Saturday, February 18, 2012

Begin With the End in Mind

“Begin with the end in mind” is Habit #2 in Stephen Covey’s best-seller, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”

That’s not a bad habit for Christ-centered governance. As you think through the four phases of board recruitment (Cultivation, Recruitment, Orientation and Engagement), remember that there is actually a fifth phase: Life-long Engagement.

So if you begin with the end in mind, you’ll likely build deeper relationships and help board members leverage their strengths and spiritual gifts more intentionally. That will have a big pay-off for both your board members and your ministry for dozens of years—long after a three-year or six-year board term.

Rebekah Basinger, who provides fundraising counsel and board education through her firm, Basinger Consulting, writes an insightful blog, “Generous Matters: Encouraging Lives That Are Rich Toward God.”  This month she wrote a must-read article, “After Bye-Bye Board Member, Then What?”

She writes, “Despite declarations of continuing devotion, absence seldom makes the heart grow fonder—at least when it comes to former board members. Unless you are intentional about trying to stem the natural progression of things, all those years of service to your organization very quickly fade to a pleasant memory. Before you know it, bye-bye board member turns into good-bye friend.”

Plus, in this month’s BoardSource LinkedIn discussion group (for members-only), nonprofit leaders have been weighing in on the hot topic, “What happens at the end of a board term?” Members also have access to an excellent article in the BoardSource Knowledge Center, “Board Member Exit Interviews.” (Yes—some boards actually do that!)

If it’s been a while (like maybe never?) since your Executive Committee has had a robust discussion on “beginning with the end in mind,” use these resources to start the discussion.  Leaders of Christ-centered boards are intentional about stewarding board talent—long, long after a member’s board term.

Question: What percentage of our former board members (of the last 15 years) are still engaged with our ministry at a high level?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Is Your Board Crisis-Ready?

Garrison Keillor, the dry and witty host of the Prairie Home Companion radio broadcast, has a regular program feature, “The Lives of the Cowboys.”

One Saturday evening, Dusty drawled about the hard life on the range: “If you can’t stand misery, you got no business being a cowboy.”

All of us who serve on boards or work with boards would likely add, “And if you can’t stand misery, you got no business being a board member.”

Maybe your fresh-faced, rookie board members approach their first year of board service with passion, zeal and high energy.  But the day will come when the board faces a big challenge, be it financial, moral, spiritual or relational. 

Peter Drucker wisely cautioned leaders, “Fortunately or unfortunately, the one predictable thing in any organization is the crisis. That always comes. That’s when you do depend on the leader.”

And in the remarkable devotional book, Jesus Calling, Sarah Young paraphrases the words of Jesus: "Give up the illusion that you deserve a problem-free life. Part of you is still hungering for the resolution of all difficulties. This is a false hope! As I told My disciples, in the world you will have trouble.”

 "When things seem all wrong, trust Me anyway. I am much less interested in right circumstances than in right responses to whatever comes your way."

Board work is problem work! Recently I paged through the 80 governance questions answered in The Nonprofit Board Answer Book: A Practical Guide for Board Members and Chief Executives (Second Edition). (Ted Engstrom and Bob Andringa co-authored the first edition.) In less than a minute, I checked 13 questions that addressed board problems. It comes with the territory.

So how do you equip your board to be crisis-ready? Governance—the God-honoring flavor—depends heavily on getting the right people onto the board bus. When you have spiritually discerning people around the table, you’ll be better prepared when complex and complicated problems raise their ugly heads.

Question: Luis Palau said, "Woe to the [person] who has to learn principles at a time of crisis!"  How prepared is your board for the next crisis?