Strengthening Nonprofit Governance & Management
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  • Wednesday, July 09, 2014 12:30 PM | Deleted user

    Top 10 Technology Takeaways

    (A Recap of the Nonprofit Network’s Tech Expo)

    By Rebecca Caulkins, Public Relations and Technology Manager, Experience Jackson


    The Nonprofit Network’s Inaugural Tech Expo was quite a success. Everyone walked away with something valuable, whether that was something they’d like to start doing, something they’d like to stop doing or something they would start doing differently.


    Speakers from Bloomerang, Data Driven Detroit, Courtland Consulting, RjM and Highway T presented on a variety of technology related topics including: making advocacy maps with Google Fusion Tables, social media for nonprofits, Microsoft 365, Google AdWords, and cloud security and ethics.


    Unique to this event were the short tech talks that gave 15 minute snippets of each topic. These optional previews gave attendees the opportunity to choose the sessions on their top priority list or spend that time interacting with vendors.


    My Top 10 Technology Takeaways:


    1.  Use interactive Google Maps and Google Fusion Tables to spend time with data and have  an important visual for grant writing.


    2.      Of 9000 small to medium nonprofits surveyed, 20% spend less than an hour on social media and 40% spend 1-2 hours on social media. 


    3.      45% find social media very valuable, yet 65% have no strategies for social media marketing. 


    4.      Create a separate Google UTM code for each media to track data in Google Analytics. (UTM codes are little snippets of text added to the end of your URL to help you track the clicks of your ads on the web.) 


    5.      Learn how to harness online advocates offline by engaging with your online champions individually and in other avenues.


    6.      Three types of nonprofit social media posts are: appreciation, advocacy and appeals. 


    7.      Donor retention rate is a very important statistic. After first donation the rate is 22. 9%, but after second donation the rate raises to 60%. Acknowledge that first gift within 7 days.


    8.      Follow the “You Test” when writing appeals: Always have more “You” statements than “I” or “We”.


    9.      Google Ad Grants are available to nonprofits for up to $2 Cost Per Click and up to $10,000 a month.


    10.   Use action verbs when writing you ads. For example, “Click here for…” 

     

    Rebecca Calkins, Public Relations and Technology Manager for Experience Jackson manages the social media on Facebook /ExperienceJackson and Twitter @ExperienceJxn as well as a monthly eNewsletter. Rebecca grew up in Jackson and returned after attending college at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. When not working, she enjoys cooking and traveling and is always looking for the "next culinary or cultural adventure." 

  • Monday, July 07, 2014 1:32 PM | Deleted user

    Planning For an Engaged Board

    By Regina Funkhouser, Executive Director

     

    Are you struggling with a less than fully functioning board?  Do you find your board meetings lasting way too long and filled with conversations that produce no decisions and no action?  Are your meetings filled with committee chairs rambling on about committee details?  Do you have board members that consistently don’t show up?  Do you struggle to get on the same page?

    A fully engaged, active board doesn’t happen organically.  It takes deliberate acts, concentrated efforts, planning and lots of behind the scenes work to create a board that understands their role and takes governance seriously. 

     

    Steps to engaging your board:

    1)      Recruit board members with a plan – and share the plan with the candidates  Starting off your board development meetings with a statement that resembles “I know someone that may say yes” is a clear signal that all you are doing is filling the seats with beating hearts.   Developing an engaged board member starts (and sometimes ends) with the recruitment process.  Board members want to be part of an exclusive team and are honored and impressed that a board made every effort to be sure of a good fit, rather than simply seeking a beating heart that said yes. The recruitment process sets the expectations – any minimization of the legal duties, fundraising responsibilities or time commitment will eventually have a new board member asking if they have been tricked into making a commitment.  If the recruitment process is done poorly and without deliberateness – you will have a board member that shows up to three meetings and then disappears, rarely speaks or worse yet – micromanages (micromanagers are not “bad” board members, but board members who are seeking their role – guessing what, exactly, they should be doing.)  Set the bar high and lay out clear expectations of attendance, participation, donating, fundraising and leadership. 

     

     

    2)      Recognize that board orientation is not a task – it is a process Handing a new board member a 3 inch binder with every policy, procedure, itemized budget and marketing piece from the last five years and going through it page by page is not orientation, it’s torture.  I’m not saying never provide these items, I’m just saying that especially in the beginning, less is more and quality before quantity. Even if a new board member read every ream of paper you gave them, they cannot possibly retain or apply the knowledge. This practice will only overwhelm a new board member.  It may take 18 months before a board member has been through a complete cycle of your budget process, your planning process, your evaluation process and committee process.  Recognize that ongoing training to apply knowledge is critical to the ability to participate fully as a board member.  If we continue to expect a new board member to “get it” after three months, we create a group of people who collectively think “I must be the only one who doesn’t understand this because I’m new, so I will remain mute and allow others to make decisions.”

