Tuesday, December 10, 2019

TOOL 8 – The Board's Annual Fundraising Audit


Pop Quiz on Fundraising Practices!

Suppose…at your next board meeting, your CEO and chief development officer announced:


Good News! Our total annual giving for our recent fiscal year was the largest in our ministry’s history.”

Bad News! The total number of donors has decreased (even though giving is up) over the last three fiscal years.”


Does the good news exceed the bad news? Should the board be concerned? Experienced board members would likely ask to see the data. That’s why Tool #8 is a helpful annual checklist for your board.

TOOL #8: THE BOARD'S ANNUAL FUNDRAISING AUDIT
Use this TRUE OR FALSE annual audit as a first step in assessing if the ministry is communicating giving opportunities with integrity and accuracy—and whether or not the board understands and affirms the ministry’s current fundraising practices.


Tool #8 in the new resource, ECFA Tools and Templates for Effective Board Governance, is one of six assessments in Part 2 of this jam-packed 271-page resource. 
John Frank and Scott Rodin recommend that boards develop reporting, measurement, and accountability tools regarding expectations between the CEO, the board chair, and the Chief Development Officer—and set policy and budgets according to those expectations. They add:

“By having solid reporting tools tied to your key performance metrics, you will be able to spot trouble early and respond.” (Read Chapter 3, “The Role of the Board in Development,” in their helpful book, Development 101.)

The big idea in Tool #8: in addition to regular reports you already review in your good governance practices, this annual checklist of 10 statements will keep the board informed. The two-page checklist asks for a TRUE or FALSE response to each statement—and includes space for answering the question, “How does the board know?” Examples:

TRUE OR FALSE?
#2. “The board understands the ministry’s fundraising program relating to raising restricted donations.”
#6. “The board knows if staff or external fundraisers are being compensated on the basis of a percentage of funds raised.”
#9. “The board is compiling, analyzing, and leveraging giving data to serve and support its giving base.”

A sample completed checklist is included with Tool #8 and features color-coded “Ministry Dashboard Signals” in the “How does the board know?” section:
   • Red: Act
   • Yellow: Watch
   • Green: Celebrate

After you review the 10 statements, ask your development team to brief the board on your ministry’s “theology of development.” When you have a written document on your theology of development, you’ll appreciate the guidance it gives to the CEO, the CDO, and the board to ensure that all fundraising practices are in alignment with the ministry’s mission, vision, values, and theology. (See the book, Development 101, for a sample document.) 

Order the tools book from Amazon by clicking on this title: ECFA Tools and Templates for Effective Board Governance: Time-Saving Solutions for Your Board, by Dan Busby and John Pearson. The book gives you full access to all 22 tools and templates—formatted as Word documents so you can customize the tools for your board’s unique uses.

BOARD DISCUSSION: Around the table, answer TRUE or FALSE to this statement: “#4. The board is aware of communication being shared with givers concerning the potential of over-funding or under-funding of projects for which funds are being raised.”

MORE RESOURCES: Could your board members pass a pop quiz of fundraising practices? Read Scott Rodin’s color commentary blog on Lesson 24, “Ministry Fundraising 101 for Board Members” (click here) in Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom: 40 Insights for Better Board Meetings, by Dan Busby and John Pearson. Rodin notes: “As board members, we must understand the ideology/theology behind our development strategy. That will drive our desire for funds to be raised according to Biblical ethics, and used as the giving partner requests.”

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

TOOL 7 – The Board's Annual Legal Audit


Use This Annual Checklist to Monitor Legal Issues

What if—at your next board meeting—senior staff reported this bad news (a RED alert on your “Ministry Dashboard Signals” report)?


“As of the 30th of the month,
our ministry was $100,000 below the cash reserves threshold
required by our mortgage loan covenants.” 

TOOL #7: THE  BOARD'S ANNUAL LEGAL AUDIT
Use this TRUE OR FALSE annual audit checklist as a first step in assessing your ministry’s compliance with applicable local, state, and federal laws and regulations.


Tool #7 in the new resource, ECFA Tools and Templates for Effective Board Governance, is one of six assessments in Part 2 of this jam-packed 271-page resource. This critical tool will educate your board members on what they should be monitoring and might also enable them to sleep better at night!


The big idea: in addition to regular reports you already review in your good governance practices, this annual checklist of 17 statements will keep the board in-the-know. The two-page checklist asks for a TRUE or FALSE response to each statement—and includes space for answering the question, “How does the board know?” Examples:

TRUE OR FALSE?
#2. “Appropriately experienced legal counsel has reviewed the articles of incorporation, bylaws, and board policies in the last three years.”
#10. “All filings for the ministry’s copyrights and trademarks are current.”
#17. “We have not borrowed any of the restricted asset balances to fund operational expenses in the last year.”

