Saturday, October 27, 2012

More Huckster Than Holy?


The executive summary of the ECFA 2012 Governance Survey, completed by almost 1,600 CEOs, board chairs and board members of ECFA Accredited organizations will be released in the next few weeks.  The differences between the three groups are very, very interesting.

Cameron Doolittle, president and CEO of Jill’s House, Vienna, Va., has collaborated with ECFA on the survey analysis.  He titled one finding, “Get money. Then what? Chairs, board members, and CEOs disagree.”

The survey question: “Of the organizational areas listed below, what are the Top-5 areas that need the greatest improvement in your ministry?”  There were 10 options, including: Fundraising, Finance & Accounting, Human Resources, Governance, Programs, Products & Services, Team Building, Meeting “Customer Needs,” Marketing & Public Relations, Strategic Planning, and Achieving Mission Results.

No surprise—all three groups ranked “Fundraising” as their greatest need. But then what? Here are the second highest ranked needs:
   --355 CEOs said: Marketing & Public Relations
   --255 Board Chairs voted for: Achieving Mission Results
   --971 Board Members checked: Strategic Planning

We’ll talk about this in future blogs, but let’s go back to the greatest need—fundraising. Why might that be? Here’s my list of possibilities:

1. Fundraising is everyone’s greatest need because with more money we can reach and serve more people for Christ.

2. But maybe, fundraising was rated Number One Need because we’re driven to do too much—way, way beyond God’s direction. He’s intentionally not blessing our work because it’s OUR work.

3. Or, we’re abusing our givers, or treating givers and non-givers alike, or maybe our appeals are more huckster than holy.

4. Perhaps the fundraising revenue is right-sized, but our expenses are super-sized.

5. It’s possible that we don’t have the right development team in place. Too old school. Too hip. Maybe we’ve inappropriately replaced shoe leather with social media. Or we have twice as many planning meetings as we have prayer meetings.

6. How about this gut check? Board members—that group that should have the highest passion and commitment for the ministry—are not 100 percent all in as generous givers (and I don’t mean “wealthy” givers). And so their circle of influence is weak or non-existent.

I could go on and I’m sure you can add to this list. It would be a good topic for your board meeting or prayer meeting. Ask your board members to rate all 10 areas.

QUESTION: Is fundraising the greatest need in your organization? If so, what might you learn by digging deeper into this subject?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

3-Point Talk: Right, Wrong or Inappropriate


Ram Charan’s helpful book for corporate boards, Owning Up: The 14 Questions Every Board Member Needs to Ask (read my review), is packed with wisdom and caution for nonprofit ministry boards too.  He writes:

“With the right composition, a board can create value; with the wrong or inappropriate composition, it can easily destroy value.”

The decision to invite a new member onto the board will likely be one of the Top-5 (or certainly one of the Top-10) decisions you’ll make in any one year. We should be sobered by Charan’s statement. So how do you spiritually discern God’s voice about new board members?

Use his comments as a three-point outline for a spiritual insight segment at your next board meeting.

#1. With the RIGHT composition, a board can create value. It’s not just having individual board members who are stellar—it’s having the right composition of board members. We don’t want clones, we want chemistry. We want the grandeur of the Body of Christ in all of its richness and gifts (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, etc.) to be at play on our boards. Highly competent look-alikes need not apply.

#2. With the WRONG composition, a board can easily destroy value. I consulted with an organization whose board members were almost entirely from one industry. Ditto many of their donors. They were God-honoring and highly committed to the cause. When that industry’s segment fell on hard times, the organization was forced to merge with another ministry.

#3. With an INAPPROPRIATE composition, a board can easily destroy value. This is more subtle. It might be spiritual or theological (too narrow, too liberal, or too denominational). It might be age or gender-focused (too white, too old, or even too young or too hip). It might be a governance-savvy issue (too many board novices, too fixed on one board model, too “Policy Governance®-oriented,” or not enough experience with the policy function of boards).

Whew! This board stuff is hard work!  Certainly, none of us want to serve on a board where, under our stewardship, we destroyed value and Kingdom impact was diminished. So remember 1 Corinthians 4:2, “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.”

For more help, order the ECFA Governance Toolbox Series No. 1: Recruiting Board Members.

QUESTION: What are we doing year-round to ensure that we are recruiting the “right composition” of men and women onto our board?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Cousin Eddie Syndrome

Have you ever been on a board when a well-meaning, but inexperienced board member pipes up, “My neighbor knows a guy who knows a guy who has a Cousin Eddie. Eddie would be perfect for our board!”

You blink—and presto! Cousin Eddie is on your board. He’s not the right fit. He’s out of sync with your board’s culture. He’s not a generous giver. His Christian character has serious flaws. At best, he’s a warm body.

Now there’s help for the Cousin Eddie Syndrome! The ECFA Governance Toolbox Series No. 1: Recruiting Board Members is now available. Order here from ECFA.
The Recruiting Board Members toolbox includes:
   --1 DVD (13 minutes—perfect for a board meeting)
   --12 Board Member Read-and-Engage Viewing Guides (20 pages)
   --1 Facilitator Guide (4 pages)

The helpful Facilitator Guide offers three discussion options (short, medium or for a board retreat) and points you to additional resources online.

More topics are coming. ECFA’s goal is to have a robust series of strategic toolkits on the shelf so board chairs and CEOs can readily address board issues with a short video and a focused discussion.

Many boards have a governance life-long learning segment at each meeting. At each meeting of the board I serve on, we include a “Ten Minutes for Governance” hot topic or governance book review. It’s stimulating. None of us is as smart as all of us. We are constantly reminded of our kingdom priorities as stewards of God’s work.

You might wonder: Do Christ-centered boards recruit their members differently than secular boards? They should!  The toolkit addresses the critical role of spiritual discernment and prayer in the board recruitment process. 

QUESTION: How does your board avoid the Cousin Eddie Syndrome—and when is the last time you’ve reviewed board recruitment best practices?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Mission Statement Pop Quiz


Picture this!

I was coaching the board of a nonprofit Christian theatre company this week—and I asked everyone to stand.

“If you can recite your ministry’s mission statement by memory, please remain standing.”

I blinked—and just two people were still standing (with plenty of chuckles echoing around the room).  The CEO and the board chair (still on their feet) were ready to duke it out for the prize—until the CEO had a memory lapse.

So…it was Last Man Standing for the winner’s circle.

“OK. Turn your back to the PowerPoint,” I instructed the board chair, “and then I’ll put your mission statement on the screen—while you recite it by memory, word for word.”

He tried. Heroically! But half-way through, he sat down too.

“What just happened?” I asked the highly committed board members in the room.

The discussion was dynamic. Homework was assigned and—my guess—they will repeat the “Last Person Standing” drill at their next board meeting. Successfully.

By the way, their current mission statement is outstanding (in my opinion). “[We exist] to create theatre that explores the beauty and questions of life while providing hope to our search for meaning.”

Yet…they are in the process of revising the mission statement—to make it zing even more! Good for them.

And even better—their “value statements” are limited to just three (not 10). “We value faith. We respect people. We celebrate theatre.”

All the literature, all the books, and all the resources hammer us on the importance of aligning everything we do with our mission. When we ask for God’s blessing on our ministry work—maybe we should be crystal clear about our mission, so we are not fuzzy in our prayers.

Step 1: Memorize the mission statement!

QUESTION: If you offered a Starbucks card to every board member who can pass the Mission Statement Pop Quiz, how many cards would you need?