    3)      Even the best board members need hand holding, follow up and reminders We choose board members based on their ability to get things done.  Regardless of their passion for our mission – they have a job, a family, a life and other commitments that keep them very busy.  Of course they want to donate – but don’t expect them to remember it’s been a year since their last donation.  Don’t send them committee meeting notes a day before the next meeting – or worse – hand them out at the meeting – and expect a board member to remember what they volunteered to do.  Board members need and appreciate reminders.  Send an email to say “our next meeting is in two weeks, at our last meeting we agreed to ….”. 

    4)      Create a mutually beneficial relationship  If we expect Board Members to come prepared, rise to the occasion, work diligently as a group and expect to be intellectually taxed by complex and consequential questions then by golly we better deliver that opportunity.  Allow your agenda to create this environment.  If there is no discussion required, put the report: financial, committees, Executive Director’s, on the consent agenda.  Don’t allow anyone to “read” to your board or for your board.  They are big girls and boys and can do it themselves.  Fill your board meetings with engaging and interesting governance conversations.  I recommend creating an annual board calendar with these conversations scheduled.  These could include budget planning conversations (are our staffing levels appropriate – will we need to figure out how to hire more next year or should we add or eliminate a program), strategic planning review sessions, possibly even committee training sessions, for example the finance committee could do an annual reminder about what happens at the committee level, what the reports that are given to the board mean and what philosophies they are using to manage money.

     

    5)      Work the locker room Sometimes, the Board Chair and/or the Executive Director needs to spend some time in the locker room.  The intent of these locker room conversations may be to simply check in to make sure the board member is feeling heard, has any concerns or if the organization/board is living up to their end of the bargain in the mutually beneficial relationship department.  When is the last time your board members have been asked if they think time at the board meeting is well spent, if meetings are run efficiently or if decisions are being thoroughly vetted?  Asking the question is as valuable as the answer. 

     

    6)      Define and Measure The fastest way to kill momentum is to fail to define and measure.  We all agree that board members need to participate in fundraising and raise more money. But if we don’t take a moment to collectively define and share a vision for what “participate” means or what “more” means, we will never agree on what success looks like.  One board member will donate a check and think they did their part, while another board member is organizing house parties, meeting with possible donors, writing thank you notes and selling raffle tickets.  Both efforts may be fine, but if we never discussed the expectations and the shared definition –one may look across the board table and wonder why they are doing all the work while the other does nothing.  Without a common language and shared definition, when will we know it’s time to celebrate a win?

    Create an environment that breeds success – not failure – around your board table.  Make sure everyone has the right tools, clear expectations and the training required.  And most importantly, repeat frequently. 

  • Tuesday, July 01, 2014 1:31 PM | Deleted user

    By Regina Funkhouser


    A fully engaged, active board doesn’t happen organically.  It takes deliberate acts, concentrated efforts, planning and lots of behind the scenes work to create a board that understands their role and takes governance seriously.  


    Recognize that board orientation is not a task – it is a process Handing a new board member a 3 inch binder with every policy, procedure, itemized budget and marketing piece from the last five years and going through it page by page is not orientation, it’s torture.  I’m not saying never provide these items, I’m just saying that especially in the beginning, less is more and quality before quantity. Even if a new board member read every ream of paper you gave them, they cannot possibly retain or apply the knowledge. This practice will only overwhelm a new board member.  It may take 18 months before a board member has been through a complete cycle of your budget process, your planning process, your evaluation process and committee process.  Recognize that ongoing training to apply knowledge is critical to the ability to participate fully as a board member.  If we continue to expect a new board member to “get it” after three months, we create a group of people who collectively think “I must be the only one who doesn't understand this because I’m new, so I will remain mute and allow others to make decisions.”
  • Thursday, June 05, 2014 2:39 PM | Deleted user

     

    Recently, Brian Philson, President and CEO of Highfields, Inc was a guest facilitator at a recent Nonprofit Network Executive Director Morning Networking event. He noted some practical tips about how to navigate an effective relationship with your Board Chair.

    The Board Chair and Executive Director relationship can either help the nonprofit "thrive in tits mission" or severely hinder the nonprofit's growth and success. When it goes "south" it can cause long - term damage to the nonprofit. When it is in perfect harmony, the agency will thrive and experience success.

    From my experience and training I believe there are some important keys to making this relationship "highly effective" and allow the nonprofit to thrive in its mission. There are three keys to cultivating a successful relationship:

    Good Communication I believe a monthly face to face meeting is important. In addition, setting agendas together and a "dress rehearsal" prior to each board meeting is a good idea, even if by phone or email. There should be no surprises!

    Role Clarification Having a good understanding of what the Board Chair and Executive Director roles are is very important. There are some basic roles that should not overlap, but depending on the organization and the personalities, these may be unique in each and every situation. In some cases, the roles may even overlap, underscoring the importance of “good communication”.

