August 3, 2015

Notes from my dorm room

Ah tristesse. (That’s French for “ah, sadness.”)

I’ve said farewell to Cohort 24 and Cohort 25 at SMU. I’ve been teaching in this Masters Program in Philanthropy and Development since 2000, beginning with Cohort 9.

This summer was the 25th anniversary. Thank you, Tim Burchill, for founding this program. You would be so proud of this program. (Tim died suddenly in February 2007. He was a great colleague and friend.)

“Notes from my dorm room” appears in my blog periodically. Live from campus. Reflections after classes.

Cohort 24 and I talked about governance. The glory. The mess. The dysfunctionality. The mediocrity. And here are some remarks – from the cohort – about performance expectations for the individual board member:

  1. Have a great deal of money. But intend to invest next to none of it in this organization. And certainly don’t be willing to work on fund development or generating new leads.
  2. Rarely attend meetings. But, if forced to show up, text other board members at the table about the CEO during staff reports. Make sure that the CEO sees you texting.
  3. Make sure to attend every board meeting bitch session over a bottle of wine.
  4. Never read email. Especially the agenda. (No thought went into the agenda anyway.)
  5. Vote on bylaw amendments without having read the changes.
  6. Badmouth the organization, both in and out of board meetings.
  7. Badmouth staff too. Plus other board members. And especially the CEO.

[To be continued…]

December 1, 2014

Overhead madness

MUST READ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The back and forth at the Agitator (Belford and Craver) …. and all the marvelous comments from people all over the world.

The back and forth at the Critical Fundraising Blog …. at the new Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy in the U.K.

Everyone in your organization should read this… THE WHOLE THING! It’s the comments that count. The original Agitator column stimulates the comments.

I’ll say it again: Read the whole Agitator thing! Now, read the whole Critical Fundraising thing!

And let’s join voices and tell the truth and explain. Explain through stories and metaphors. Don’t explain through data!

Convince some donors and get them to tell the story about why overhead matters.

Let’s launch a donor fight FOR overhead.

Keep up the critique of those silly watchdog groups who made this the center of their evaluations. Then after their leadership in furthering this fiasco… these watch doggies changed their tunes and said something like “of course, overhead isn’t bad; it’s necessary.” (Although they didn’t actually say they had helped further the fiasco and were sorry.)

Join the fight FOR overhead. Tell stories. Get your donors to tell stories about why overhead matters.

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?

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?



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.

October 7, 2013

Board chairs – what do they do?

What do you think of this description for the board chair’s role? Dean (Cohort 22 at Saint Mary’s University) and I drafted this together.

Here’s how we begin: The primary role of the board chair is to facilitate the governance process. While the board chair has no more power than any other board, he or she – along with the CEO – is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the integrity of the governance process is maintained in all board proceedings.

But upon further reflection: Do I really think the board chair is primarily responsible for good governance? Actually, I think it is the board’s role to ensure good governance. And the board chair helps facilitate that process.

Then Dean and I came up with various functional areas, e.g., interpersonal, operational, and community.

1. Interpersonal functions of the board chair

  • Empowers all board members and board committees.
  • Empowers the administration to work enthusiastically in support of mission. (Hmmm… Really? Or is that mostly the CEO’s role?)
  • Ensures board members and the board (as a group) feels a deep commitment to mission and community. (Hmmm… Commitment is really an individual thing. Internal motivation. The board chair and CEO can certainly help. But ultimately, the individual is responsible for his or her own commitment and performance.)
  • Ensures that board members feel valued and respected. (The board chair can help. But each person has to value and respect others.)

2. Operational functions

  • Facilitates effective meetings.
  • With the CEO, creates the board meeting agenda.
  • With the CEO, appoints committee chairs and appoints board members to various committees.
  • Serves ex-officio on all committees but is not required (nor expected!) to attend all meetings.

3. Community

  •  Supports and advocates for the organization and its leadership team.
  • Demonstrates leadership in fundraising
And here are some other miscellaneous thoughts: The board chair has voice but no more authority than any other board member. The board chair is a leader by virtue of her/his elected position. More importantly, s/he demonstrates leadership by virtue of character.
Has your board talked about the role and skills and behaviors desired in the board chair? Does your governance committee talk about all this – in order to find nominate the best board chair possible?
How might life change in your organization – and within the board – if you all talked about the role of the board chair – and the expectations?
April 14, 2013

New resources in my Free Download Library

I’ve just added two new items to my Free Download Library on my website:

  • Version #2: Role of the Board
  • Version #2: Board member performance expectations

Versions #1 are still there. But I’m always thinking of new ways of saying things. And thinking of new things that are important.

So visit the Free Download Library and check out these new versions. 

