Monday, November 13, 2017

Board Member Giving Commitments That Stick

Most boards have the expectation that every board member be a “donor of record” to the organization every year. Fewer boards have learned how to spiritually inspire all board members to be generous givers. (I’ll define “generous” in this blog.)

So during a coaching session with a ministry’s governance committee recently, a board member shared how he reminds himself—every day—about his giving commitment.

In my last blog, “7 Ways to Address Absentee Board Member Syndrome,” I mentioned a helpful template, the “Board Member Annual Affirmation Statement,” which details a board member’s roles and responsibilities for the three board hats: governance, volunteer, and (event) participant. The template also communicates the board’s expectation (and preferably its written policy) on board member giving—and that expectation is communicated and affirmed by board prospects during the “dating” phase of recruitment. 

In the ECFA Governance Toolbox Series No. 1: Recruiting Board Members, the materials note that “board nominees must meet our 6 Ds criteria” which include: Discerning Decision-Maker, Demonstrated Passion, Documented Team Player, Diligent and Faithful Participant, Doer (walks the talk!), and Donor. Here’s the Donor detail:

DONOR: Because Jesus said in Matthew 6:21, ‘Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,’ this nominee is already a generous giver to our ministry. (Note: Many organizations define ‘generous’ as prioritizing your organization in the Top-3 of a person’s annual giving. Board members at all income levels can be generous.)”

So with that commitment—to be a generous giver to the ministry—here’s what this board member told us: “I taped that commitment form to the wall—right by my desk at work. It reminds me every day about my annual giving commitment.” Brilliant!

For more resources on inspiring board members to be generous givers, read “The Role of the Board in Development” (chapter 3) in Development 101: Building a Comprehensive Development Program on Biblical Values, by John R. Frank and R. Scott Rodin. That chapter lists four keys and four cautions to help board members be successful development partners.

BOARDROOM DISCUSSION: If we truly believe that “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” then why would we not seek to inspire every board member to prioritize their giving so our organization is in their Top-3 each year? And…if we concur, how will we make this expectation clear to prospects and nominees to our board? 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

7 Ways to Address Absentee Board Member Syndrome

Which statement below best characterizes your board’s response to absentee board members?

HO HUM. Certain board members frequently miss board meetings, but there is no board policy addressing absenteeism, so nothing is said.

HINT. When board members miss a meeting, the board chair (or CEO) gently “hints” that their participation was missed, but nothing further is said. Expectations on board meeting attendance are not clear and are not in writing.

HARASS. If there is a written policy, one willing soul on the board agrees to remind the absentee board member of the policy (usually with a strongly-worded email), but there is no follow-through or personal meeting with the person. 

Maybe your board responds more appropriately. If not, here’s my list of seven ways to address Absentee Board Member Syndrome:

1) Reference Checks. Recruit board members who have a track record of excellent board meeting attendance. Just as you expect your CEO to check references when hiring staff, so the board must check references of board nominees. How faithful was this person when serving on other boards?

2) Board Member Annual Affirmation Statement. Leverage a re-commitment time each year with an annual affirmation statement (download the template from the ECFA Governance Toolbox Series No. 1 and/or No. 2). That form should list board meeting dates and locations for the next 12 to 18 months—and annually give board members the option of exiting off the board if their schedules don’t align with the board’s schedule. (Or, change the board meeting schedule to accommodate all board members.)

3) Engage the Board With an Engaging Agenda. Sometimes (let’s be honest!), board members skip meetings because they are not needed. The CEO and staff do all the talking. Next steps are all buttoned down. There’s no room for generative thinking by the board. No heavy lifting. What’s the point of participating? This is easy to fix by engaging the board.

4) Establish a Written Policy on Board Meeting Attendance Requirements. If you have a Board Policies Manual, include board member attendance policies—and review them at least annually. Some boards have an automatic exit plan for board members who miss X meetings in any rolling 12-month period. 

5) Emphasize Calling Over Rule-Keeping. Al Newell, founder of High Impact Volunteer Ministry Development, writes: “Sustaining motivation is better understood as a by-product as opposed to a goal of itself. It is my experience that if you pursue discipleship with volunteers [and board members], motivation will follow. If volunteers see the fulfillment of their role as ‘obeying and serving God’ rather than serving you or your organization, it will cause motivation to swell.”

