Nonprofit Boards-Governance

August 3, 2020

Thinking about reading and writing and my frustration/anger/sadness

I’ve always been an avid reader.

When I was young (maybe 9 or 10 or so years old)…My mom kinda yelled at me: “Simone! Put the goddamn book down and go outside and play.” I think maybe I asked her if I could take the book with me. Just imagine her response.

Until my mid teens…every summer I would ride my bike to the library and take out 7 books. Get a glass of lemonade and go to the basement where there was a couch and it was cooler than outside or upstairs – and no one came downstairs to bother me. I’d read a book a day.

What was I reading for fun then? Probably lots of the same stuff I read now for fun : Romance novels but only selected romance novelists. Sci fi fantasy – but that’s new – since I was student teaching and an 8th grade student explained why sci fi was so cool. Spy, thrillers.  That’s my fun time.

What else do I read now? When I’m learning and enhancing my craft and stimulating my brain? Business books. Some of my favorite authors: Business books NOT specific to the nonprofit sector/philanthropy: Seth Godin. Jim Collins. Peter Senge. Malcolm Gladwell. Chip & Dan Heath. Peter Senge. Daniel Goleman. And and and and ….

For the nonprofit sector, I think I might require all staff to read  John Gardner’s monograph Building Community. I’d require all senior staff to add these two monographs: Ken Dayton’s Governance is Governance Is Governance and Jim Collins’ Good to Great and the Social Sectors.

So this blog is recommending just a few of the books that I’ve found most useful/helpful/special/important to me. I think all of these are particularly important to any senior professional in any field – including  the nonprofit sector – especially the CEO and CDO. If I were a CEO or CDO today, I’d insist upon a Book Club for senior staff.

By the way, none of the books recommended below focus on the nonprofit sector, governance or fundraising. But I’ve found all of these useful, helpful, still relevant, hugely meaningful…whatever…to my decades of work in the nonprofit sector.

And here’s more reading for the top-notch professionals. The non-siloed thinkers. The lifelong learners. Those who integrate various schools of thought and fight silos and use conversation as a core business practice and read across disciplines and….

The Hidden Brain: How our Unconscious Minds Elect Presidents, Control Markets, Wage Wars, and Save Our Lives, Shankar Vedantam

Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, Sherry Turkle

Permission Marketing. The Icarus Deception. Seth Godin (And there are many more! I just picked those 2 for this moment.)

The Fifth Discipline, Peter Senge

Good to Great, Jim Collins

Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Self-Made Myth: And the Truth About How Government Helps Individiuals and Businesses Succeed. Brian Miller & Mike Lapham

You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times, Howard Zinn

Robin Hood Was Right: A Guide to Giving Your Money For Social Change, Collins, Rogers, and Garner

And these 2 books by Mike Edwards do focus on the nonprofit sector….. Small Change: Why Business Won’t Save the World and Civil Society.

If you live in the USA, have you read any of these books? And if you live in another country, how does any of this pertain to your country? These books are about society…so they certainly do apply to the nonprofit sector, too.

  • Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America? Barbara Ehrenreich is the author. The book was published in 2001…a New York Times bestseller. And while those 19 years have certainly shown some changes and new stuff and and and… the overall story is pretty much the same…and even worse in some cases. Check out Ehrenreich’s “sequels”. Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream (2005). And This Land is Your Their Land (2008).
  • And here’s another useful book The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power, Joel Bakan.

Okay. I have to stop now. So many. So much.

I just get so tired of hearing so many people whining about having no time to learn more…read…visit the meaningful and learnful stuff on the Internet. Blah blah blah. If someone isn’t a lifelong learner, how can that someone be a professional?

I believe in lifelong learning – and I don’t see enough of it. I actually read a note somewhere sometime from a consultant who said… “I don’t read books anymore. I’m a consultant now. I know this stuff.” (If I could have found this person, just imagine how I might have responded!!!)

Okey dokey. Enough now.

P.S. Happy birthday and bonne anniversaire, my Tommy…

June 15, 2020

I’m too angry & frustrated. So here’s another thought…

I’m just too angry and frustrated. And this is about boards and bosses and ignorance and… [But there is a P.S. at the bottom about recent happenings in this racist US of A.]

Me (and you) are righteously angry towards board members and bosses who think they know more about fundraising than the fundraising staff. You and I are often appropriately angry towards board members who pay attention to body of knowledge and research expressed by lawyers and accountants and doctors and… But ignore and insult and trespass against resesarch and body of knowledge from fundraisers.

