Pondering Boards

often wonder why people who clearly aren’t interested in hearing advice
continue to invite me into their organizations and solicit my opinion – which they
subsequently dismiss. 

Seriously, why pay for expertise that you’re going to ignore?  Our business model isn’t to offer advice and recommendations about needed changes only to be called back to fix the damage resulting from ignoring these cautions.  I have no shortage of examples of this pattern.

at least five years, as an organization planned the departure of its
long-serving, and much beloved, executive Read more

February 28th, 2020 0 Comment

Take a Board Member to Work Day

There are two constant complaints that I have been hearing from nonprofit staff members since my earliest days in the sector.  One:  Board members don’t understand what staff and the organization do.  Two: The board doesn’t do anything, which translates to, staff have no idea what, if anything, the board does.  Both complaints are sad commentaries.

I want to be quick to point out that the first complaint is
not simply jawing from some disgruntled staff. 
Decades of experiential evidence repeatedly shows me the staggering
number of board members Read more

December 20th, 2019 0 Comment

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


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.


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