    Decide where you (might) put these roles:

    ·         Fundraising

    ·         Fundraising - Board Member involvement
    ·         Daily personnel and budgetary issues
    ·         Sharing the long-term vision of the nonprofit 

    Good Chemistry With a High Level of Trust This is pretty critical in my opinion and having an ability to be candid and open with one another is important. There are time when you need to talk about sensitive information and strategize on how to move forward. Examples might be about staff, donors, board members, finances, etc. This takes work based on time and investment.

    Brian D. Philson, LMSW, ACSW President/ CEO
    Bphilson@highfields.org

    Brian started with Highfields in July, 2006 as the director of residential services. He was promoted to vice president of programming before being promoted to President/CEO in August 2008. Brian earned his master’s degree in social work at Michigan State University and bachelor’s degree in social work at Spring Arbor College, where he later became an instructor. He is a member of the National Partnership for Juvenile Services, a Board Member of the Michigan Federation for Children and Families and a member of the National Association of Social Workers.

  • Monday, March 17, 2014 2:06 PM | Regina Funkhouser (Administrator)

    We all agree that board members need to participate in fundraising and raise more money. But if we don’t take a moment to collectively define and share a vision for what “participate” means or what “more” means, we will never agree on what success looks like.  One board member will donate a check and think they did their part, while another board member is organizing house parties, meeting with possible donors, writing thank you notes and selling raffle tickets. 

     

    Both efforts may be fine, but if we never discuss the expectation or define what participation looks like–one may look across the board table and wonder why they are doing all the work while the other does nothing.  Without a common language and shared definition, when will we know it’s time to celebrate a win.

     

    Create an environment that breeds success – not failure – around your board table.  Make sure everyone has the right tools, clear expectations and the training required.  And most importantly, repeat frequently. 

     

    More about how to engage your board in fundraising

  • Wednesday, March 12, 2014 4:02 PM | Regina Funkhouser (Administrator)

    Conflict of interest is a sneaky beast that rears its head in odd places.


    We speak to many people about issues of conflict. When we teach board basics – it’s one of the topics that get the most questions and conversation. It’s tricky, confusing and can catch us by surprise.


     What makes the concept of conflict of interest so difficult is that the definition in the non-profit world is very different than in the for-profit world.  In the for-profit world, conflict is identified by money – who has it and who wants it.  In the non-profit world, conflict is defined by allegiance


    One of the legal duties of a board member is the Duty of Loyalty: The duty of loyalty is a standard of faithfulness; a board member must give undivided allegiance when making decisions affecting the organization. A Board of Trustees is supposed to be an independent group of thinkers representing the community served who pledges allegiance to the mission of the organization. 


    By definition, in the presence of a conflict of interest, loyalty and allegiance are challenged. 


    As a volunteer, it would be nearly impossible to eliminate all challenges to your loyalty and allegiance to the mission of an organization. Without being melodramatic, rarely could a board member be so devoted to a cause. The intent, then, must be to manage these conflicts – share the load with your other board members, work as a team and to help offset a situation where your allegiance is divided.


    This is why it is critical to ensure that conflicts of interest between board members and staff are eliminated.  Having co-workers, family members or best friends sit on a board together jeopardizes a board’s ability to govern. When boards say they can overcome the appearance of nepotism, self-serving or self-dealing they then need to spend an enormous amount of energy in proving they are successful – energy that should be spent on governance of resources. 


    Conflict takes away independent thinking – and independent thinking is the test of due diligence.


    Boards must be deliberate about preventing conflict of interest to ensure they can maintain their duty of loyalty. 


    For an in-depth conversation and training about Conflict of Interest, please join us for our upcoming workshop. Click HERE for details.  

     

  • Wednesday, March 12, 2014 2:33 PM | Regina Funkhouser (Administrator)
    Recruit board members with a plan – and share the plan with the candidates.
     
    Starting off your board development meetings with a statement that resembles “I know someone that may say yes” is a clear signal that all you are doing is filling the seats with beating hearts. Developing an engaged board member starts (and sometimes ends) with the recruitment and process.  
     
    Board members want to be part of an exclusive team and are honored and impressed that a board made every effort to be sure of a good fit, rather than simply seeking a beating heart that said yes. The recruitment process sets the expectations – any minimization of the legal duties, fundraising responsibilities or time commitment will eventually have a new board member asking if they have been tricked into making a commitment. 
     
    If the recruitment process is done poorly and without deliberateness – you will have a board member that shows up to three meetings and then disappears, rarely speaks or worse yet – micromanages (micromanagers are not “bad” board members, but board members who are seeking their role – guessing what, exactly, they should be doing.)  Set the bar high and lay out clear expectations of attendance, participation, donating, fundraising and leadership.  
    Learn how to create a recruitment process for your organization This Board's For You
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