A sample completed checklist is included with Tool #7 and features color-coded “Ministry Dashboard Signals” in the “How does the board know?” section:
   • Red: Act
   • Yellow: Watch
   • Green: Celebrate

Why checklists? Read my review of The Checklist Manifesto. Whether building skyscrapers or prepping for surgery, checklists are being used with increased effectiveness, says Atul Gawande. In a recent global experiment, a two-minute pre-surgery team review of a standard checklist has dropped infection rates, death rates and complication rates by a staggering amount.

Order the tools book from Amazon by clicking on this title: ECFA Tools and Templates for Effective Board Governance: Time-Saving Solutions for Your Board, by Dan Busby and John Pearson. The book gives you full access to all 22 tools and templates—formatted as Word documents so you can customize the tools for your board’s unique uses.

BOARD DISCUSSION: Around the table, answer TRUE or FALSE to this statement: “#5. We are in compliance with our loan covenants.” How does the board know this?

MORE RESOURCES: And speaking of surgeons, would you trust a surgeon who stopped learning? That’s the subtitle to Lesson 1, “Wanted: Lifelong Learners,” in Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom: 40 Insights for Better Board Meetings, by Dan Busby and John Pearson. Guest blogger Ralph Enlow notes this about lifelong learning: “…I find that the fatal combination of passivity and agenda clutter conspires to crowd out efforts to walk the talk of continuous board development.”  

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

TOOL 6 – The Board’s Annual Financial Management Audit


20 True or False Questions! (And…how does the board know if it’s true?)

Dan Busby notes, “In the worst case scenario, clarity of ministry finances is a key to avoiding a financial shipwreck. In the best case, clarity prevents a ministry from becoming an embarrassment to Christ.”

Today’s tool features 20 statements that can be adapted for your ministry. Ask your CFO to provide the answers for the question, “How does the board know?”

TOOL #6: THE BOARD’S ANNUAL FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT AUDIT
Use this TRUE or FALSE audit annually as a first step in assessing your ministry’s financial health and integrity. 


Tool #6 in the new resource, ECFA Tools and Templates for Effective Board Governance, is just one of six assessments in Part 2 of the book that will both educate your board members and enhance your board’s competencies in financial management, legal, fundraising, and other key areas.


The big idea: trusted ministries manage resources with integrity. Boards should know and understand the three foundations of “Trusted Resource Management.”

#1. Understanding Finances: “Trusted ministries acknowledge the challenges of understanding nonprofit finances. It is certainly not a one-to-one correlation with the finances of a for-profit organization.”
#2. Achieving Appropriate Transparency
#3. Minimizing Fraud

Note: To go deeper on these foundational anchors, read TRUST: The Firm Foundation for Kingdom Fruitfulness, by Dan Busby.

Your board should expect clarity and honesty from the CEO, the CFO, staff, and the board’s finance committee. To provide clarity—so board members understand financial reports and financial trends—the information should be presented with a variety of approaches (for the diverse learning styles of your board members) and can include verbal and written reports, dashboards, and graphs.

But there is another important step—an annual checklist. This two-page checklist asks for a TRUE or FALSE response to each statement—and includes space for answering the question, “How does the board know?” Examples:

TRUE OR FALSE?
#1. Our board receives timely, relevant, and accurate financial information that is readily understood by the board. 
#6. The average size of our contributions is increasing across all gift size ranges. 
#8. Our total unrestricted revenue is increasing.
#14. Our bank accounts do not exceed FDIC limits.
#18. All significant related-party transactions are reported to the board for their review and action.

A sample completed checklist is included with Tool #6 and features color-coded “Ministry Dashboard Signals” in the “How does the board know?” section:
   • Red: Act
   • Yellow: Watch
   • Green: Celebrate

Once you begin using this annual checklist, you will add it to your board agenda every year! 

Order the tools book from Amazon by clicking on this title: ECFA Tools and Templates for Effective Board Governance: Time-Saving Solutions for Your Board, by Dan Busby and John Pearson. The book gives you full access to all 22 tools and templates—formatted as Word documents so you can customize the tools for your board’s unique uses.

BOARD DISCUSSION: Around the table, answer TRUE or FALSE to this statement: “#17. We have identified the three greatest financial risks of our ministry and the steps we should take to mitigate those risks.”

MORE RESOURCES: To go deeper on this topic, read Steve Moore’s color commentary, “Focus on Mission Impact and Sustainability. The ‘dual bottom line’ equips boards to address dead horses and sacred cows (or goats).” See Lesson 23, in Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom: 40 Insights for Better Board Meetings, by Dan Busby and John Pearson. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

TOOL 5 – The Board’s Annual Self-Assessment Survey


Look in the Mirror!

Peter Drucker wrote, “Self-assessment is the first action requirement of leadership: the constant resharpening, constant refocusing, never really being satisfied.”


