When board members go AWOL between meetings, try this.

The complaint I hear more than any other from nonprofit execs and/or board chairs is this: Board members disappear between meetings. Poof! They’re gone. Most can’t even be bothered to respond to my message with a one-word reply: “received.” Sound familiar? If so, I point you in the direction of a Harvard Business Review article […]

Will someone state that as a motion?

Motions are the primary means by which a governing board provides directions to the CEO and other staff, so you’d think considerable care would go into shaping them. But think again. More often than not, motions are created as follows: Hoping to bring resolution to a time-sapping discussion, the chair asks, “Will someone state that […]

Breaking ranks with consensus thinking about consensus

Many a boardroom discussion is prolonged in hope of achieving unanimity on an important decision. And nonprofit CEOs and board chairs are often chosen and evaluated on their skill as consensus builders. In fact, if there’s a Holy Grail of the nonprofit sector, it’s full consensus. But not so fast, cautions an article in the […]

Strategies for avoiding meddling by meeting

As part of prepping for a workshop with a nonprofit board that’s new to me, I asked the chair to name his must-be-addressed topic for the day. Almost before the question was out of my mouth, he shot back his answer. “I need help in structuring meetings so that the board stays out of administrative […]

It matters who’s on the mountain with you (part 2)

A few posts back I suggested that for fundraisers, who it is that’s on the mountain with you makes a world of difference. The annual climb to the top of giving pyramid is a grueling, lonely, and sometimes perilous trek. What a blessing to find a hiking companion willing to go the distance with you. […]

My mother-in-law’s Christmas cactus, Policy Governance, and a meaty metaphor

Next to a pithy phrase, a meaty metaphor is my favorite rhetorical device. It’s possible to say a lot with a few words. Case in point: my mother-in-law’s Christmas cactus as a stand-in for Policy Governance. “Say what?” you ask. “Stick with me,” I answer. Following the death of my mother-in-law, I accepted responsibility for […]

7 mid-summer projects for more productive board work in the fall

On Monday of this week, I highlighted a list of spruce-up projects guaranteed to enhance your fundraising results come fall. But it’s not just development staff who can make hay while the sun shines. Board chairs and other governance leaders can do so as well. The dog days of summer are a great time to […]

Governance haiku

Number 1 Anticipation seated at the table, board members ready. Number 2 Motions caught in time, actions out of  inaction. The pace of board (bored) work. Number 3 Meeting adjourns, God’s purposes accomplished. Glorious agenda. Number 4 Meeting adjourns, proud board chair, exhausted executive. No damage done.

Advice for anxious board chairs (and members who are led by them)

With a board meeting staring me in the face, I feel a bout of performance anxiety coming on. Everything I’ve taught or written about board chairs – all 25+ years of pontificating about “best practice” – comes back to haunt me in times like this. I really do believe that no organization can be stronger […]

The problem of the incredible shrinking board

You know the scenario. As the clock ticks down on a board meeting, seats begin to empty. No matter the announced ending time, there are always members who need (or choose) to leave early.  A faithful remnant holds on to the finish line. And should a vote be required, fingers cross in hopes of a […]