And always remember the following:

  1. There is a difference between the board and the individual board member. These are NOT NOT interchangeable words.
  2. The first responsibility of the individual board member is to participate in the governance process. That’s what it means to be a board member. Go to board meetings, etc. etc. In Version #2 of the board member performance expectations, I’ve pulled together all the activities of being a board member.
  3. But the board member has another obligation – beyond corporate governance. I expect the board member to be a key volunteer, a leadership volunteer. So you will see assorted performance expectations for board members that happen beyond and outside of corporate governance. In Version #2, I’ve separated these to indicate that these activities are not part of governance but are equally important and non-negotiable.

I hope you find these new versions useful and helpful.

Filed under: Resources / Research

March 31, 2013

“I’ve never been so beat up in a workshop – and felt so great!”

People can learn – and must. Organizations can change – and must. Workshops can help. Reading the right books and bloggers can make a difference. Good conversations – with disagreement – can help. What are you doing to learn and change?

On March 29, 2013, I had the honor of serving as keynote presenter for the third annual East Bay Forum hosted by CompassPoint. The focus of the forum … UnderDeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising.

More than 100 nonprofit organizations, mostly in the East Bay, attended…including development officers, executive directors, and board members…mostly teams from the same organizations. That’s the way to build understanding, learn and change – bring a team from the organization. Make sure that the team talks and then helps design and facilitate change in the organization.

Within 24 hours, I received an email from a consultant attending the session with one of her clients. Here’s what she said: “I am working with a small non profit to do a development audit and create their fund development plan. They have a lot of development challenges.
“I emailed the ED the study (the UnderDeveloped Report) a few weeks ago and she read it but did not quite get the full understanding of all that was lacking with her organization for successful fund development .
“But then she went to the workshop on Friday and today I was at their board retreat and she could not stop talking about the workshop. She said ‘I have never been so beat up in a four hour workshop and felt so great!’
“Now she gets it and the board chair is starting to understand and they both see that the board needs to be involved in fund raising and the role of the DD and investing in long term donor cultivation etc.
“So I am so inspired that this study and the workshop can have an impact and that DD/ED and board can make changes with the right information and commitment!”

How wonderful. That ED heard the problems identified in the report. She recognized her organization’s challenges. She understands that the organization can learn and change. Ask yourself: Do you know your organization’s problems? Are you prepared to face the challenges and learn and make change? Can you enable your staff colleagues, board members, executive director (if you are the development officer) to see the challenges, follow the body of knowledge, and make change?

It was a great morning there in the east bay of California. It was, of course, tough love day. Most days are tough love day with me. I love and respect the nonprofit sector and its role in community and democracy. But there is lots to fix for the nonprofit sector to be stronger and produce greater impact. Changes in fund development. Changes in governance. Changes in executive leadership.

Now is the time for your executive director, develop director, and management team to read UnderDeveloped. Read my January 3-part blog in response. Your fund development committee needs to read the study. And your board, too. Talk about the implications. Figure out how to fix this!

For help with change, visit the Free Download Library on my website. Read Simone Uncensored, my blog, and subscribe to my e-news. You will receive regular tips and ideas about how to be stronger, raise more money, and engage a top-notch board in top-notch ways. Maybe you’ll need consulting help. So find a good consultant.

Just do it, as Nike says. A trite phrase these days. But nonetheless. Do it. Fix yourself. Be all that you can be. You know what I mean!

Filed under: Leadership

February 2, 2013

Bad board meeting – and the board chair makes it so

A colleague told me about a board meeting he observed. Here’s the scary story, in his words: 

“The board chair mandated order. And when I say ‘mandated,’ I mean it. It was tempting to allow my jaw to stay on the floor because as soon as I picked it up, it would fall once again.

“The board chair, with some input from the Executive Committee, ran a fairly dictatorial board. Those were not part of the inner circle – i.e. didn’t serve on the Executive Committee – felt excluded and angry.

“The meeting was heated and the lack of transparency and tension due to exclusion was immense. The board chair got more heavy-handed and more secretive as the excluded board members asked more and more questions.”

What an awful story – but more usual than one might suspect.

What went wrong? A rogue board chair who thinks he controls everything. An executive committee that thinks it controls everything that the board chair doesn’t control.

My advice: Disband the executive committee immediately. Join my worldwide mission to destroy all executive committees. By the way, it’s the board’s decision whether to have an executive committee.

Give feedback to the board chair about his performance. Remember, no board member – including the chair – has more authority than anyone else. At board meetings, speak out. Ask for what you want as board members. Express concern about dictatorial and exclusionary behavior.

If necessary, ask the board chair to resign. Recruit a new board chair who is a good facilitator.

Do you need some resources to help you understand this work – and then do this work? Visit the Free Download Library on my website. Click on Board Development. Then read the many free PDFs located there. Things like: Basic Principles of Governance. Destroy All Executive Committee. Firing Lousy Board Members. Sample Policy for Board Operations. Performance Expectations of the Individual Board Member. My due diligence outline. Questions for building the best board. And more.

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