Stop Playing Around

Broadway revivals like “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” although originating in a different era, often have a message that remains timely decades later.  Good example, the song,  “A Secretary is Not a Toy.”  But with all due respect to the writer/composer, Frank Loesser, the version I am singing today plays a little with the opening lines: ”  My version goes like this:  People, people, a nonprofit is not a toy, no my board, not a toy.”

To be honest, I am really more Read more

Chasing the Future

This past week, I had the great pleasure to attend my niece’s graduation from one of the top business schools in the country.   This school annually awards one-year fellowships to eight deserving graduates which allow them to spend a year applying their new-found knowledge in one of eight nonprofits.  Some, my niece tells me, as she is one of this year’s class of eight, even become employees of the nonprofit after the fellowships conclude.  That’s the good news.

The bad news came at a reception that Read more

Strategic Planning the Right Way

Strategic planning just may be the most important policy a board of directors, executing its governance responsibilities, may create.  And yet, far too often, it isn’t done “right”.  Why?

Let me be clear about two things.  First, a board does not create a strategic plan by itself.  And second, there is no one “right” way to do strategic planning; there is, however, a “right” cast of characters and order of appearance.

When I say a board doesn’t create a strategic plan by itself, I mean just that.  Read more

Marginalizing Board Members

I have no time for an executive director who intentionally shuts out the organization’s board.  Putting it succinctly:  you are a self-aggrandizing, stupid and, might I even go so far as to say evil person?  You know who you are.

Whenever you think it necessary, you say all of the things you think you are supposed to say:  all the different variations of “Woe is me.  My board doesn’t do anything!” You make all of the right noises and say how hard you’ve tried to get Read more

Blow Hard

I feel sort of shallow saying this, but don’t judge me until you read it all:  what boiled my blood in reading The Philadelphia Inquirer article reporting on the Board of Directors of the Philadelphia Orchestra voting to declare bankruptcy and file for Chapter 11 reorganization was not the fact that the Board was risking losing this city—and the world—a world class orchestra.

Very, very sad, but it wasn’t what revved my juices.  It wasn’t the fact that the Orchestra was in the position of needing Read more

Let’s Have a Party!

I recently ran into a funder I hadn’t seen in a while.  In response to the standard question of “How are you?” she responded with a roll of the eyes and “This is ‘death by gala’ season.”  We both laughed, but it is so, so true.  Name the time of day you wish to eat, and there is a gala waiting—breakfast, lunch, drinks, dinner, dessert?  It is all there.  And it isn’t just killing funders; it is driving executive directors and staff over the edge.

There Read more

Strut your Stuff

On my drive into work one morning this week (all of 25 minutes), I heard three stories about cutbacks as the result of struggling economies.   Some are done deals, others still in the proposal stages.  There was the elimination of school bus service in a school district in Colorado (done), slashing the number of prisons in New York State (proposed) and the withdrawal of support staff in the courts of Florida (proposed).  I particularly liked one person’s comment in the Florida story:  would you send Read more

Get it in Writing

How do I love thee, nonprofit sector?  Let me count the ways.  Well, first:   Are we not a collegial sector;  one tempered by mutual respect? By the presumption that we are a team, working in partnership to achieve mutually defined and shared goals?

No, I am not naïve. I’ve worked and volunteered in this sector for decades.  I know the reality.  And I know that those who come into the sector truly understanding and valuing the presumption I outlined above, execute that presumption–fully.  Those who Read more

Board Members Gone Wild

I was recently asked, by a group of executive directors, how do you contain a rogue (my word, not theirs) board member.  (Not a new or uncommon question at all.)  A few days later, I got an email from a wonderful board president seeking time to speak with me for advice on how to deal with—you got it—a rogue (again, my word, not hers) board member.

If you have ever seen footage of the impact of a rogue elephant, you know the damage that one lone Read more

When Boring is Better

Developing policies are a bore and a waste of precious time.  At least that seems to be the thinking of most board members, as demonstrated by the amount of time and energy boards commit to their creation, reliance upon and monitoring.  And yet, they are among the most important things a board should be doing as they provide for clarity, increased efficiency and, most importantly, allow the board to ensure that an organization’s values are both practiced and protected.  Along the way, they do a Read more


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