8 Things I’d Like You to Know

There seems to be a growing tendency for teaser titles to articles, presentations, webinars, with some variation of this theme:  The Top 10 Things….  The number doesn’t matter; it’s what follows.  The Top 10 Things you Need to Know about Starting a Nonprofit,” “…About Being a Board Member,” “…Every Manager Should Know About Hiring,” or “…You Need to Build a Strong Program.”  It seems that our attention span has dwindled even shorter (that’s what comes from communicating in 140 characters or less) and we must Read more

I Hate Cute

Anyone who knows me knows I hate touchy-feely. Basically, I hate cute!  Thus, if one more person starts singing the praises of the “Ws” or the “Ts”—or even the “Es,” I will not be responsible for my actions.  Playing cute games is simply not the way to approach as serious a subject as whom you bring on to your board.

If by some fluke there are any uninitiated out there, let me explain and then immediately borrow the memory eraser from Men in Black.  Some time, Read more

No Wimpy Kid Diary Here

Instead of the traditional school essay of “things I did on my summer vacation,” I’m sharing some of the ­things that are driving me out the door to pack my suitcase and head north to my tranquil lake retreat.

I love it when people say to me, as they work to refute the point I have just made, “Well, on the boards I have served, ….”  The problem with that statement is that while the author of the comment may have served on five or 10 Read more

July 25th, 2012 0 Comment

Abuse of Power

No doubt Penn State will become a case study on many levels for years to come.  Implications for boards go far beyond the limits of higher education and are a sobering tale of abuse and abdication of responsibility.

Here are selected lowlights from the Louis Freeh report of his investigation into Penn State and the Jerry Sandusky horror.

Before May 1998, “several” staff members and football coaches “regularly” witnessed Sandusky showering with young boys; no one reported this behavior to a superior.
In May 1998, when a mother Read more

July 19th, 2012 0 Comment

We’re NOT #1

Rosie the Riveter is spinning in her grave.  I’m just spinning.

Newsweek’s cover story for its March 12 issue was entitled “The Rise of China’s Billionaire Tiger Women,” written by Yale’s own “tiger mom” Amy Chua.  Of the four women featured, three were aided in their rise by their husbands’ position, wealth and knowledge.  But I’m truly not taking anything away from them.  Back home, there are certainly American female billionaires, but Newsweek didn’t highlight them, preferring to examine America’s women’s standing in other proficiencies in Read more

April 13th, 2012 0 Comment

Waking up the Brain Cells

Congratulations!

Today is your day.

You can learn what is right

And be off and away!

 You have brains in your head.

Yet dumb stuff you say.

You can do yourself harm

You can steer yourself

Any direction you choose.

But you might crash and burn 

If your mouth leads your brain.

Oh!

The stupid things smart people say!

 Thank you, Dr. Seuss and “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

One of the things some professors do as a semester draws near its end, and they are immersed in grading papers and exams, is to share “would you believe” Read more

Not the Supreme Court

Founders of nonprofits are special people.  They have vision.  They have sufficient charisma and/or connections to get that vision off the ground.  Some may even have the ability to help sustain that vision.  But they are not gods; they are not infallible; and they are not United States Supreme Court Justices, appointed for life.  There comes a time when every founder has to go.  Completely.

While I have known a few founders who have recognized when it was time for them to go in order to Read more

Don’t Lose your EPBMs

One of the most common complaints that I hear is how hard it is to find good board members, meaning they can’t find the bodies. My comeback always is, if you do it strategically, the right way, it isn’t hard.  On the other hand, it can truly be one of the more off-putting processes for that EPBM (eager, prospective board member) seeking GNB (great nonprofit board).

One of the most frequent complaints I hear from individuals seeking a board position is that they don’t know how Read more

Getting Extra Credit

It’s late afternoon and I’m sitting on the porch of my sister’s slice of Northern Michigan heaven, working on my computer.  My niece, a freshly minted Ivy League MBA, joins me and asks me if I’m done working.  Almost, I respond, trying to finish a blog post I started before I left on vacation.  But I confess that it no longer inspires me.  “Write about bonuses,” she says.  “How do you feel about bonuses?”

Having just been joined by my sister, an elementary school teacher in Read more

Sink or Swim

I have been saying it for years:  don’t throw them into the deep end without first teaching them to swim.  It is true of both children (that’s a joke) and nonprofit board members.  Don’t ask and pressure them to fundraise until you have taught them how.  Makes perfect senses, but it is amazing how frequently this doesn’t happen.

I don’t know the drowning statistics, but I do now have fundraising statistics.  Cygnus Applied Research conducted a survey of donors that included almost 3,500 current or recently-resigned Read more