I’ve ranted about this forever and ever and over and over…

But here’s a new thought. A more gracious perspective. I don’t always have to be so angry!!! So here goes. What do you think?

We have to get across to all staff and all board members — everyone in every single nonprofit around the world — that a competent nonprofit organization does NOT need fundraising IDEAS.

Like any profession and professional, there’s academic and practitioner research and multiple bodies of knowledge about what/why/how to do fundraising. Fundraisers don’t seek new ideas. Like any competent professional, fundraisers read and study and learn. Fundraisers are lifelong learners following the international leaders in the field…reading the research. Etc. etc. blah blah blah.

I think that board members (and often bosses, too) are trying to help those poor fundraisers by coming up with new ideas. But why? What’s that about? These bosses and board members don’t suggest ideas to accountants, lawyers, medical doctors, road construction workers, house builders…

Hell…I wouldn’t even offer ideas to tech experts and guitar players or my hair dresser or …. I figure they all studied. Read the research. Followed highly knowledgeable practitioners and researchers. Practiced and learned more!

I think some board members, donors, bosses, whomever… are trying to help by suggesting ideas. Bless their hearts. Bless their hearts? I actually thought that was meant graciously. Until a Southern friend of mind explained to me: “Bless your heart” is actually not a compliment. It’s more like “what the hell you moron?!” (I can’t remember where I read this moron statement. But it sure is cool.)

Where does this not-so-good helping hand come from? Why don’t board members, bosses, whomever realize that fundraising (and governance and management and…) are actually professions with bodies of knowledge. WTF?

I think there’s a whole lot of disrespect for the nonprofit sector. Let’s be honest. If any of us could have gotten a job in a for-profit … you know, a “real job”…we wouldn’t be working in the nonprofit sector. (Surely you’ve experienced that snide reference sometime in your life.)

So the BIG BIG message that we have to get out there to our bosses and board members and and and … The nonprofit sector is different than the for-profit sector. And also similar in some ways. And professionals in the nonprofit sector know the distinctions and similarities.

  • There is a body of knowledge in fundraising and donor-centered communications. Financing is different. Measures are different. (Just read Jim Collins’ monograph Good to Great and the Social Sectors.)
  • Asking for gifts is not totally like selling. And your fundraising staff darn well better start learning about philanthropic psychology.
  • Without a culture of philanthropy, that nonprofit won’t thrive. It’s like Peter Drucker kept trying to teach us all [for-profits and nonprofits]: organizational culture will eat strategy for breakfast, lunch, and probably dinner too.

So back to the very big message that nonprofits and competent fundraisers and top-notch nonprofit leaders must must get out to their board members and others:

  • Fundraising is NOT NOT NOT about coming up with ideas.
  • Fundraising is about learning the body of knowledge…following the research…building the capacity and competency of the nonprofit and its employees and volunteer, including board members.

Thank you kind board members and bosses….The best fundraisers do not need ideas. The best fundraising programs aren’t looking for ideas. Follow the research. Now. Just do it. 

Hire well. And let the top-notch fundraisers do their work. Thank you!

P.S. I wrote this Simone Uncensored blog before George Floyd and yet another need to say that Black Lives Matter. I can’t even write about this “fucking country” although I’ve tweeted some. And unless you really know me and what I’ve done over the decades — not just writing but acting out — don’t you dare tarnish so many of us who you claim aren’t doing enough.

November 18, 2019

Starting the new year … with better governance …

I’m pretty much always thinking about governance. That thing that boards do.

Board = collective. Board member = individual. These 2 terms are NOT NOT not NOT never interchangeable.

And here’s what Colleen, SMUMN Cohort 28 wrote in summer 2019….governance….management….

“The thing that struck me most about my time spent [in the governance course at SMUMN] thinking, reading and acting out all things governance, was the balance of giving the best of me and willingly receiving the best of others. I wrote about it a little in my final project: how people come together to lead.

“I view leadership of a nonprofit as a separation of powers, not too dissimilar to our American governmental system in theory. I like the idea that people can come together, challenge and be challenged so that the result is the strengthening of an organization. I walk away with a much better sense of the importance of a strong CEO and how that person interacts with the governing board. Really, I have a greater intellectual respect for staff I think. In the back of my mind, I think I gave boards too much responsibility. I thought they needed to have all the answers, Not so.”

So how’s your governance going? And your management?

November 11, 2019

Ranting about governance…

Did you read my special blog posted by Vitreo in its blog, The Provocateur?

 

October 22, 2019

Governance…your board…your board members…tips to help you!!

