Sunday, June 30, 2013

What Criteria for New Board Members?

A friend of a friend of your Cousin Eddie recommends the “perfect candidate” for your board.  Your perfect response? “Terrific! I'll email you our board-affirmed criteria for board prospects—and let me know how your friend measures up.”

So what criteria does your board use to narrow the prospect list down? How do you select God-honoring board candidates?

I recommend the “6 D's,” as described in the ECFA Governance Toolbox Series No. 1: Recruiting Board Members.  (For more information on this series, view the short video here.) Here's my list:

1. Discerning Decision-Maker: Prior experience in making wise policy, financial, strategy and personnel decisions. (Is this nominee competent in both hiring and firing situations?)

2. Demonstrated Passion: Gives high priority to and cares deeply about our cause. (Limits board service to one or two boards at a time.)

3. Documented Team Player: Competent in group process skills, effective listener; leverages own spiritual gifts and those of others (Rom. 12, Eph. 4, 1 Cor. 12)

4. Diligent and Faithful Participant: Documented history of fulfilling our volunteer assignments on schedule and under budget. Keeps promises and keeps confidences. Inspires others.

5. Doer: Walks the Talk! Reference checks affirm a God-honoring lifestyle and character. Humble, prayerful, high integrity in all relationships. Affirms our statement of faith.

6. 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 your annual giving. Board members at all income levels can be generous.)

You might have different or additional criteria—but the point is: have board-affirmed criteria and measure your prospects objectively against this criteria.

In the next few blogs, we'll drill down on each of the 6 D's. In my color commentary for each point, I'll make the case that boards must exercise as much due diligence in board selection as they expect their senior leaders to exercise in staff selection.

In The Leader’s Palette: Seven Primary Colors Ralph E. Enlow, Jr., writes: 
“You can’t make up in training 
what you lack in selection."

Ditto board training versus board selection!

QUESTION: When is the last time we reviewed our written criteria for board member selection?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Two Things Boards Should Never Joke About, Part 2

Note: Click here to read Part 1 of “Two Things Boards Should Never Joke About,” (Part 1: Prayer) by Olan Hendrix. Here’s Part 2:


“Another subject that should never be approached jokingly is fundraising.  The raising of money is very serious business—very serious ministry—and we must treat it so.

“I once accompanied a client on a donor call. This Christian leader had a worthwhile cause and many friends, but wasn’t raising any money.  I wanted to find out why.

“After exchanging pleasantries with the donor, he began making jokes about the fact that he was there to ask for money.  I had discovered his problem!  Perhaps he was covering up his nervousness about asking for money, 
but flippancy is never 
a good substitute for sincerity.

“God’s own design for advancing the Kingdom includes the proper asking of funds.  We never apologize for the Gospel or the Ten Commandments—nor should we apologize when we ask believers to be generous with their financial resources.

“Fundraising is ministry, even though the world generally sees it as begging.  We often adopt that thinking, to our detriment.  I want a part of my legacy to be that I helped God’s servants to see fundraising, not as something to joke about or apologize for, but as a noble and vital part of ministry.”

For more resources, trends and benchmarks on fundraising, join the ECFA Webinar on June 25, 2013, “Results from the 1st Annual Nonprofit Fundraising Survey.” Or view it later with your board or team at the ECFA Webinars-on-Demand webpage.

QUESTION: Not every board member is a skilled fundraiser—and that’s OK. Yet every board member can hold high the serious ministry of raising Kingdom resources. Is it time to talk about this at your next board meeting?

Reprinted with permission from CMA Management Monthly, No. 31, May 1999, published by Christian Management Association (now Christian Leadership Alliance). © Copyright 1999.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Two Things Boards Should Never Joke About

Olan Hendrix, the first executive director of ECFA, shared the following wisdom in the May 1999 issue of CMA Management Monthly. His wisdom adds another layer to the distinctiveness of Christ-centered organizations and the boards that govern them.

“During a session of CMA’s Jungle Fighters Forum last year, I commented that ‘there are some things you should never joke about.’ When one emerging young leader asked for examples, I gave him two: prayer and fundraising. Let me explain why I believe neither should ever be the subject of jokes.


“I couldn’t believe my ears! My client, who had retained me to search for an individual to fill a key position in his organization, told me he was rejecting the candidate I had recommended. I was convinced the man met all the job qualifications. He had an impressive track record, and seemed ideal for the position. His life was in order, and he fit the doctrinal mold exactly.

