Nonprofit Boards-Governance

December 5, 2016

Building the best organizations

What don’t we know?

How do we recognize that there’s stuff we don’t know — and we don’t know that we don’t know?

How do we confront that we don’t even know that we don’t know stuff?

How do we build into an NGO the concept of regularly exploring / discovering what we don’t know?

And this can happen in every or any part of our work anywhere.

[A conversation I had with Michael Campbell at HFPG‘s consultant workshop that I delivered in early December.]

October 31, 2016

Are you bored with CRQs?

I hope not. Because asking and talking and (sometimes but not always) deciding is the business of business. This is your work. And the work of your colleagues and boss and board and …

More CRQs…especially focused on boards and governance:

  1. How can we create a board environment that is hostile to apathy and the rejection of diverse opinions? (Cohort 15)
  2. How do we create a culture that allows us to question whether we’re doing governance or management at board meetings?
  3. To what degree – in what ways – might program and services be affected when a board lacks diversity? (Pleasance, Cohort 23)
  4. What are the red flags that the board needs to be aware of? (Cohort 20)
  5. How does an organization make sure that not only is the community represented in the organization’s deliberations – but that the community is actually heard? (Brenda Brown, Cohort 23)
  6. How can boards know what they don’t know? (Cohort 23)

These are the kinds of cage-rattling questions we ask in my classes at SMUMN. And these are the kinds of CRQs that we strive to begin answering. Join us. We have lots of fun and learns lots more.

September 20, 2016

Errant thoughts…#3

Did you read my blog on BoardSource — focused on destroying executive committees? Tons of comments. Good back and forth.

Maybe you could print all this out and have your board members read it. And then…. Drum roll please…. Talk about it.

Because your board gets to decide if it wants an executive committee. Even if your bylaws say there is an executive committee, the board can initiate a change in the bylaws.

So check out the blog and all the back and forth. (Just scroll down!) I think all boards ought to have this conversation.

September 15, 2016

Errant thoughts…#2

Sometimes I write multiple blogs at a time. And then schedule them into the future. Sometimes I have so many thoughts crashing around in my brain that I have to write multiple blogs and a newsletter or two all in one sitting!

So I’m still in the plane flying to Anchorage. The students in Cohort 25 just keep inspiring me – so I keep writing.

Here’s another errant thought:

  1. Have you asked your board members how satisfied they are with board meetings? For example:
  2. Are we talking about the right stuff?
  3. Have we provided you with the right information to talk effectively about the right stuff?
  4. Have all of us together create a safe environment to ask questions, challenges our own assumptions and those of others, talk candidly…And disagree?!?!?

Notice that these are evaluative-type questions. These are not the type’s of questions that would, necessarily, generate conversation. These questions might just produce responses on a likert scale.

I think that’s okay for this kind of evaluation. Then the board can talk about the results. Because sometimes we’re just so mad at the board and we blame everything on the board members. And we forget to look in the mirror at ourselves!


September 9, 2016

Errant thoughts…#1

I’m in an airplane flying to Anchorage, Alaska to work for a couple days. I’ve been thinking lots about governance. Just cause I often do. And because I’ve been reading final papers (on governance) from Cohort 25 at SMU.

So here’s an errant thought: What if we constructed a set of games (maybe like Jeopardy or ??) and used it as part of a screening interview with candidates for board membership? Then we’d grade how well they did and if they qualified…

Okay. That’s not practical. But what questions do you think should be asked of candidates? Just like the questions you invent for interviews with possible employees…

For example:

  1. What does the concept “corporate governance” mean to you?
  2. What have been your best and worst governance experiences?
  3. If you were assessing the quality of a board and its members, what kinds of questions would you ask?
  4. How would you explain the purpose of a board to someone who has never served on a board?
  5. How would you describe what makes an excellent board member to someone who has never served on a board?

What do you want to add?


July 25, 2016

Twitter and Simone

Okay. Finally. Yes. I know.

I joined Twitter. So now I Tweet on Twitter.


John Lepp kept nagging me. Others got all excited when I joined up. Thanks, people. So there I am.

May 16, 2016

A recipe for failure and embarrassment, too

I can’t remember who said this to me. But it’s absolutely MARVELOUS!!! (And if you read this, please contact me so I can give you credit!)

Plethora of ignorance + paltry integrity = pathetic performance.

Then I suggest adding the following: A dash of privilege.

And top it off with an unwillingness to inconvenience oneself

That all equals negligence…whether criminal or just plain lousy

Which produces crushed organizations and bad reputations for the individuals involved and well-deserved disrespect.

So here’s the total equation. And how many times have you seen this or elements thereof? Because I sure have.

Plethora of ignorance + Paltry integrity + Dash of privilege + Unwillingness to inconvenience oneself = Pathetic performance + negligence + crushed organizations + well-deserved bad reputations and disrespect for the individuals involved.

March 7, 2016

Two great fundraising and management items!!!


  • About diversity. But about much more than diversity. About the complexities of building a better organization (for-profit or nonprofit) for creativity and change and success.
  • About the dominant people and the non-dominant people. About power and position… gender and sexual orientation and race and so much more than diversity. And unearned privilege.
  • All managers should read this book. All employees should read this book. Anyone who wants to be a leader and to be productive and successful and and and …. should read this book.
  • Yes. I really like this book. I’m going to assign it to some class of mine. Go to Amazon right now!
  • And you can hear Laura Liswood present in the very special track of Rebels, Renegades, and Pioneers at the AFP International Conference in Boston, March 2016.


