June 20, 2014

Board meeting attendance – important or?

Attending board meetings – and participating! – is vitally important.

So what is “attend” and “participate” ?

  • Attend most of the meetings. Inconvenience yourself if necessary! What’s most? More than 50%! More like 75%. (And I don’t care how busy or important you are. Attend or get off!)
  • Read the material. Bring the info to the board meeting. And talk!  Participate in the conversation. Offer your educated insights. Ask strategic and cage-rattling questions.

Corporate governance is a group activity. You attend and engage to be part of a group. Sending in your insights – without benefit of group conversation – are pretty much useless. It’s group conversation and group decision-making that matters.

How about those big donors? Or how about those really important community leaders? Hmmm…. Mostly I don’t care. Don’t talk to me about “political realities”. Instead, identify and recruit committed individuals who will – yes indeed – inconvenience themselves on your behalf. People who will follow good governance. People whose egos are not outsized.

Always remember: Being a big donor doesn’t make someone a good board member. Being a community leader doesn’t make someone a good board member.

Your Governance Committee – and the full board – need to talk about this stuff. Your organization needs policies that define the role of the board and the performance expectations of board members. And enforce these – the role and the expectations.

Staff and board leadership enable these proper behaviors. And when things get out of whack…When board members aren’t performing well… Then the Governance Committee steps in.

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. But usually enhancing attrition works.

For more information, read my board blogs.(See the categories archived on my website.) Visit the Free Download Library on my website – and select from all the handouts explaining all this.

Read my book Firing Lousy Board Members – And Helping Others Succeed. Get your own copy from Amazon or CharityChannel Press. Everything included in one slim, easy-to-read volume.

And do it. All of it! Then your board is stronger. And that makes your organization stronger. And that produces greater impact.

May 15, 2014

New on my website! Podcasts

Would you like to hear me talking about firing lousy board members? How about training your board members to solicit gifts? Or insights about board chairs (great, mediocre, and rogue!) Do you want to hear about good governance?

All of these workshops are now available as podcasts in the Free Download Library on my website.

You’ll hear me. And you can download a great handout.

All this is thanks to AFP International. Are you a member? Do you attend local chapter workshops and conferences?

April 7, 2014

Talking about firing your lousy board members

I’ll be on on Ted Hart’s radio show on Tuesday, April 8. Ted will ask me questions about my new book, Firing Lousy Board Members.

Check out www.blogtalkradio.com/tedhart. Join live and ask Ted and me questions. Listen to the archives with so many great people and great topics.

Visit www.blogtalkradio.com/tedhart.

April 2, 2014

Simone and Ted talking

Just a quick note…

I’ll be on on Ted Hart’s radio show on Tuesday, April 8. Ted wants to talk about my new book, Firing Lousy Board Members.

Check out www.blogtalkradio.com/tedhart. Join live and ask Ted and me questions. Listen to the archives with Kay Sprinkel Grace and Gail Perry and mobile fundraising and small shops and SO MUCH MORE!

Will anyone from my home state of Michigan call in on Tuesday, April 8? Will any pals from Canada? How about colleagues from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota and the marvelous philanthropy and development program?

Visit www.blogtalkradio.com/tedhart.

February 10, 2014

Overcoming barriers for board members

Read this useful book, Boards on Fire! Inspiring Leaders to Raise Money Joyfully by Susan Howlett. Easy and fast to read. Very useful tips for your work with your board and its members.

Susan explores 11 barriers: Expectations are unclear. The Context is Cloudy. The Board Doesn’t Own the Budget. Trustees Aren’t Engaged in Governance. The Mission is Muddy. Goals Aren’t Driving Behavior. Outcomes Are Vague. The Fundraising Strategy is Ill-Defined. The Board Isn’t Being Used Optimally. Leaders Aren’t Equipped to be Ambassadors. Trustees Haven’t Seen Good Models.

And she has ideas about how to storm the barricade, topple over the barrier – or sneak around it!

