Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Better than Genetics: Family Philanthropy Traditions

Seventy percent of high wealth families have traditions that teach family values about the importance of philanthropy to their offspring. This fact presents nonprofits a wonderful set of opportunities. How so? As part of your strategy to create long-term donors, you can offer intentional programming to support this effort. This programming will offer high wealth families, who want to act on this tradition, an opportunity to create a deeper relationship with your organization.

Roxy Jerde, the Executive Director of the Community Foundation of Sarasota recently shared this piece of data at the Funder’s Forum. As an example, she also shared that she brought children from her family to a Ronald McDonald house to meet the residents.

Being open to young visitors, like the Ronald McDonald house, in one example of a way to support this tradition. How else might you support it? If your efforts are minimal but you would like to expand them, check out The Volunteer Family a nonprofit that supports family volunteering for ideas. If you want to be even more proactive offer specific events for young relatives. Some groups offer a volunteer or educational activity for families during school breaks and the summer. Others provide family tours on school holidays. Others offer opportunities one Saturday per month.

If part of your strategy to increase your nonprofit income is to reach new donors, consider helping families to continue or start this tradition in ways that feature your nonprofit. Choose your favorite idea, adapt it to create a signature family event and then share it here to inspire others. Or, if you already have one please share what have you already found to be successful.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Succession Planning: Is Your Board Prepared for Transition?

Everyone is talking about succession planning today. Much of the conversation is motivated by the large numbers of baby boomer executives expected to retire in the next few years. While this is a real concern deserving of our strategic attention, I have to wonder why so little attention is paid to succession on our boards of directors. After all, turnover is virtually an everyday occurrence on boards. Term limits and life’s challenges move people out of office or off the board altogether on a regular basis; and fewer and fewer individuals are stepping up and into the vacated leadership positions. The result is that boards are often forced to choose creative approaches to filling the empty chairs, such as allowing people to share the leadership responsibilities or conferring key positions on inexperienced talent. Unfortunately, experience tells us that such solutions typically result in a loss of organizational momentum or effectiveness. But, this needn’t be the case if we will commit to adequately preparing our boards for transition.

I doubt there is anything we can do to bring back the days where people will spend a decade or more working their way up to a coveted leadership position. But a strong succession plan is within reach of every organization. To see how, we must first consider what a succession plan really is, and what it isn’t. It isn’t about knowing who the next three board chairs will be. It is ensuring that you have a strong board with clear procedures in place, where everyone understands the big picture, is engaged and knows his or her role. In other words, the best succession plan is having a board that regularly operates under proven practices because a board like that will be able to continue to perform effectively regardless of what position may turn up empty tomorrow or the next day.

To determine if your board is prepared for the inevitable expected – to say nothing of sudden – transitions, answer the questions below.
 Does your board have criteria for membership?
 Does your board maintain a current pool of good prospects for board membership by continuously identifying and cultivating potential members?
 Does your board “test out” potential board members by encouraging committee or other participation first?
 Does each individual on your board have a job description?
 Does your board chair have a job description?
 Has each individual on your board gone through an orientation?
 Does your board share a collective vision for the community?
 Does your board share a passion for the mission of the organization?
 Does each individual on your board have ready access to a copy of the bylaws?
 Do the bylaws indicate how the transfer of power will operate under both normal and extenuating circumstances?
 Does your organization operate according to its bylaws?
 Are the expectations of your board members clear?
 Are board members that fail to live up to their expectations asked off the board? (Is this a given, regardless of the person’s affluence or influence?)
 Are your board members provided board education at every meeting?
 Does each individual on your board understand the issues critical to the organization’s mission?
 Do your board agendas encourage participation around substantive issues?
 Are decisions consistently made on the basis of your organization’s mission, vision, guiding principles as well as defined criteria for success?
 Is every individual on your board offered opportunities for leadership?
 Do your board members know each other well enough to look forward to working with one another?
 Does your board take time at most meetings to evaluate what it is doing well and what it could do better?
 Does your board do an annual self-evaluation?
 Does your board make changes in its behavior on the basis of its evaluations?
 Does each committee have a purpose?
 Does each committee have goals?
 Are your committees held accountable for achieving their goals?
 Does your board have a crisis management plan in place?

If you answered “no” or “only sometimes” to most of these questions, you may be left wondering if there is a future for your organization when one or more of your key leaders leave. Don’t let that happen. Make a commitment today to begin working on those conditions to which you were not able to answer a resounding “yes” and soon you’ll realize that succession is no longer an issue because your board is functioning efficiently and effectively no matter who is in the driver’s seat.

The Cause and Corporate Funding

The most misunderstood nonprofit income source is corporate funding. Why? Many nonprofit leaders only vaguely understand the reasons why businesses provide nonprofits money. Yet, most nonprofit leaders would like this income. To obtain it, one must understand the reasons why such partnerships form. Last month’s Added Value article listed five reasons:

· Business Opportunities. Businesses seek to increase their customer base and goodwill among current customers. Nonprofits that reach their customers or potential customers provide an opportunity.

· Employee Support. By maintaining loyal employees, businesses reduce recruitment expenses and improve employee morale. Supporting nonprofits demonstrates that the company has a heart.

· Repayment. The funds represent a concrete expression of business’ gratitude for the community support that made success possible.

· The Cause. A business leader has a passion for your mission. Business income provides him or her with a vehicle to act on their passion.

· Strategic. The business recognizes that working with a nonprofit is a chance to meet these or similar objectives with one check.

Are there additional reasons you would add to this list? Has your nonprofit been funded by a business for a different reason? Are you a business that funds a nonprofit? If so, why?

Read the article, How to Succeed In Business, What Your Leaders Need to Know About Corporate Funding here.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Serving on a Nonprofit Board is Good Business

This summer several blog contributors are presenting a series of audio conferences entitled Serving on a Nonprofit Board is Good Business. The series prepares individuals to serve on boards of nonprofit associations. While aimed at board members, executive directors can also learn from them. A recent session, Engage! Provide Oversight, lead by Dr. Terrie Temkin provided these helpful tips:

1. Terrie suggested developing a checklist to help complete all board essentials quickly. She shared that most boards spend ALL their time on these essential but routine items, which leaves little time for thoughtful strategic conversations. Do you have a checklist for routine items? When can you develop one?

2. While you might already have one or more skeptics on your board, Terrie suggested you make this role available to everyone by creating a “skeptic of the day.” This person asks dig-deeper questions to stop automatic group consensus and encourages thoughtful questioning. By sharing the role you will hear a new voices and new questions.

3. You can’t be everywhere. Terrie recommended dedicating a few minutes at each meeting for a “By the Way Conversation.” During this time people share what they have heard about your organization and key community events that impact it. What can you discover if you regularly ask your board members what is new? What events did they attend since you last met? What did they learn? “By the Way Conversations” help you to learn all over the community.

In a few weeks the group presenting this series will meet for a planning session. Do you have any interest in a series like this for your board members? (The current series is for members of the Society for the Advancement of Consulting only.) Would you be interested in a similar series for executive directors? Let us know your thoughts so we can include them in our plans. Thanks!