6) Affirm. Affirm. Affirm. Take time to creatively affirm board members for their participation and their contribution as stewards of your ministry. Board discipline (news flash!) is the board’s responsibility—not the CEO’s responsibility. Ditto affirmation. When board colleagues affirm each other, then engagement will heighten and board service satisfaction will soar.

7) Address Issues Early. Don’t wait for the fifth missed meeting. Create the expectation that your board chair (and perhaps one other board member) will meet personally (if at all possible) with policy offenders. No one should be surprised that absenteeism will be addressed frequently and in a God-honoring way. Pray for a discerning spirit to know when you must show grace—and when you must show someone the door.*

*Note: Watch for the new book next month, Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom, by Dan Busby and John Pearson, and read “Lesson 31: Cut the Cord! Invite Board Members to Exit When They Don’t Live Your Values.”

BOARDROOM DISCUSSION: What person, or committee, is responsible for addressing absentee board members? What’s our current approach to missed meetings: Ho Hum, Hint, or Harass?

Monday, October 9, 2017

Called to Serve: No Board Detail Is Too Small (Index to 30 Blogs)

This is the final post, No. 30, in a series of blogs featuring wisdom from the 91-page gem by Max De Pree, Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board. (Watch for my new theme next week.)

Max De Pree: “…my experience has convinced me that no detail is too small to consider carefully when it comes to thinking about the important work of nonprofit boards and the people who serve on them.”

Perhaps, if you’re read a few of my color commentaries on this exquisite book, you may have wondered why I ended up in the weeds (the excruciatingly mundane details) so often. Blame Max De Pree: “…no detail is too small to consider carefully…”

But it’s time to wrap this up. I’ve enjoyed writing these 30 blogs and I trust they have inspired you to read Called to Serve—and you have inspired other board members, CEOs, and senior team members to also read the book.

Poignantly, during this series, Max De Pree was blessed with his heavenly reward. See No. 24, “Called to Serve: Max’s Most Memorable Message (1924–2017).”

Below are the titles and links to all 30 posts. It was challenging to pick my favorite topic, but maybe it was No. 14, “There Are No Committee Statues!” What was your favorite—or most helpful insight from Max De Pree?

1. Introduction: What Will You Measure in 2017?

2. Called to Serve: Violence and Committee Meetings!

3. Called to Serve: Loyalty Is Never Sufficient

4. Called to Serve: Challenged With Measurable Work

5. Called to Serve: How to “Table” a Thank You

6. Called to Serve: Governance Through the Prism of the Agenda

7. Called to Serve: The Bell Curve of a Board Meeting

8. Called to Serve: No Reading Allowed!

9. Called to Serve: Death by Committee

10. Called to Serve: What's More Important Than Structure?

11. Called to Serve: Do Not Censor What the Board Receives

12. Called to Serve: Coherence With Corrals

13. Called to Serve: The Prospect Pipeline

14. Called to Serve: There Are No Committee Statues!

15. Called to Serve: SILENCE!

16. Called to Serve: Board Member Self-Measurements

17. Called to Serve: Be a Frantic Learner!

18. Called to Serve: If No Progress—Skip the “Progress Report!”

19. Called to Serve: The Phone-Book-Size Board Packet Syndrome

20. Called to Serve: Use White Space to Practice Hospitality

21. Called to Serve: When Your Organization Is Bleeding and Boring Board Members

22. Called to Serve: The Ten-Foot Pole Tension

23. Called to Serve: Board Meddling on Management’s Turf

24. Called to Serve: Max’s Most Memorable Message (1924–2017)

25. Called to Serve: What the Board Owes the CEO

26. Called to Serve: The Error of Leadership Indifference

27. Called to Serve: Give Space…But Plan Sparingly

28. Called to Serve: Don’t Neglect Your CEO’s Growth

29. Called to Serve: Goal No. 1—Keep Your CEO Alive!

30. Called to Serve: No Board Detail Is Too Small (Index to 30 Blogs)

P.S. Click here to read my original review of Called to Serve.

BOARD EXERCISE: Invite three board members to each pick one of these 30 board topics and give three-minute reports at your next board meeting. Then, in groups of two or three, ask each group to suggest an important “board detail” that, perhaps, you’ve overlooked or neglected in your recent meetings. Then, pray for the board’s effectiveness in the months ahead.