“Nevertheless, he was rejected—because it turned out he had made light of prayer.  When my client learned this person had made a tasteless joke on the subject, he was disturbed enough to remove him from further consideration.

“Naturally, I accepted his decision, but was astonished that one single negative factor would outweigh the many positive ones.

“That was many years ago and I no longer remember the joke, but I’ve never been able to forget the incident.  My client was absolutely right.

“While I’ve never considered prayer to be a joking matter, he helped me to begin to understand something of the solemnity of the believer communing with God.

“Humor is not only a useful tool, it’s also a valuable relief valve.  Our spirits can be lifted in a moment of sadness by a funny story. A tense meeting can be spared a disruption by a bit of humor. We need humor in our lives, but only humor that lifts the heart. 
Making light of the sacred, 
no matter what our intentions, 
can only be harmful.”

Bob Kelly, senior editor for CMA at the time observed in that issue, “It’s not uncommon to be part of a group at mealtime and have one thoughtless companion joke, ‘Last one with your thumb up says grace.’”

Kelly then asked leaders to contrast that flippant kind of disrespect for God, the Provider of all things, with this from Charles H. Spurgeon:

“God does not hear us because of the length of our prayer, but because of the sincerity of it. Prayer is not to be measured by the yard, nor weighed by the pound. It is the might and force of it—the truth and reality of it—the energy and the intensity of it.”

QUESTION: Oswald Chambers wrote that prayer is “the vital breath of the Christian.”  Is that vital breath evident both in your board meetings and outside of board meetings?

Next Blog: Olan Hendrix on why you should never joke about fundraising.

Reprinted with permission from CMA Management Monthly, No. 31, May 1999, published by Christian Management Association (now Christian Leadership Alliance). © Copyright 1999.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Graveyards and Succession Plans

“The graveyards are full of indispensable men,” Charles de Gaulle once said.

The general, statesman and president of France (1959-1969) also complained, “How can anyone govern a nation that has 246 different kinds of cheese?” (But that’s for another blog.)

If your CEO is the founder (or through longevity and competency your CEO has attained founder-level status), 
then it’s likely that your 
board is reticent about 
discussing the S-word: Succession.

Several years ago, a founder called me, and in the first 10 minutes of the call, I asked him, “Who can fire you?”

First came the nervous laugh, and then the admission. “Um. Ah. Well…actually, the board can’t fire me. I’m the founder,” he admitted.

Legally, I’m guessing his answer was incorrect since the bylaws of most nonprofits give the board the option of terminating its CEO. Objectively though, he knew the culture. Few board members, recruited by founders, are willing to pull the plug on their leader.

The larger point, of course, is not if founders can be fired, but if founders will be accountable to their boards. And thus this discussion becomes more spiritual than organizational.

In my consulting work with boards and their founder/CEOs, I’ve learned that each situation is unique and none are wholly healthy.  Dig deep enough with board members, staff, donors (and sometimes with a founder’s spouse or adult children) and you’ll uncover some angst. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

I urge Christ-centered board members—and their founder/CEOs—to get the discussion onto the board table in the early years—so it’s not a train wreck in the later years.
     • First, whose ministry is this? Per R. Scott Rodin’s insight, is your founder a steward leader or an owner-leader? (The roots of healthy ministries must be Christ-centered, not leader-centered.)
     • Is there a succession plan for emergencies? What’s the scenario if our founder is hit by a bus? (We’d be sad, of course, but what’s next?)
     • What are the agreed-upon steps in a succession plan if our founder/CEO resigns? What if the board asks for his or her resignation—and what’s the agreed-upon protocol for this? Do we all agree—up front—that we have the spiritual discernment and maturity to honor God in this delicate process?

We love and salute founders! They heard from God. They launched something bold to fill a need. They recruited board members, staff, volunteers and donors. They often sacrificed. With God’s blessing, they made it happen! So it’s only natural that founders often tilt toward George Burns’ tongue-in-cheek comment:
“If you live to be 100, you've got it made.
Very few people die past that age.”

Yet God-honoring founders know they are not indispensable. They know their days are numbered. God-honoring board members and founders create a culture where the S-word can be addressed in healthy ways. 

QUESTION: What is the next step in approving or re-visiting your CEO succession plan?