And check out this information from the wonderful Melissa Brown.

  • 60% of Americans give to charity in a year, and voter turnout is not likely to be much higher than that, based on prior year’s experience (it was 62% in 2008, the highest in a presidential election year since 1960). Further, of registered voters, 43% are independent of a party, so are not likely giving to the party coffers. 
  • More telling, according to, just 0.4% of the US population gave more than $200 to a political campaign in 2012. That includes contributions to parties, PACS, or campaigns. An average donor household in 2008 gave about $2,300 to charity.
  • Charitable giving total is $360Billion + or minus.  ALL campaigns in a presidential year total somewhere south of $10 billion (The Federal Elections Commission reports $7B spent in 2012).
  • $10 billion is 3% of of $360 billion, and following the OpenSecrets report, almost all of that $10B is from a very small number of donors, most of whom are engaged at a high level in the political process. (Think Koch brothers, George Soros, the Bass family, Michael Bloomberg, etc.).
  • It is possible that some subsectors where legislative activity is important – such as environment, civil rights, or movements such as for charter schools — will feel the pain more than arts, higher education, health care, etc.  It is possible that communities where highly politically engaged donors live will feel the pinch – Fort Worth or parts of New York, for example.
  • But for the rest of us, it is not likely that politics will siphon dollars away from charity.
  • And a survey of donors just released also supports this: Dunham+Company Survey Indicates Charitable Giving Won’t Be Affected By Presidential Election Year | Dunham+Company | fundraising research


December 11, 2015

How many times do board members say… “I just can’t ask…”

A happy holiday gift from Jerry Panas…………

Every fundraiser has heard this same refrain so many times…. “I just can’t ask for money.” “I simply refuse to ask for money.” “You can’t make me ask for money.” “I won’t serve on your board if you make me ask for money.”

Okay…Whining is okay. Sometimes. Then move on!!! And that’s the fundraiser’s job…to help board members move on and help with fundraising, including asking.

So Jerry Panas has just written another book: I’m Not Going to Ask!

And Jerry is giving this away… An e-book… A tool for you and your boss and your board chair and your board fundraising committee…

A resource for everyone… The top 24 reasons that board members say, “I won’t ask!!!”

Here are a few I particularly like … Like a big grimace and a rant!

“I’m too busy.” Wow. Are you going to show up at board meetings? What else are you too busy for?!

Get a copy of Jerry’s e-book. Have a board conversation. Change the whining for 2016!

November 2, 2015

Board members must attend board meetings

Or get rid of them . . . graciously!

I was looking through my blog archives…And encountered this 6-year old post. It’s time to share this again. Because the situation isn’t any better! So here goes, with modifications.


You’re not a good board member if you miss lots of board meetings.

What do I mean by “lots”? Attend at least 75% of board meetings. Miss more than that and the organization should professionally, objectively, and respectfully get rid of you.

And don’t start whining about this. Here’s what I hear all the time:

  • “Well, I travel lots and so I miss a fair amount of board meetings. But I’m a great donor and I always read board meeting material and send an email with my opinion.”
  • “We cannot remove our largest donor from the board, even if she doesn’t attend regularly. After all, she’s our largest donor.”
  • “It’s so hard to find board members. We keep the good ones even if they don’t attend regularly.”

Oh please. You’re missing a very important concept: Corporate governance is a collective act. The legal corporate entity is the board. The board is a group. The board does governance. Governance only happens when the board (e.g., the group!) is together, virtually or in person.

When a board member is missing, he isn’t a good board member. When a board member is missing lots, she’s a lousy board member.

Being a great donor doesn’t make the person a great board member. Keep the good donor through great relationship building. And remove the person from the board.

Sharing ideas and thoughts outside the board meeting does not make a good board member. It’s board conversation that matters. Together people share insights and wisdom. They listen to each other. They question each other and themselves. And together, through conversation together, they make a decision. Sharing thoughts outside the group that is the board isn’t useful.

Adopt performance expectations. See my sample performance expectations. Evaluate board member performance. See my sample evaluation tool. Hold your board members accountable. Enforce performance expectations.

Graciously, professionally, objectively — enhance attrition. That’s when you help the board member understand that s/he isn’t fulfilling the performance expectations. The board member acknowledges the problem and offers his / her resignation. And you accept it with alacrity.

And if the board member isn’t smart enough to honestly see his/her performance, then the organization explains clearly and explains why resignation is necessary. That’s thank and release.

Hold board members accountable. Each board member holds himself / herself and the others accountable. Staff hold board members accountable, too. Hmmm… How can you do that better? List cumulative year-to-date attendance in every set of board meeting minutes. Try this approach: Alpha list with a parenthetical note stipulating year-to-date attendance. Here’s what this looks like:

  • Attending: Mary Black (4/5), Bob Dylan (3/5), Enya (4/5), Eartha Kitt (5/5), and Bruce Springsteen (1/5)
  • Unable to attend: Pete Seeger (1/5)

By the way, even if they’ve informed you of their inability to attend — you still don’t keep trustees who miss lots of meetings. You don’t want board members who travel so much, are so important that your organization’s board meeting isn’t important enough.

Recruit board members who are so committed to you that they rarely miss board meetings. Keep board members who are willing to inconvenience themselves for your organization.

For more, read my short book Firing Lousy Board Members – And Helping the Others Succeed. Carry the book around at board meetings. Make sure board members see the cover. Hmmm… Maybe that will launch an improvement revolution!

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

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