To order from Amazon, click on the title for: Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board, by Max De Pree (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company).

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Called to Serve: Goal No. 1—Keep Your CEO Alive!

Note: This is No. 29 in a series of blogs featuring wisdom from the 91-page gem by Max De Pree, Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board.

Max De Pree: “The fourth thing the board owes the president is care.”

In his almost-final pages of this board governance masterpiece, De Pree lists six ways that the board demonstrates care of the CEO. His priorities include:
   1. Care: devotional bonding
   2. Care: recognizing the needs of the CEO’s family for “friendship, support, and love”
   3. Care: mandatory vacations and regular health checkups
   4. Care: “the kind of care that goes the extra mile in compensation arrangements to include such things as budgeted spouse travel allowance and financial planning service”
   5. Care: continuing education and professional development (“especially the opportunity to be mentored”)
   6. Care: “the kind of care that keeps the president alive, that doesn’t permit him to ‘work himself to death.’”

My opinion: Start with Number Six. The untimely death of an over-worked CEO will only create more work for the board! You may want to add more to this list.

This week, a fellow board member facilitated an excellent exercise for our board—and his methodology would work for your board.  Read pages 87-88 about “Care” in Called to Serve—and then, in groups of two or three, ask board members to assess two things:
   • First, identify the priority for each “care” item: High, Medium, or Low.
   • Second, assess how well the board is doing in caring for your CEO. Use a five-point rating with 5 being Very Effective, and 1 being Very Ineffective.
   • Third, ask each group for a brief report on their assessments.
   • Finally, refer next steps to the appropriate committee for any action items required.

For more resources to help your CEO grow and flourish, check out these books:

   • Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives, by Richard A. Swenson, M.D.
   • Crafting a Rule of Life: An Invitation to the Well-Ordered Way, by Stephen A. Macchia
   • Serve Strong: Biblical Encouragement to Sustain God’s Servants, by Terry Powell
   • Leadership Prayers, by Richard Kriegbaum

BOARD EXERCISE: What is your CEO’s “love language?” What the board might consider a helpful resource or benefit may not speak to your CEO’s unique needs. Talk about it!

To order from Amazon, click on the title for: Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board, by Max De Pree (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company).

Monday, September 25, 2017

Called to Serve: Don’t Neglect Your CEO’s Growth

Note: This is No. 28 in a series of blogs featuring wisdom from the 91-page gem by Max De Pree, Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board.

Max De Pree: “In the rush of the day to day, a president often neglects his own growth; the board can issue a friendly reminder every once in a while.”

In wrapping up his succinct section on how boards create “space” for the men and women who serve as CEOs, I found this insight stunning: De Pree ties mission, strategy and a CEO’s personal growth all together.

He writes, “There are two further elements to providing space. It is wonderful for the organization’s future when the board takes a strong interest in opportunities given the president for personal growth and when the board makes it clear that it expects the president to hold the entire organization accountable for realizing its mission and strategy.”

So…would you agree that when the board cares about the CEO’s growth—and the CEO cares about the growth of team members—there will be a direct relationship between personal growth and organizational growth, especially when the mission and strategy are crystal clear?

Frequently, budget cuts begin by slashing opportunities for CEO and senior team enrichment—which is short sighted. It reminds me of this poignant comment traversing the Internet (if you know the original source, please contact me):

CFO to CEO: “What happens if we invest in developing our people and then they leave us?

CEO: “What happens if we don’t, and then they stay?”

Christ-centered boards should have the same mindset: inspiring their CEOs to thrive by providing an adequate budget and time for personal and professional growth. Amen?

BOARD EXERCISE: If your CEO was regularly accountable for reporting progress on personal and professional growth SMART Goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-related), would the dashboard show red, yellow, or green?

To order from Amazon, click on the title for: Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board, by Max De Pree (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company).

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Called to Serve: Give Space…But Plan Sparingly

Note: This is No. 27 in a series of blogs featuring wisdom from the 91-page gem by Max De Pree, Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board.

Max De Pree: “How can a board expect a president to paint a coherent or imaginative picture on an unlimited canvas?”

