Sunday, October 20, 2013

Social Networking and the Non Profit World: Be There or Be Square.

This blog is sure to bring a few snickers from some of my associates. I really was the anti-social media person for quite some time.  Truth be told, I just didn't get it. I had a website. Didn't that make me "with it"? Didn't everyone see the beautiful pictures, links and content that made me so proud of my world wide web contribution?   Nonetheless, after years of fighting against the cyber revolution I've realized:  I was the last human being still not involved with social media and still using Windows XP. 
The first thing I had to understand about social media is that it's free and easy.  But, like others of you - I was a skeptic.  I also didn't understand what having a page on Facebook could do that my website couldn't.  It just seemed like one more thing I had to monitor and update.  And, guess what?  It is! Of course it requires work. But, it is worth it.  With Facebook - I could reach out to people - share my thoughts whenever I wanted. And, I could share my clients' successes with all of my followers with just a few key strokes.  If I update my website- I can go on Facebook and let people know to come check it out.  

Now, I am by no means a major player in the Social Networking world - but I get it.  And your organization should too.  Social Networking has changed the landscape for corporations, politicians, individuals and of course - non-profit organizations.  It can assist with building a constituency, public relations, stewardship, and more.  Now, before I sound like a commercial for Facebook - let me just say there are many other great social networking sites as well. Open up your mind to it, as I had to do, and you will find plenty.     

Here are some serious pros to utilizing social networking:
1. Messaging goes to an audience that self-selects an interest in your organization.
2. You are instantly able to share news or events as many times as you wish.
3. You can list and highlight new donors.
4. There are plenty of work-from-home folks that would be happy to get you set-up at a reasonable fee.
5. And, most importantly, $22.4 billion was given to non-profits over the internet in 2011!

So, in the words of Nike, "just do it."

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Engaging Your Board For Effective Management And Oversight

Much of the subject matter of my previous posts has been about Board recruitment, development and responsibilities.  Here is where I tell you flat out and in no uncertain terms, where a board can overstep its power and in the most well meaning way – impede the organization from meeting its mission.

First, I need to talk about leadership.  The Board is the governing body of an organization.  They establish the mission and guidelines.  They recruit, hire and train the executive director.   And then, (here’s the hard part folks) they TRUST the executive director to handle and lead the daily operations of the organization.  A board cannot be an effective board if they get involved in every personnel issue,   marketing and communication pieces, or even each program that is developed.  Ever hear the expression, “too many cooks in the kitchen”?

Think of the board as the heart of the organization.  The board sets the tone and rhythm for the executive director to execute its directives.  They help with many tasks – including fund development, program development, finance, etc.  The board should focus on the big picture and the board members should focus where their personal talents and skills can most benefit the organization.  At any given time, a board member can be called on to assist in the writing of a marketing piece, help with a grant proposal or even offer advice on daily management.  Now, here’s the but – BUT, an effective board with an effective executive director knows that it is not a good use of time or resources if the ED is not empowered to make decisions and act on those decisions when necessary.

At times there can be a temptation for the president or executive director to rely too heavily on the board as a whole to review printed materials, critique solicitation letters and approve stewardship correspondence. There is a natural inclination to do so, especially when the organization is new and the board  is in its formative stages. Yet it is incredibly inefficient in trying to simply get things done. I know of one president who had her entire board review, edit and otherwise re-write each of three solicitation letters. To say this "gummed up the works" is an understatement. In addition, the Rule of Thirds came into play: one third read and commented on the letter, one third reviewed it and had no comments whatsoever and the remaining third never remembered seeing it. Needless to say, it wasn't the most effective use of anyone's time.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Board Responsibilities

In a previous blog, Board Basics, I mentioned the following: “An active and involved board of directors is the most critically important commodity to the success of a non-profit organization.  It is the Board’s responsibility to ensure that the organization keeps the promises outlined in the agency’s mission and for assuring that the agency is accountable for acting within the laws governing the operations of non-profit corporations.  Basically, a Board of Directors can make or break an organization.”

This was more about how important a board IS.  Here I talk about what a board DOES.  It is imperative that every organization have clearly defined responsibilities that are shared with each board member at the beginning and during his/her term.  A dangerous habit many organizations get into is failing to share this information until a time of conflict. 

A good method of practice is to have each board member sign a member agreement.  Many organizations offer free sample board member agreements.  A simple internet search will help you find a wide variety of these documents and select the one that is the most relevant to your organization.
In addition to any specific duties as assigned by an institution's charter, there are many areas where Board members are often called upon to become involved. What follows is an attempt to present broad guidelines for board members, to be refined and defined by the individual non-profit.
1) Be active in the achievement of the organization’s mission and goals.
2) Attend a specified percentage of board and committee (if applicable) meetings.
2) Support the chief administrative officer by allowing them the latitude to operate the institution and pursue its mission without undue interference.
3) Board members should avoid becoming involved with personnel issues other than the hiring or dismissal of the chief administrative officer.
4) Be informed and help influence the creation of the institution's mission and policies.
5) Prepare for meetings by reading and researching in advance agenda, policy issues or related issues.
6) Refrain from making special requests of the staff especially without consulting the chief administrative officer.
7) Make a personal financial commitment commensurate with one's means.
8) Assist in keeping the board viable by making suggestions and nominations for new members.
9) Actively participate in 1 or more fundraising activities.
11) Provide financial oversight.
12) Ensure integrity both legally and ethically.

I can’t stress enough the importance of defining roles and responsibilities for each board member.  In my experience, the most challenging thing a staff member or volunteer experiences in their non-profit career is a board that hasn’t taken the time to map out its goals and role in achieving them.  This creates hurdles that are unnecessary and wastes valuable time and other resources that could otherwise be utilized to help the organization further its mission.