Do boards really take this wisdom seriously? According to a recent ECFA governance survey, board members were asked: “In the last two years, have you had an outside person help your board look in the mirror to do self-assessment for how it could improve?” 
   • Good news: 31% said yes!
   • Bad news: 69% did NOT say yes.

There’s a plethora of possibilities in this week’s tool to help your board look in the mirror—to ensure you are constantly improving in God-honoring governance. 

TOOL #5: THE BOARD’S ANNUAL SELF-ASSESSMENT SURVEY
Select the board’s self-assessment survey option that best fits your board’s culture and your board’s aspirations for continual improvement.


Tool #5 in the new resource, ECFA Tools and Templates for Effective Board Governance, includes 30 robust pages of survey templates—for all shapes, sizes, and opinions of board members.


The big idea: every board (even the “best” boards) can improve, but if you don’t look in the mirror at least once a year, you’ll easily perpetuate boardroom routines that may no longer be effective.

This resource includes an introduction, “Why Assess?,” and three sections:
   #1. Do-It-Yourself (with seven add-water-and-stir evaluation options)
   #2. Assessments Facilitated by a Consultant or Board Coach
   #3. An assessment template: “Best Governance Practices” Survey

For a quick dip into the self-assessment pool, consider ECFA’s new board self-assessment, NonprofitBoardScore™. This free online survey delivers immediate feedback and is designed for board members to complete multiple times (perhaps every six months) to measure improvement. (Church board members can self-assess using ChurchBoardScore™.)

D-I-Y Option 5 (page 40) features a quick one-page 20-point board member self-assessment that asks board members to evaluate the board on a five-point scale from “Strongly Disagree (1)” to “Strongly Agree (5).” Questions include:
   • Our board ensures that the ministry has an active strategic planning process in place.
   • Our board annually affirms and “owns” the ministry strategy.
   • We expect every board member to be an annual giver.
   • Our board has policies—and the spiritual integrity required—to ask an underperforming board member to resign.
   • Our board approves the CEO’s annual measurable goals that align with the strategy.

The survey also lists the average scores of 1,754 board members who completed the ECFA survey in 2019—so you can compare your ratings with other board members.


Why look in the self-assessment mirror? Peter Drucker adds, “Self-assessment can and should convert good intentions and knowledge into effective action—not next year but tomorrow morning.”

Order the tools book from Amazon by clicking on this title: ECFA Tools and Templates for Effective Board Governance: Time-Saving Solutions for Your Board, by Dan Busby and John Pearson. The book gives you full access to all 22 tools and templates—formatted as Word documents so you can customize the tools for your board’s unique uses.

BOARD DISCUSSION: What committee or board member is tasked with conducting the board’s annual self-assessment?

MORE RESOURCES: Share this one-question discussion starter at your next meeting: “You’re driving away from a typical board meeting and you say, ‘That was a great board meeting today!’ Tell me, what happened at the board meeting to provoke that response?” Read more in “Ask the Gold Standard Question,” Lesson 2, in Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom: 40 Insights for Better Board Meetings, by Dan Busby and John Pearson. Read Tim McDermott’s color commentary by clicking here.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

TOOL 4 – Five-Finger Feedback


Fast Feedback in 3 Minutes!

Ken Blanchard reminds us that “feedback is the breakfast of champions.” And Romans 12:3 (NIV) cautions: “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment…” 


So here’s a Fast Feedback Tool that will immediately improve your board and committee meetings. 

TOOL #4: FIVE-FINGER FEEDBACK
Use This Tool to Enrich Engagement and Immediate Feedback


Tool #4 in the new resource, ECFA Tools and Templates for Effective Board Governance, can be used creatively with the other 21 tools.

At the conclusion of a board’s Nominating Committee meeting we facilitated, the newly elected committee chair asked for feedback.

“At every board or committee meeting I chair,” he told us, “I always ask each participant to rate the effectiveness of our meeting. So on a scale of one to five (five is high), I’ll ask each of you to give me your rating. How did we do?”

The committee members each shared their rating—holding up the appropriate number of fingers—and also shared the rationale for the rating. Next, the Nominating Committee chair gave his rating—a five—which was an encouragement to everyone.

At our next meeting, I know two things will happen:
1) We’ll be asked to rate the meeting.
2) Throughout the meeting, we’ll be thoughtfully contributing (listening more than talking) to help the ratings stay high!

It’s a brilliant idea—and it took less than three minutes.

Order the tools book from Amazon by clicking on this title: ECFA Tools and Templates for Effective Board Governance: Time-Saving Solutions for Your Board, by Dan Busby and John Pearson. The book gives you full access to all 22 tools and templates—formatted as Word documents so you can customize the tools for your board’s unique uses.

BOARD DISCUSSION: What if…you’re the chair and the Five-Finger Feedback exercise reveals low scores (just one or two fingers up)? What would you say or do?

