, and an evaluation of the meetings and materials. Any other specific issues should also be addressed.

Peer reviews are sometimes part of an assessment and that means anonymous questionnaires. Digital questionnaires can be delivered online and streamline the process.  When completed and compiled the report should then be presented to the Board as a group with specific goals.

 

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

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