I so enjoyed teaching governance twice at SMUMN this past summer. I’ve shared comments from Cohort 27 in previous “Notes from my dorm room”.

Now I’m sharing comments from Cohort 28. I hope these comments challenge you to examine governance in your organization…question your approach and level of knowledge…learn and make change!!

Mackenzie said: “I am extremely nervous about the amount of work it will take to make great governance. [But], I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

Greg gives us something to laugh about: “Good governance. How do you make it happen? I wish it was as easy as getting fatter. Or mandatory, like aging.” And more seriously, he says: “The CEO and board chair/board members don’t have to agree, but they have to learn how to disagree with respect, using facts and data to support constructive discussion…. [T]hey have to be able to say uncomfortable things. They don’t argue to win; they argue to resolve.”

Rachel reminds us: “CEOs ned to be a governance expert.”  And…”The board is a collective.”

Nate reminds us that “we need to do a better job of bringing strategic questions and topics to our board in order to have more strategic conversations.”

Luke said: “I discovered the difference between management and governance. This, to me, is the most important part. The board and board members must understand thei roles. If they do not, it is a MESS.”

Lisa commented: “I love the fact that power – for lack of a better word – is distributed. There are checks and balances, and that there are people ideally together working on your mission and there to help. But it’s not a perfect system. If it was, it would be incredible. But not everyone is on board. People don’t know the rules, and people don’t want training. So it is up to the ones of us who know what’s going on to step up and help others understand.”

Samantha notes: “The relationship between boards and staff is often unbalanced.”

Colleen’s insight: “The CEO needs to be the most knowledgeable person in the room about board governance (in addition to the organization’s operations.) Previously, I’d really thought that was up to the Board Chair.”

What’s happening in your organization? How will you learn and lead change?

October 7, 2019

More notes from my dorm room…

It’s fall. But I still have memories from my time at Saint Mary’s. This year I taught governance to 2 different cohorts…Cohort 27 and Cohort 28. And here are some more great insights from Cohort 27. Insights that you can use to stimulate your thinking, encourage you to learn more, and challenge the assumptions you might already have regarding governance.

Aaron said: “Governance is such tricky business for the untrained…But in reality, it is a set of guidelines to make the most use of everyone’s time as well as serve the organization to achieve its mission. [Governance] is not some mythical land where good organizations live and bad are denied. It is common sense coupled with good behavior.”

Brandon said: “The dialogue we had in class helped me see that it’s sometimes important to just acknowledge an issue. A board may not be able to command an end to racism, but the board can have a meaningful conversation about building a policy on diverseity. Smaller steps in part of a larger journey.”

Tyler said: “We can start by influencing what we have learned at our organizations. We can expand that by serving on a board ourselves and implement changes that we know to right in getting those organizations to do good governance.”

So what will you do with these insights? Most boards are mediocre at best…Darn few are really good. If you want governance to be better at your place, learn more!

October 3, 2019

Notes from my dorm room

Two cohorts graduated this summer… Cohorts 27 and 28. I can’t believe that I’ve taught at SMUMN since Cohort 9! For the masters program in philanthropy and development.

And every year, I blog about my experience in the program. Notes from my dorm room. We all live in the dorm!

I share these student comments with you all…Because their insights can help you ensure better governance in your organization!!

From Dan, cohort 27: “Board governance isn’t easy…it’s very complex. Pride is involved. Money is involved. Status is involved.”

From Kent, cohort 27: “I plan to implement some sort of governance development activity into each meeting. Not a big, time-consuming initiative, but just enough to keep the topic of governance top of mind.”

Brandon, cohort 27 asked (and answered his own questions):

“What is the sound of one hand clapping? Nothing.

What is the worth of a fundraiser in a silo? Nothing.

What is the value of a silent board member? Nothing.”

Cohort 27, Anna asked some great cage-rattling questions:

How can we ensure that we have an accurate understanding of the current organizational culture?

What would it look like if our organization took proactive action to develop our organizational culture?

To what extent is a disclosed conflict of interest different from an undisclosed conflict (in terms of the impact on public trust)?

How will we evaluate the level of spending that is necessary to best carry out our mission?

Such good stuff!! How might these notes from my graduated students stimulate your thinking? Challenge your assumptions? Help you do a better job?

August 19, 2019

Part 2: I’m thinking about new stuff…

Part 2: Last week was Part 1.

So my conclusion from last week’s Part 1… What more can I do? Well, I thought about that – and here are some topics I’m going to talk about.