MORE RESOURCES: If you prefer paper-and-pencil surveys, check out the “Bonus Resource Tool” on page 30. You can download, customize and then distribute this quick five-question survey just before adjournment. The five-minute evaluation asks board members to rate their preparation, their engagement in the meeting, and the overall engagement of the board. Plus, there’s room to list a highlight and a “lowlight.” The last question is a fill-in-the-blanks request: “Next month’s meeting would be more effective if…”

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

TOOL 3 – Board Nominee Orientation: Table of Contents


Don’t Swallow the Board Myth!

“Recruit board members for their passion, not their position. Don’t swallow the board myth that says you need a CPA, an attorney and a fundraiser on your board. People in those positions might make great volunteers, but less-than-loyal, uncommitted board members are the last thing your organization needs.” (From: Chapter 14, “The Board Bucket,” in Mastering the Management Buckets, by John Pearson)


So how do you ensure that you have the right board candidates in your prospect pipeline who also understand your history, your culture, your strategic plan—and the dozens of other topics and issues that nominees should understand before they join the board? This tool will help! 

TOOL #3: BOARD NOMINEE ORIENTATION: TABLE OF CONTENTS
Inspire Qualified Board Prospects to Consider Board Service—by Giving Them a Comprehensive Overview of Your Governance Documents


Tool #3 in the new resource, ECFA Tools and Templates for Effective Board Governance, builds on the first two tools—“Tool #1: The Pathway to the Board,” and “Tool #2: Board Nominee Suggestion Form.”


This 31-tab table of contents can be created in a three-ring binder (for old school board prospects), or created in a password-protected online version. It includes seven sections:
   • Introductory Materials
   • Board of Directors (bylaws, Board Policies Manual, recent board meeting agendas, etc.)
   • Finance, Budget, IRS, ECFA Reports
   • Strategic Plan and Metrics 
   • Team Members (organizational chart, senior team mini-bios, StrengthsFinder assessments, etc.)
   • Development (three-year goals and the fundraising role of board members)
   • Programs and Services (a “menu” of programs—and the annual evaluation process)

What Does Our Primary Customer Value? In the strategic plan section, many boards include their answers to Peter Drucker’s “Five Questions Every Nonprofit Organization Must Answer.” The questions:
   1. What is our mission?
   2. Who is our customer?
   3. What does our customer value?
   4. What are our results?
   5. What is our plan?

Many Nominating Committees will keep an updated version of the Board Nominee Orientation Materials (a three-ring binder or an online version) and use it as part of the “dating” process with a serious board prospect. 

But caution! Your prospects will likely be diverse. Using the social style language—are they analytical, driving, amiable, or expressive? So customize your one-on-one conversations according to your prospects’ social styles (not yours!):
   • Analyticals appreciate facts and information.
   • Driving styles prefer bullet points and executive summaries (don’t mention 31 tabs!).
   • Amiables are inspired by relationships and stories.
   • Expressives absolutely love four-color documents and Big Visions about the future! (And, if there’s a microphone in their future—they are blessed!)

For more on social styles—and how to communicate effectively with each style/board prospect, you’ll enjoy reading How to Deal With Annoying People: What to Do When You Can’t Avoid Them, by Bob Phillips and Kimberly Alyn.

You can order the tools book from Amazon by clicking on this title: ECFA Tools and Templates for Effective Board Governance: Time-Saving Solutions for Your Board, by Dan Busby and John Pearson. The book gives you full access to all 22 tools and templates—formatted as Word documents so you can customize the tools for your board’s unique uses.

BOARD DISCUSSION: In the four phases of board recruitment—Cultivation, Recruitment, Orientation, and Engagement—where are we the most effective and where are we the least effective? What’s our next step? 

MORE RESOURCES: Download the short video, the facilitator guide, and the viewing guide for “Recruiting Board Members - Leveraging the 4 Phases of Board Recruitment: Cultivation, Recruitment, Orientation and Engagement,” the first of four resources in the ECFA Governance Toolbox Series. Click here.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

TOOL 2 – Board Nominee Suggestion Form


Avoid the “Friend of a Friend of Cousin Eddie Syndrome”

“The problem is, most board cultures are developed by default, not by design,” writes Jim Brown in The Imperfect Board Member.


The best boards are intentional—not haphazard or random—about suggesting board prospects who meet the board-approved criteria. A friend of a friend of your Cousin Eddie might/perhaps/someday become an effective board member—but he or she must be evaluated against objective criteria. And prayer must precede appointment! 

TOOL #2: BOARD NOMINEE SUGGESTION FORM 
Recommend People for Your Prospect Pipeline Who Meet the “6 D’s Criteria”

Many boards leverage the easy-to-use “Board Nominee Suggestion Form” included in ECFA Tools and Templates for Effective Board Governance. Tools 1, 2, and 3 are the lead-off hitters in “Part 1: Selecting and Training Excellent Board Members.” The book gives you full access to all 22 tools and templates—formatted as Word documents so you can customize the tools for your board’s unique uses.