Susan begins the book with a wonderful exposé about fear. Fundraising might be like a first swimming lesson, Susan says. She once watched a mom scream at her child: “Jump in the water!” But he wouldn’t jump. Instead, he stood on the edge of the pool and cried and screamed, “Noooo!” Mom promised that the teacher would catch him. Mom promised all would be fine.

But Susan reminds us: “What the mother failed to appreciate was that the little boy’s response was cannily appropriate. He knew he couldn’t swim and he had no proof that the teacher would catch him. He knew that when he threw things into water, sometimes they floated – and sometimes they sank to the bottom.”

I love Susan’s comment…”Cannily appropriate.”  Of course our board members are afraid of fundraising. You know it. I know it. Susan knows it. And if we’re honest, why wouldn’t board members be afraid? This could be a new activity for them. They aren’t experts like you’re supposed to be.

January 29, 2014

Smart clients with smart thinking

I’m in my hotel room in Lakeville, Connecticut. Right on the New York border. Soon, I’m heading over to  Women’s Support Services in Sharon.

I’m WSS’s strategic planning consultant. Yesterday I was doing sessions with board committees. Today, some more. And I just have to share some of the very smart stuff I’m hearing. Very smart, indeed!

On every board meeting agenda, WSS includes a “board meeting principle.” They talk about a particular principle of good governance. What it means. Why it matters. Whatever.

How great is that? Every single board meeting, they remind themselves of good governance, exploring a fundamental principle of good governance. I think that is so cool.

“Let’s renew our vows annually. “ Dick said that. He reminded me that he is a pastor. His great point: Every year, each board member should reaffirm her or his commitment to the performance expectations. And what a wonderful way to say this. Renewing my vows to the organization, to its mission and vision and values. Renewing my commitment to fulfill the performance expectations. I vowed all this when I agreed to serve on the board.

— So what does a committee do? How is it different than the board? How does the committee make sure it doesn’t disempower the board – or just ask the board to rubber stamp committee decisions.

Maria observed that committees don’t make decisions (or certainly shouldn’t!) Committees process in more detail. They may recommend. But the governance committees of the board – they don’t make decisions.

Then Steve used this good language: Committees are part of oversight and control. (I talk about committees helping the board fulfill its due diligence functions.)

Steve went on to say that a major role of any committee is to educate the board and its individual members regarding their responsibilities —  and how to interpret information in a way that allows the board to own its accountabilities and board members to ask important questions.

Thank you, Women’s Support Services. Darn good work! And thank you for your commitment to creating a community free of domestic violence and abuse.


January 27, 2014

Simone’s two new books…fundraising…board members

Check out these two new books:

npEXPERTS Donor Retention Guide from Blackbaud. Show the Love Ain’t that the truth? Meet a few of the 13 experts in this new online book: Roger Craver, Lisa Sargeant, Pam Grow, Harvey McKinnon, Nancy Schwartz – and me, Simone Joyaux.

Here is just a sampling of topics:  •  The case for donor retention  •  It’s all about the stories you tell  •  Why perfect thank yous will make or break you  •  Engaging board members in the retention process  •  Using your annual report to boost donor retention  •  AND MORE!

Visit Amazon or Charity Channel Press now. Get your own copy of my new book, Firing Lousy Board Members – And Helping the Others to Succeed. 

Learn how to find good board members and help them become great. Make sure you have the right policies in place for the board and its work – and for the board members and their requirements. Try the evaluation tools. Learn how to give feedback. And – only if it is necessary – then you can enhance attrition or thank and release.

And, have you taken a look at any of these books — with contributions by me?



December 31, 2013

Creating an empathetic civilization – or we won’t survive!

Check out this absolutely marvelous and insightful video

Empathy… That’s what will save us all.

Make everyone you know watch it. EVERYONE! In schools in homes in organizations at board meetings… everyone everywhere.

This is what philanthropy is. This is what nonprofits/NGOs promote. And this human tendency – to be empathetic – is how we change the world…how we secure gifts of time and money to change the world.

Watch it. Use it. Remember it. Share it. Tweet it. Text it.