1. Organizational culture: Business theory notes that “culture eats strategy for breakfast and lunch.” What and why. Importance. Developing, supporting, and measuring. Culture of philanthropy – special subset for nonprofit sector. I developed this curriculum for AFP ICON 2019, San Antonio. How about this topic for your professional association, your organization, a product for your community foundation…whatever…

Make sure you read the big read thing below! Skip the first 6 if you wish!! The big red one is really BIG!!

2. Leadership: In-depth probing. Theory and practice. How to develop yourself and others. Creating a leadership development program for your organization and its staff. Maybe a series for your organization or your association or your community…Or just a 1/2 mini session or who knows…

3. Trends and emerging issues: So much is happening…happened…will happen. And you and I have to cope with it. This is sooooo far beyond an organization’s mission or a particular sector. How do we build staff and organizations and processes to watch, monitor, anticipate, recognize, prepare…How do we build foresight? Yes, this is a strategic planning fundamental. But I’m also interested in operationalizing this into day-to-day operations.

Maybe read the big red item below first!!! The first 6 are definitely cool. But wow…the red one after #6.

4. Fundraisers as organizational development specialists: I wrote and talked about this beginning in the late 90s. I think it’s still a major weakness of fundraisers. The best fundraisers are not just great technicians. Writing the best direct mail…hosting the best events…securing tons of grants…All important stuff. But without understanding how everything in an organization fits together…like #1,2,3,5,7…and so much more!…you’ll have a tough time with fundraising.

I’m doing the red item first. I’m thinking 2020…fall or spring. What do you think?

5. Enabling others to do: People can’t just read a book and then be able to do the thing. Leaders enable others to learn and understand, anticipate and preempt, get the stuff done well. The CEO has to be the best enabler. The CDO better be darn good at enabling. And you can learn more about enabling in the handout in my Free Download Library on this website. You really have to learn this. Sequential sessions? Simulation? Daylong. What do you think? 

Here it comes!!! The BIG RED ONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

6. Measuring “strange things”: Enough with measuring only money! Let’s measure ROI in various areas. CRQs (effective use of cage-rattling questions). Donor-centric quotient (DCQ). Board member performance (and that’s not not not gift size and $ raised!)  When you ask me to speak, think about this topic!

THING I WANT TO DO FIRST…THE WAY WE SHOULD APPROACH GOOD GOVERNANCE Maybe you think this is old news…But I’m telling you that doing good governance well is still a frigging mess. And I’ve been playing in this arena since 1975.

Most boards are mediocre at best. Some are simply dysfunctional. And too damn few are really good. And this holds true no matter the “sophistication” of board members, the organization’s budget size, or the supposed experience level of board members. 

PLEASE PLEASE LET’S FIX THIS! And not with “governance training for the board.” This is not the answer.

Who should be the governance expert in any and all boards (and I’m focusing on the nonprofit sector at this moment)? The ED/CEO. Because that’s an official (mostly) paid position. And as a professional, that individual in that position is expected to be well-trained and well-educated in the business, a lifelong learner, and an expert in management…and hence an expert in governance, too!

Who else should be an expert in governance in your organization? Anyone who works closely with board members or board committees…for example, the chief development officer!!

I teach a 30-hour course in governance in a Masters Program at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. I see the change in people’s understanding.

Topics would include: Organizational culture and development. Enabling. Conversation as a core business practice – which is different than discussion. Distinction between the board (collective) and board members. (Damn it! The terms are not not not not interchangeable!!!!!!!!) Relationship of board committees to the board itself – and to staff. Distinction between governance and management. Your board is not a fundraising team! Role of the board chair – one of the biggest messes in the field. Performance expectations of all board members. Power dynamics – like wealth, gender, race/ethnicity, etc. Identifying and recruiting candidates. Enabling the board, its committees, and the individual board members. And, when absolutely necessary, firing lousy board members.

This is a session for staff. This would require 2 days – like we’d all meet live in one place. Lots of great materials. Interactive lecture. Small group work / assignments. Simulation. Articles. My book Firing Lousy Board Members – And Helping the Others Succeed. Follow-up coaching. Undoubtedly points for CFRE.

Let me know what you think. Add a comment to this blog. Send me a personal email to spjoyaux@aol.com. You could even call me if you wished. 401.397.2534.

 

 

 

 

August 12, 2019

I’m thinking about new stuff… Part 1. (Part 2 is next week.)

Part 1 of a 2-part blog:

Of course, I love all the fundraising and governance stuff I’ve done for years. And I love changing and adjusting and adding new stuff and and… I’m just not one of those people that likes doing the same old stuff the same old way.