This suggestion form will optimize two critical governance values for your board:
• First, the suggestion form will help educate board members to suggest only prospects that meet the board-approved criteria. This will eliminate the “Friend of a Friend of Cousin Eddie Syndrome” and save you hours and hours of time (and expensive steak dinners!).
• Second, because board members are considering at least six criteria (see the “6 D’s” in the book), important qualities of God-honoring lifestyle and character will be considered early on in the process.

Here are two of the “6 D’s” to consider:

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

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.”

The other four “D’s” include: Demonstrated Passion, Documented Team Player, Diligent and Faithful Participant, and Donor.

When you customize “Tool #2: Board Nominee Suggestion Form” for your board, you’ll realize why this book is subtitled, “Time-Saving Solutions for Your Board.” Follow the eight steps in this tool to inspire your board to pray and discern who—in their networks—might be possible prospects for board service.

Click on the title to order from Amazon: ECFA Tools and Templates for Effective Board Governance: Time-Saving Solutions for Your Board, by Dan Busby and John Pearson.

BOARD DISCUSSION: In Matthew 6:21, Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Many boards follow the “6 D’s” criteria, including the requirement that a board prospect already be a generous giver. (See the definition of a “generous giver” on page 19 of the book. Board members at all income levels can be generous.) What’s our board policy on this?

MORE RESOURCES: Read Terry Stokesbary’s guest blog on “Date Board Prospects Before You Propose Marriage,” one of 40 color commentaries from the book, Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom. Click here.

Monday, October 21, 2019

TOOL 1: The Pathway to the Board


Don’t Propose Marriage on Your First Date!

Peter Drucker, the father of modern management, once compared businesses to nonprofits with this memorable poke-in-the-ribs to both:

“Although I don’t know a single for-profit business that is well managed as a few of the nonprofits, the great majority of the nonprofits can be graded a ‘C’ at best. Not for lack of effort; most of them work very hard. But for lack of focus, and for lack of tool competence.”

So with that inspiration, Dan Busby, president of ECFA, and I have co-authored a hot-off-the press resource, ECFA Tools and Templates for Effective Board Governance: Time-Saving Solutions for Your Board. Jam-packed with 22 tools, the 272-page book includes access to downloadable Word documents that can be customized for any board.

The tools are organized around six themes:
   • Selecting and Training Excellent Board Members
   • Board Assessments
   • Reporting to the Board
   • Taking Time for Strategic Planning
   • Policies and Board Responsibilities
   • Ideas for Better Board Governance

Peter Drucker also wrote, “At least once every five years, every form should be put on trial for its life.” So…if it’s been five years (or 10 or 20 years) since you’ve updated your boardroom tools, this book will be a lifesaver for you. I’m featuring these tools in forthcoming blogs, starting with—of course—the first one:

TOOL #1: THE PATHWAY TO THE BOARD - Six Steps on the Pathway to Board Service


Here’s a very practical tool for tracking possible board nominees in your “Prospect Pipeline.” The big idea: “Date” board prospects before proposing “marriage” (board service). 

The book reminds us, “Thoughtful adults don’t propose marriage on the first date. Effective boards don’t propose board service to prospects they don’t know well. Think of this as a 36-month dating experience. But don’t mention marriage (board service) up front.”

Think of board recruitment in four phases: cultivation, recruitment, orientation, and engagement. “The Pathway to the Board” tool lists six critical steps:
   • Step 1: Suggest
   • Step 2: Review
   • Step 3: Inquire
   • Step 4: Apply
   • Step 5: Orientation
   • Step 6: Engage

I’ll discuss “Tool #2: The Board Nominee Suggestion Form” in the next blog—but the pathway to the board starts with identifying board-approved criteria (The 6 D’s)—listed in both Tool #1 and Tool #2. 

Is your board member prospect criteria in writing? Tool #1 will help.

When your board purchases ECFA Tools and Templates for Effective Board Governance, you’ll have full access to the 22 tools and templates—formatted as Word documents so you can customize the tools for your board’s unique uses.

When you use the right tool at the right time—you’ll move faster and deeper toward your board’s sacred calling of God-honoring governance. And you’ll eliminate those “Oops!” blunders so you don’t propose marriage on the first date. 

Visit ECFA Press (or Amazon) and order ECFA Tools and Templates for Effective Board Governance: Time-Saving Solutions for Your Board, by Dan Busby and John Pearson.

BOARD DISCUSSION: R. Buckminster Fuller said, “If you want to teach people a new way of thinking, don’t bother to teach them. Instead, give them a tool, the use of which will lead to new ways of thinking.” What tool inspired you to think a new way?

