Reflections, stories & ideas on non-profit leadership.

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Easy Board Home Improvements

July 4, 2017

Living in an 100+ year old house means getting used to a life with a long and never completed home maintenance agenda. Something always needs repair or replacement. And, out there in the world there is no shortage of additional household improvement ideas I could add to my list.

Non-profit boards almost always need work too. It is much easier though to identify the symptom or the problem than it is how best to fix it. Recommended solutions tend to focus on “best practices”. Often these seem daunting.

I wondered if I could come up with some easy improvement tips for boards. Easy things are, in my view, changes that do not require any training, the hiring of a consultant, or the setting up a committee to study the idea. They are also things that one can see immediate or quick results from. 
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Do we need a motion for that?

February 21, 2017

Have you ever been uncertain about whether an item to be decided by your board requires a formal motion?  Perhaps your board flirts with some version of “Robert’s Rules” even though no one really knows them? Maybe your board follows past practices with respect to making motions with no idea of where the procedures came from, or what could be improved. If any of this is true, you are in good company.

You might be surprised to know that here is no universally accepted or prescribed set of procedures that non-profit boards must follow in their deliberations and decisions.
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Motivating board members: it’s complicated

January 16, 2017

Executive directors and chairpersons are often at a loss to figure out how to motivate their boards to show more interest or take on new tasks. But what is it that motivates board members in the first place? Perhaps they are already motivated but efforts to get the board members to change miss the mark. Sure, ‘giving back to their community’ may well be the reason most people serve on a non-profit board but is it useful to know this? Might there be lots to understand about board member needs and aspirations as volunteers before we ask more of them?
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Representative boards: Good idea?

November 15, 2016

Some non-profit organizations are governed by “representative” boards of directors. This means that the composition of the board is determined by the formal connection of the directors to particular constituencies or stakeholder groups. According to Australian board consultants Lynn Ralph and Alan Cameron, representative boards are “superficially attractive” but the idea requires a much closer look.(1)

Often the main motivations for specifying the composition as representative is to insure that the board’s decisions reflect the will of the stakeholders. Also, such an organization is, in theory, directly accountable for its actions back to the stakeholders through the directors themselves.
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Another wrinkle on family members on boards

July 26, 2016

The son of one of your nursing home clients, an elderly woman with dementia, is on your board. At board meetings he often raises issues around the care she is receiving such as how she is treated by staff, staff training, the cleanliness of the facilities, or the quality of the meals provided. The other family members around the table, which represent half your board, are usually quick to add their input based on their experience with their loved ones.  Having the executive director’s ear at a board meeting apparently can be too good an opportunity to pass up.
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Jigs, reels and non-profits

September 24, 2013

Here there is more to Scotland than a curiosity about “hairy coos” and ancient castles. Now some senior Nova Scotia government officials are all abuzz about importing social enterprise ideas from across the sea where they feel this idea has taken root more so than here.
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