In his insightful section on “What the Board Owes the President,” De Pree writes, “Like everyone else, the leader of an organization needs space, in the context of this [discussion], space to become president.” He then references wisdom from a friend and mentor:

Dr. Carl Frost “has taught a good many of us that when we are promoted to president, it does not mean we are instantly qualified. The board and the organization are actually giving us only, as Carl would put it, ‘the opportunity to become president’—a great chance, but still only a chance.”

De Pree adds that great boards give a president space “by acting with [the CEO] to set the priorities, as well as working to involve the entire organization in understanding and adopting those priorities. How can a board expect a president to paint a coherent or imaginative picture on an unlimited canvas?”

Ralph E. Enlow Jr. agrees. “Plan sparingly,” he counsels in The Leader’s Palette: Seven Primary Colors. “Plans also fail because they are too bulky. Good planning is participatory. Especially at the operational level, it should flow up from the grass roots. It requires the input of all major stakeholders and systems.” 

And then Enlow adds this kicker:
“But good planning is not the accumulation of everyone’s aspirations.
Ultimately, a plan represents the elimination of options.”

It’s ironic, but when a board gives “space” to the CEO, that space must be defined. Whether you use the imagery of the corral from the policy governance® model, or the board policies manual approach recommended by numerous board consultants—every board must define the parameters of the staff’s scope of responsibility. That’s giving “space” in the best sense of the word.

Max De Pree’s wonderful book, Leadership Jazz (Peter Drucker called the book, “wisdom in action”), concludes with a list of 12 leadership attributes, including discernment. De Pree writes, “Discernment lies somewhere between wisdom and judgment.”

Christ-centered boards and CEOs have amazing 24/7 access to the Holy Spirit when they pray as the psalmist prayed, “Teach me good discernment and knowledge, for I believe in Your commandments” (Psalm 119:66, KJV). 

BOARD EXERCISE: Discuss “space” at your next board meeting. Are the fences to the corral well-defined? Is the corral too big or too small? Does the board allocate adequate space to the CEO—or does the board meddle and micro-manage?

To order from Amazon, click on the title for: Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board, by Max De Pree (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company).

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Called to Serve: The Error of Leadership Indifference

This is No. 26 in a series of blogs featuring wisdom from the 91-page gem by Max De Pree, Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board.

Max De Pree: “Trust doesn’t arrive in our possession easily or cheaply, nor does it guarantee to stay around.”

Commenting on what the board owes the CEO, De Pree packs a page with his plain-spoken color commentary on the elements of trust. New CEOs, he reminds us, don’t show up with a built-in trust factor. Ditto board members. Board members owe their CEO full trust—but board members must earn that trust by keeping promises.

I’ve endured endless committee reports over the years and occasionally—when pressed—committee chairs bend the truth to protect their reputations.
   • “Luis was late on his report.” (He wasn’t.)
   • “We’ll have that done by next Friday.” (Not going to happen.)
   • “Oh. I misunderstood.” (She understood completely.)

“Trust requires respect,” adds De Pree. “Trust multiples with truth—without adjectives and not subject to redefinition by cornered leaders.”

The author references an entire chapter on trust in his book, Leading Without Power: Finding Hope in Serving Community. It’s worth the read—especially the baseball story of the distracted second baseman who allowed a runner to steal second, resulting in two errors on one play.

“After a few minutes the official scorer, not knowing exactly how to score such a play, announced over the public address system that he had decided to write off the second error to ‘defensive indifference.’”

De Pree then asks, “How many errors in organizations are due to leadership indifference?"

Every board member should read the trust chapter in Leading Without Power. De Pree: “To tell capable people how to do their job, even innocently or with the best intentions, erodes trust. Such ‘advice’ becomes a sign of disrespect for followers. How can I trust you if you believe you are better at my job than I am?”

Whew! That hits home! None of us board members have ever implied we could do the CEO’s job better. Yikes.

Read Matthew 10 and then note this: after Jesus gave the Twelve their assignments, he didn’t pack a bag and go with them. He trusted them, on their own and in their own styles, to proclaim the Good News. Powerful! 

BOARD EXERCISE: Click here to visit the “Quotable Quotes” on trust and download and distribute the stunning list of 101 quotations on trust from Dan Busby’s book, TRUST: The Firm Foundation for Kingdom Fruitfulness. Ask each board member to read their favorite quotation—and explain why.

To order from Amazon, click on the title for: Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board, by Max De Pree (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company).