MORE RESOURCES: Read Bruce Johnson’s guest blog on “If You Need a Board Member, Recruit a Board Member,” one of 40 color commentaries from the book,  Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom. Click here.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Are Your Board Members “Listeners” or “Readers”?




If there’s one common whine from CEOs, it’s this: “My board members don’t read the reports I email them.”


Yet some board members also whine: “We don’t hear much from our CEO in between board meetings. He (or she) doesn’t call and we rarely have lunch together. (We posted this discussion several years ago, but it's time for another reminder.)

Here’s help from Peter Drucker (1909 - 2005), the father of modern management. Drucker noted that people are either readers or listeners. And…ditto board members!

In the classic Harvard Business Review article, “Managing Your Boss,” by John J. Gabarro and John P. Kotter, the authors discuss the boss/subordinate relationship—but the insights are equally valuable for board members, board chairs, and CEOs.

They write, “Subordinates can adjust their styles in response to their bosses’ preferred method for receiving information. Peter Drucker divides bosses into ‘listeners’ and ‘readers.’ Some bosses like to get information in report form so they can read and study it. Others work better with information and reports presented in person so they can ask questions. 

“As Drucker points out, the implications are obvious. If your boss is a listener, you brief him or her in person, then follow it up with a memo. If your boss is a reader, you cover important items or proposals in a memo or report, then discuss them.”

So ask each board member—“What’s your preferred method of receiving information? Written report or verbal report?”

I can hear the moans now from CEOs: “You expect me to give verbal reports to half my board if that’s their preferred style of receiving information?”

Calm down. There are options. But the big idea here is that emailing pages and pages of written reports to board members who are “listeners” will not be effective. And phoning or Zoom calling board members with verbal reports will be ineffective if they are “readers.”

With the wide ranges of digital options today, there are solutions. Some CEOs will record a verbal report and email an audio file to the “listeners,” along with the traditional written report. Others will host (and record) a conference call as a nod to the “listeners” on the board. 

Perhaps graciousness and respect means tilting towards what works for board members, not what’s convenient for CEO reporting (or what’s convenient for the CEO’s executive assistant).

In last month's blog about the four social styles, we were reminded about this context for Christ-centered governance from Psalm 139:14, "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made..."

Reminder! Our Creator fashioned the minds and learning styles of our board members. One size doesn’t fit all—and we praise Him for that! So what will you do—moving forward—to bless both the “readers” and the “listeners” on your board?

AND ONE MORE QUESTION: What’s your CEO’s preferred method of receiving information? Is he/she a “listener” or a “reader?”

INSPIRE YOUR BOARD! Inspire your board members to enrich their governance competencies at the ECFA Excellence in Governance Forums (eight cities, Fall 2019). 




Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Board Meeting Minutes & The Four Social Styles


I’ve recently had numerous inquiries about board meeting minutes. (You can snooze now or later.) So I’ve been thinking about the four social styles (analytical, driving, amiable, and expressive)—and how each style might perform the duties of board secretary.


But first—a caveat and a short video. While governance gurus share numerous opinions on best practices for writing board meeting minutes, unless your bylaws or Board Policies Manual spell out the details, the board secretary has ample freedom. Click here to view this excellent four-minute video, “How to Record Board Minutes,” by Michael Martin, ECFA’s Executive Vice President. 

THE 4 SOCIAL STYLES AS BOARD SECRETARIES

THE ANALYTICAL BOARD SECRETARY.  According to the social style wisdom, an analytical is task-oriented and fact-oriented. Minutes from this person will likely be thorough, comprehensive, and detailed. Board members who miss a meeting will read the minutes and have a fairly complete picture of what happened.

“Due to the potential risks involved, the CEO was tasked with getting more facts about Project Twenty and bringing a more complete proposal back to the board which must include contingencies.”

THE DRIVING BOARD SECRETARY. Drivers are action-oriented and goal-driven. Speed is also an important value to the driver. Thus minutes will have a flavor of “just the facts” with little or no commentary. Between “the meeting was called to order” and “meeting adjourned,” the minutes will document board actions, but not much else. 

“We came. We voted. We adjourned.”

THE AMIABLE BOARD SECRETARY. Amiables are relationship-oriented (as opposed to task-oriented) and the minutes will often reflect this style. Amiables, like analyticals, tend to be slower-paced. Affirmations might populate the secretary’s warm commentary. (“The board gave the CFO a round of applause for the clean audit and her faithful service to our ministry.”)

“Thanks to our outstanding CEO, we enjoyed another grace-filled board meeting, accompanied by Mary’s delicious raspberry pie.”

THE EXPRESSIVE BOARD SECRETARY. Expressives are fun to be around (often hilarious), but they rarely agree to serve as board secretary. This style is fast-paced, highly emotive, and people-oriented versus task-oriented. Board minutes will highlight the BHAGs (Big Holy Audacious Goals), big ideas, future events, and parties. If there’s no party planned, the expressive will plan one.

