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?
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!
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?
Stuff you and I and all fundraisers need to know. Designed for newbies. (But I know lots of fundraisers who aren’t newbies – and need this program! These fundraisers have been fundraising for a while – even quite a while. But too many don’t know the basics.)
What will you learn?
Thorough intro to the fundraising process.
Intro to the nonprofit sector and fundraising ethics
What we know about giving – who gives and why
Science and practice of communication design
How to raise lots more money by avoiding common errors that nonprofits too often make
Focusing on donor satisfaction and wellbeing
And all of this comes from Adrian Sargeant and his team. With start-up funding from Bloomerang.
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 email@example.com. You could even call me if you wished. 401.397.2534.
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.
Jay Love, Co-Founder & Chief Relationship Officer, Bloomerang. Plus Tom Ahern & Simone P. Joyaux
Thursday, June 6: 7:30 am – 12:30 pm. Radisson Hotel Providence Airport
2081 Post Road, Warwick RI 02886. Members: $50 / Non-Members: $85.
Jay’s really cool workshop on “Maximizing the Lifetime Value of Your Donors for Fundraising Success.
And then the 3-way talk.Jay + Tom + Simone. Bring your questions. Ask and ask more. Want to be unknown? Then write your question on a piece of paper and hand it to Simone in private. Time to complain and whine. Wail and weep about stuff back at the office. Secrets and doors closed.
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.