P.S. Check out a few new things that I’ve posted in my Free Download Library.

  • New ways to think about strategic planning.
  • Training tool to help your volunteers do face-to-face personal solicitation.
  • An overview of emotions, the very most critical thing you need to know for fundraising.
November 11, 2013

Annual meetings…and members, too

I’ve always been curious about the concept of “the annual meeting.”

The primary purpose of an annual meeting is to elect board members. If the board elects its own members (e.g., there are no other “members”), then the annual meeting is just a regular board meeting. The board elects its members and its officers. There is the usual financial report and the usual due diligence that happens at any board meeting.

If you have members other than board members, then maybe the members elect the board members and the board elects officers. So you might have a separate annual meeting. I HATE THAT! I dislike members electing board members. I dislike members having any role in governance.

When I say “dislike,” I mean my professional opinion based on my work in nonprofits: my expertise in governance and fundraising. For me, “member” is another term for “donor.” Some organizations and professionals think that “member” sounds more like ownership than “donor.” I think that’s a rather sad testament to our treatment of and view of donors. But whatever…

Members are donors are members. So whether I buy a membership or give a gift, I am an investor and members and donors should get the same “benefits.” And for some organizations, that “benefit” is voting for board members.

But honestly, if you want to have members and call them members and they are your donors… You do NOT have to allow them to elect board members. Your members/donors don’t know who would be a good board member. Your members/donors don’t know about what you need in governance.

Further more, it’s fairly typical that not very many members/donors attend the annual meeting. Really, how interesting can an annual meeting be — unless you design a really good thing with really interesting speakers.

Those members/donors don’t need a vote. There is no useful purpose. Donor-centrism and relationship building are what build donor/member loyalty…not electing board members. (Even the power of electing a president doesn’t motivate U.S. citizens to go vote. The U.S. has one of the lowest voting rates of any democratic nation in the world.)

So change your bylaws. Members don’t elect board members. (Oops. Maybe your bylaws can’t be amended without members voting. Gosh. What a mess. Fix it. You can.)

If you want to have an annual gathering of your members/donors/friends, that’s cool. Talk about your mission, have an interesting speaker, invite a donor and client to speak. Show images of great stuff that members/donors/friends produced. Whatever. Call it an an annual meeting to report to your investors (members/donors/friends). Mingle and schmooze and nurture relationships. Talk about impact – of members/donors/friends.

In June 2013, I attended the 179th Annual Meeting of Children’s Friend. I was there because the agency was honoring a dear friend of mine. I arrived a bit late so the meeting had already started. But here is what I saw and heard.

First, there were 200+ people in the room sitting at round tables. I asked one of the staff, “How in heaven’s name do you get this many people?” The response: “These are all our employees, all our board members, our policy council, and dear friends.” (I forgot to ask if they invite their donors. But I’m hoping they do!)

Children’s Friend brings together all its employees four times per year. They close the agency and bring together employees for trainings and talking and the annual meeting. I don’t know how many employees Children’s Friend has, but at least 100, I suspect.

The President and CEO made wonderful remarks about the health of the agency, public policy and advocacy work, the impact of the agency’s work. A wonderful slide show presented 2012-2013 highlights. Photos of donors and the kids and families served and agency events and staff doing lots of things and and … The audience laughed and applauded and called out.

Then there were the awards.

  • Employee service awards for 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25 years of employment. Everyone came up on stage. Everyone had his/her face on the big screen with a mini bio.
  • Special tribute to a wonderful volunteer who had recently died. His wife and daughter were there.
  • And the annual award for service to the agency. That’s the award my friend received.

What was the ambiance in this room? Happiness. Pride. Respect. Joy. Fun. People were cheering and laughing. People were happy. Smiling faces. Mingling and hanging around.

I don’t remember if there was voting for board members by all those people attending. To me, this gathering was a celebration, a marvelous cultivation event.

Think about it. What is your intent? How you can best achieve that? Why have members involved in governance? Why confuse governance with cultivation? Think about it. Maybe a change is in order for your organization.