“The bold thinking in the strategic plan presentation was awesome. The Century Campaign could impact millions and millions!”

CAUTION! In addition to understanding the four social styles, even more important is your ability to practice versatility in your relationships. Versatility is the measure of how others view your ability to adapt to different styles and situations. There is no good or bad style (we are all made in the image of God)—and thus there are no preferred board secretary styles (other than your own preference!).

REMINDER! Psalm 139:14 (NIV): “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made…”

BOARD DISCUSSION: It is time to refresh your board meeting minutes? Do your minutes accurately capture the board actions? What is your social style: analytical, driving, amiable, or expressive? What is the social style of your current board secretary?

MORE RESOURCES: Visit the “People Bucket” webpage for the book, Mastering the Management Buckets, and download the one-page resource, “Do’s and Don’ts for the Four Social Styles.”

INSPIRE YOUR BOARD! Inspire your board members to enrich their governance competencies at the ECFA Excellence in Governance Forums (eight cities, Fall 2019). 

Monday, July 29, 2019

The Boardroom Lexicon: I, Me, We, Us


What do astronauts, Tour de France cyclists, and great board members have in common?


I’m always looking for governance lessons—and I’ve recently noticed similar phrases—and values—from outer space and the inner circles of cycling teams. We could learn something from them.

This month, our nation celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. Were you on earth when the Apollo 11 spaceflight reached their destination? It was July 20, 1969 when Commander Neil Armstrong and lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin landed the Apollo Lunar Module Eagle on the Moon.

I’ve watched the documentary film, In the Shadow of the Moon, numerous times. (Read my review.) But this one value keeps popping up: We not Me. It was a stunning team effort. Some news reports indicated over 300,000 people had a part in Apollo 11’s success. The astronauts, especially, chose their words carefully: not me, not them, but us and we. “We did it.”

Over the last three weeks, I was up early many mornings to take in the sights, sounds, and heroics of the 2019 Tour de France. Stunning scenery and stunning teamwork! I’m not a cyclist—but I’m captivated by the teamwork and the strategy. So this year, through all 21 stages from Brussels to Paris (July 6-28), I also read the book, Tour de France for Dummies. One team has dominated in recent years (there’s that word again) and the youngest rider ever (just 22) earned the yellow jersey this year, due to the team effort.

So are the values of We and Us alive and well in your boardroom? Or are you on the board to help the CEO with her ministry? Words matter—and you can learn much about the value system of an organization, its CEO, and its board by listening: Lone Ranger Syndrome of the joy of teamwork? 

As Dan Busby thoughtfully observes in our book, More Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom: Effectiveness, Excellence, Elephants! (coming in September from ECFAPress):

“CEOs must pursue God and focus on abiding in Christ. A major warning sign is when a leader places self-interest ahead of the things of God and the needs of the ministry, evidenced in arrogant language and prideful behavior. 
You will often hear a spiritually healthy CEO say,
‘I serve as CEO,’ not ‘I am the CEO,’
—a subtle but profound indicator of their motivation."

BOARD DISCUSSION: At your next board meeting—listen. Does your boardroom lexicon honor God—and promote teamwork and the essence of leveraging everyone’s spiritual giftedness—or does the tone tilt toward Me rather than We?

MORE RESOURCES: Reid Lehman shares wisdom on this issue in his guest blog, “Serve with Humility and Experience God’s Presence: One board chair creates a holy moment for his CEO Search Committee,” based on chapter 9 in Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom: 40 Insights for Better Board Meetings (Second Edition), by Dan Busby and John Pearson.

INSPIRE YOUR BOARD! Inspire your board members to enrich their governance competencies at the ECFA Excellence in Governance Forums (eight cities, Fall 2019). 

Monday, June 17, 2019

The Power of Passion: It’s OK to Say No!


A leader recently told me that while she had said yes to a volunteer opportunity—she should have said NO!

“Looking back now,” she told me, “I realized I had zero passion for the project. I said yes, but that was a big mistake.”

How many times is this scenario inappropriately played out in your boardroom? Recognize anyone here?
• Your board chair asks Chandler to lead the task force. She’s amazingly effective—but has zero passion for this assignment. She says yes—but has no joy in the task.
• Your CEO needs a board member to represent the ministry at a community event. Roberto is a team player and says yes, but procrastinates in his preparation—and it shows. He didn’t bring his A game.
• Suzanne’s social style is “amiable.” She’s a pleaser and said yes to a last-minute request. Her congeniality exceeds her competence. Another bungled assignment.

Hans Finzel writes “When who we are lines up with the role we are in, then we are in a place of passion.” He urges leaders (and I would add, board members) to say yes ONLY when opportunities fall in the “The Passion Zone.”