  • I’m also reading new stuff and stuff that so few other people in the nonprofit sector seem to be reading. Come on peeps – let’s get out of just reading fundraising and governance and donor stuff.
  • Have you read systems thinking and learning organization business theories yet? I wrote about that back in 1997. How about the stuff that’s happening to our brains because of too much technology?
  • Leadership…Oh sure, some conversations on the job. But who reads actual leadership research and stuff from the Harvard Business Review and and and ….
  • By the way, when was the last time that your professional association recommended readings beyond your specialized field?
  • How about organizational development? Culture and top-notch management and and and… SO MUCH MORE!!

There are 3 sectors: Government. For-profit. Nonprofit. I think the nonprofit sector is more important than most of our society thinks. And I suspect that most of you reading this honors our sector, too.

  • I want the government sector to do more. I’m appalled at what government doesn’t do.
  • I want the for-profit sector to be put in its proper place…. NOT the best the greatest the most important the individual and corporations are bestest. I want the for-profit sector and its people to be punished more often than they are. And if I hear one more person say “If only the nonprofit sector would operate more like the business sector….”)…well I just don’t know what I’m gonna do!!!!!!!!! WTF!!!!!!!!!!!

But if the nonprofit sector doesn’t get itself together better… Just survival isn’t good enough. The excuse of “We nonprofits and our staff are just sooooooo busy just doing what we have to do that we can’t possibly learn more…” WTF????!!!! Would you do your mission in a half-ass manner? Most of you tell me, “No way. We do our mission excellently … or we will choose to close.” Well if that’s the case, then do all the other stuff — fundraising, governance, management, leadership, organizational development, and on and on — damn well, too. Or close down!

The world needs and deserves the best and most loved nonprofit sector. Because people and the planet deserve the best. Social justice. Diversity. Inclusion. Equity. Health. Safety. Employment and economic security. Joy and love and education and peace.

The world needs and deserves the best and most loved nonprofit sector. Because people and the planet deserve the best. An environment that endures – with animals and plants and insects and all those living things. And learning and pleasure and the strength and support to build and care and live and…

Oh good heavens…How did I start down this path today? I read Seth Godin’s July 9, 2019 blog, The $50,000 an hour gate agent. I got frustrated because I hear too much whining from my beloved nonprofit sector people.

  • Yes, yes… I know what it’s like to work long hours and fight with a silly CEO and icky board members – too few of whom seem to “get it.” I know what it’s like to work for less than I’m worth – and without adequate support systems.
  • So leave the sector. Or first, look for a better nonprofit job with smart staff and board members who give you the respect and support I hope you deserve.
  • Because there’s no excuse for we all in this sector accepting inadequacy in others or in ourselves.

Okey dokey. Part 2 is next week. Thanks for listening.

July 15, 2019

Finishing that committee job description

Last week, I shared the initial elements in the job description of a board committee, using the Board Development as the example. The first parts:

  • Purpose of the Committee:
  • Reports to:
  • Staff to the Committee:
  • Committee membership and operations:
  • Frequency of meetings:

And now…

Scope of work for the Board Development Committee

  1. Monitor effectiveness of governance operations and process, policies and guidelines, and recommend changes as necessary.
  2. Review and recommend optimum composition for the Board including diversity screens, skills, and behaviors.
  3. Design and execute an intentional process to recruit and retain the best Board members and officers to help achieve the organization’s mission. The committee does this work for the annual nomination and election process as well as any interim vacancies. Activities include:
    • Review the composition of the Board of Directors and identify the gaps.
    • Based on identified gaps, secure candidate suggestions, and screen them through a formal interview process.
    • Prepare the slate of nominees for board member and officer positions.
  4. Support ongoing learning for board members and the collective itself.
  5. Design and facilitate an orientation process for all newly-elected board members.
  6. Design and facilitate ongoing evaluation processes to recommend and facilitate improvements in individual and collective performance.
    • Annual board member self-evaluation, which is reviewed by the committee.
    • Feedback to board members whose performance requires improvement.
    • Annual governance self-assessment, tabulated and reviewed by the committee. Facilitate process for improvement.

 

Simone Joyaux, ACFRE, Adv Dip, FAFP, Certificate in Philanthropic Psychology is an internationally recognized expert in fund development, board and organizational development, strategic planning, and management.

© Joyaux Associates 2020     Privacy Policy     10 Johnson Road, Foster, RI 02825      +1 401-397-2534      spjoyaux@aol.com      Site by cre8d