Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Agenda Clutter

I picked up a new term today—agenda clutter!

Ralph Enlow, president of the Association for Biblical Higher Education, used that descriptive malady in the Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom Blog—which launched today. He writes: 

“…I find that the fatal combination of passivity and agenda clutter conspires to crowd out efforts to walk the talk of continuous board development.”

Enlow is one of 40 guest bloggers (40 Blogs. 40 Wednesdays.) for the new book, Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom, by Dan Busby and yours truly. Visit the blog here. Visit the book’s webpage here.

Enlow did not define agenda clutter—because we all know it when we see it, right? It looks like this:
   • Too many agenda items in too little time.
   • Too many staff members reporting on too many topics that have already been reported on in too many emails.
   • No prioritization of topics. Equal time allocated to A, B, and C priorities.
   • No “heavy lifting” on one key topic that engages the board—prayerfully and strategically. (See Lesson 36 in our new book, “Decrease Staff Reporting and Increase Heavy Lifting.”)
   • No time limits for agenda items.
   • No “meeting before the meeting” consultation between the CEO and the board chair. (See Lesson 5: “Before the Board Meeting: Collaborate, then wisely build the board meeting agenda.”)
   • No coaching of report givers—board, staff and consultants. (See the book recommended in Lesson 36, 15 Minutes Including Q&A: A Plan to Save the World From Lousy Presentations, by Joey Asher.)

Those are the first seven that popped into my mind, and like you, I can name more encumbrances that contribute to agenda clutter. 

But perhaps there is a deeper issue at play:
The same old/same old agenda template:
it’s faster to replicate last quarter’s agenda than to take time for prayer and allow the Holy Spirit to breathe new insights into this board gathering
on what-should-be holy ground.

In Bill Hybels’ book, Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul, he notes: “When we eradicate clutter from our lives, we create a vacuum that aches to be filled.” What might happen in your boardroom when you eliminate clutter?

BOARDROOM ASSIGNMENT: Invite an outside observer, or a board coach, to observe your next board meeting—and assess the level of agenda clutter. Ask: do our boardroom deliberations and decision-making/discernment practices align with our mission and the most effective stewardship of God’s work here?

Order: Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom, by Dan Busby and John Pearson (Download a sample chapter here.)

Read the Blog: Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom Blog

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?