In describing the passion zone, Finzel asks: How much does “The Leader” circle (gifts, abilities, strengths, personalities, values, calling) overlap with “The Role” circle (followers, culture, responsibilities, activities, situation, history)?

While his book speaks mostly to organizational leaders, savvy board members will find it immediately convicting also. Board members could use a serious does of Finzel’s transparency:
“The number one issue for me was passion.
My heart was no longer engaged in my job—the fire had gone out.
My heart had left the building.”

Click here to read my review of The Power of Passion in Leadership: Lead From Your Heart, Not Just Your Head, by Hans Finzel (just 73 pages).

Here’s the gut check for board members: does your board service (including your ad hoc assignments) leverage your “3 Powerful S’s” (Spiritual Gifts, Strengths, and Social Styles)? If not, your board work will often be a draining experience. That’s not God’s plan!

What should you do?
• Ask a wise and trusted friend if your board service is adding to Kingdom impact and your joy—or detracting from it.
• Say “NO!” when assignments will not align with your giftedness and passion.
• Say “YES!” when assignments bring you joy and others affirm your passion.

Finzel notes Proverbs 4:23 in the NIV: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

BOARD DISCUSSION: Are we asking the right board members to tackle the right assignments? Are we getting an appropriate number of “no” responses—perhaps meaning board members are telling us the truth about what brings them joy?

MORE RESOURCES: Erika Cole shares wisdom on this issue in her guest blog, “Align Board Member Strengths With Committee Assignments,” based on chapter 25 in Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom: 40 Insights for Better Board Meetings (Second Edition), by Dan Busby and John Pearson.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Beware the Emotional Effects of Transition

I posted this blog in 2016, but based on my governance radar, it's time for a rerun! Enjoy and heed!

If your board has term limits, it's likely you say “farewell and thanks” to one, two, or three board members every year. It might surprise you, though, to understand what each of your departing board members are feeling.

In the bestselling book, Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change, William Bridges writes, “It isn’t the changes that do you in, it’s the transitions. Change is not the same as transition. Change is situational: the new site, the new boss, the new team roles, the new policy. Transition is the psychological process people go through to come to terms with the new situation.”

He adds, "Change is external. Transition is internal."

At a recent board retreat, I challenged board members to pick one major change the organization had negotiated and then to pick one word that described the stage and the feelings that resulted—from their unique perspectives.

Bridges notes that "the beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names," and suggests there are three phases of managing a transition: 
   • Ending
   • Neutral Zone
   • New Beginning

The author says it's important for leaders to be alert to the emotions and the psychological impact people experience as they journey through transitions. Perhaps you can reflect on a recent major change you have experienced as a board—and can pinpoint where people are along the journey. According to Bridges, here are the more common emotions in each phase:

   • ENDING: denial, anxiety, shock, confusion, sadness, annoyance/anger, fear, frustration, and cynicism.
   • NEUTRAL ZONE: curiosity, adjustment, exploration, learning.
   • NEW BEGINNING: creative tension, impatience, acceptance, hope or skepticism, relief, excitement, trust, enthusiasm.

One board member at the retreat circled the "sadness" emotion. His board term was ending and he was genuinely sad at the thought of being absent from the table. He spoke warmly of the relationships, the important mission of the organization, and much more.

"Oh, my," I thought. "Other board members often exit with glee—no more meetings, more time for leisure and family, and fewer deadlines. Yet this board member was sad.”

Really—that was wonderful. What a stunning board culture!

By the way, the board did a spectacular job of honoring him and one other departing board member. Well-prepared words. Short thank you videos from staff and clients. Coffee mugs with their top-five strengths from the StrengthsFinder assessment, framed photo collages, and personalized mementos with the organization’s mission statement.

The presentation was poignant and perfect. Oh, my.

The big changes facing your board may be in another realm: CEO succession, program changes, financial crisis, or other challenges. So this is just a reminder that changes produce transitions, and transitions produce emotions—and all of us may be at different levels of moving from the ending, to the neutral zone, to the new beginning.

Note: To go deeper on this subject, read the resource article on Moses, “Getting Them Through the Wilderness,” by William Bridges. Here’s a taste:

“When Pharaoh finally let Moses’ people go, some of them surely thought that the Promised Land was just around the corner. But Moses was not so naive, for he saw that he still had two problems. First, he had to draw a line of no return between the ending and the neutral zone. Second, he had to keep people in the neutral zone long enough for them to be fundamentally changed by the wilderness experience.”

QUESTION: How sensitive are your board members, CEO, and senior team members in recognizing that the decisions you make can trigger a variety of emotions and responses among the staff, volunteers, clients/customers, and donors you serve?

MORE RESOURCES: Al Lopus shares more exit wisdom in his guest blog, "Cut the Cord! Invite Board Members to Exit When They Don’t Live Your Values," based on chapter 31 in Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom, by Dan Busby and John Pearson.