October 7, 2013

More thoughts about board chairs

Here’s how Arthur Meyers, Russell Library (public library of Middletown, CT) describes his board chair: “She brings great empathy and expertise as a person and as a business adviser and coach.  She is clear, sensible, patient, direct, organized, good listener, involved in community, able to laugh easily.”

Wow. How great is that!

Your board chair just might be so great that you want to clone her for the future. Or at least use her as an example and model for what you constantly and consistently seek.

Your board chair could be just sorta okay kinda. In my experience, most board chairs are sorta okay kinda.

And, yes, there are just plain bad board chairs. Just like there are just plain bad board members.

The goal is to pick the right board chair in the first place. Firing a board chair is hard – harder than firing a lousy board member. (But sometimes firing is necessary. If that’s the case, do it. Launch the process. See my book Firing Lousy Board Members – and Helping the Others Succeed, from Charity Channel Press.)

Selecting officers requires the same level of work  as selecting board members. This is serious business! You need a job description for the board chair.  You must outline desirable behaviors and skills. (And have a chat about what you do not want in a board chair, too!)

The Governance Committee needs honest conversation, facilitated by the committee chair and the CEO. The Governance Committee must be insightful and courageous…because that’s the group that facilitates board health, and the screening and recruitment of board members and officers.

You need board conversation about the job of the board chair, the expected behaviors and necessary skills. And, of course, the board itself must demand this level of focus and care from its Governance Committee.

And always remember, the CEO plays an important role as an enabler of committee and board conversations. (See my handout about enabling. Read all the details in Strategic Fund Development, 3rd edition.)

So what’s the job of the board chair?

  • First, the board chair serves as a facilitator. She chairs board meetings and manages the conversations. She summarizes what she is hearing in order to help the conversation go forward. She ensures equal voice. She facilitates the decision-making process through motions and voting.
  • The board chair helps people distinguish between personal opinion (which is often irrelevant) and professional expertise. He helps board members – and the board as group – understand and perform accordingly.
  • The board chair partners with the CEO to ensure that the board and its committees do not venture into management.
  • Together, the board chair and CEO facilitate the proper relationship between the board and its committees. (And the CEO makes sure that his/her staff who work with board committees understand the distinctions between governance and management – and effectively enable board members and committees.)
  • Together, the board chair and CEO develop board meeting agendas.
  • Together, the board chair and CEO identify committee chairs and assign each board member to the appropriate committee.
What are the skills and behaviors of the best board chairs? It’s a bit like defining leadership, isn’t it? I believe in collaboration and empowerment. I expect listening and facilitating and guiding. I don’t expect bossing and directing. Remember how Art described his board chair: Good listener. Sensible. Patient. Direct. A good coach. Organized. Sense of humor. I’ll be Art’s board chair is self-aware and confident but not arrogant.
How is the board chair different than any other board member? Mostly there is no difference.
The board chair has no more authority than any other board member. The board chair subscribes to the same limitations of any other board member. (Check out John Carver’s work about limitation policies.)

The board chair does not recruit board members. As a member of the board, the board chair helps identify candidates and the Governance Committee does the rest of the work.

The board chair does not fire board members. When it comes to poor performance by board members, the board chair may participate in conversations with the Governance Committee. The board chair is certainly aware of the problem. But it’s the Governance Committee that handles the process, moves through the various steps of performance feedback, enhancing attrition, or firing. See my book Firing Lousy Board Members, for release by Charity Channel Press in October.

Who has the power?

The board has the power. Not the board chair. Not the CEO. Not any other individual. Governance is a group process. The group decides.

If your board members are so weak and ineffectual that they can’t pick the right board chair and demand appropriate behavior from the board chair… then the responsibility and accountability belongs with the board.

Remember, the board is important. Governance is important. The board chair can be helpful, harmful, or just really mediocre. Wouldn’t you prefer helpful? Wouldn’t you appreciate great? Get to work now. Create a shared understanding of great, okay kinda, and just plain bad. Then work together to get the best.

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