Clarity Matters

expectations

 

All too often, when clients share their concerns with us, they lament about the performance of their Board members. Their discontent is manifest in a variety of ways, but more often than not we hear things like:

My Board never seems to come to meetings prepared, if they come at all.”

 They don’t follow through when I need them to?

Why aren’t they giving at the levels we need?

Just the other day, I was speaking with an executive director about her Board president and, while she said she knows her president is committed to the organization, her ongoing frustration relates to a lack of action. So I asked, “Is there a straight forward set of expectations for your president that you can both reference and discuss?” Does your president understand an on what you are relying on her for?

I also recently asked one of my clients if they had clear expectations for Board members and if there was a protocol in place to discuss/review those with prospective and current members. (Based on some feedback we had received regarding an upcoming campaign initiative, it was evident that Board and staff were not operating from a shared set of expectations.)

I have written in the past about how we can and must invest in building strong relationships with our Board members (“Attention Must be Paid”) and, while that is absolutely true, there is also a great deal of value in making sure that our Board members have clarity as to what is expected and needed from them to help advance your mission. If everyone isn’t operating from the same playbook, and those responsible don’t have a clear understanding of their specific roles, you are ultimately leaving your success to chance.

The good news is that establishing clearly defined roles and responsibilities for your Board members is not complicated.

  • Depending on the size and structure of your Board; your governance committee, executive committee or even your chair/president and one or two other interested Board members can help you to develop criteria appropriate to you organization.
  • Board members must be involved in this process to ensure that there is ownership of the stated expecations.
  • While not an exhaustive list, your expectations should include: terms of service, meeting and special event attendance, committee service, financial support, fundraising and other ambassador roles.

Once your expectations have been approved by the board, or reaffirmed if you have them already–as it is a good idea to revisit these every couple of years, the key is to make sure that someone (Board Chair, Governance Committee Chair, Exec. Dir.) meets with each Board member on an annual basis. This provides an opportunity for the Board member to share any of their concerns, to discuss additional ways in which they think they could contribute to the organization and to make sure that the relationship is mutually beneficial.

If you have had any compelling experiences with your Board Expectations, we’d love to hear about them and share your thoughts and ideas in a future post.

by: David Gee, Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

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Leadership Roles

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Many of my client conversations of late have been focused on Leadership…specifically, the relationship between paid leadership (staff) and volunteer leadership (Board).  Whether your organization is small, just starting out or large and well-established, it is important to periodically affirm leadership roles and responsibilities.  The delineation is pretty simple:  The Board is responsible for hiring, evaluating and, if necessary, firing the Executive Director.  They are also responsible for fiduciary oversight.  The Executive Director is responsible for everything else, which basically means overseeing the day-to-day operations of the organization.

So why does it get so complicated?  Often times – whether it is because the organization is just starting out, there is a change in leadership or even when there is a very strong, collaborative relationship – the roles can become blurred.  Let’s take a closer look at each of these examples.

New Organization

If the organization is new or just starting out, those in leadership positions may be required to wear a variety of “hats”.  The Executive Director may also be recruiting Board members, overseeing the finances, establishing programs, etc.  While this structure is typical for an emerging organization, it is important to have a clear understanding of leadership roles from the outset.  Drafting job descriptions for key staff positions (Executive Director, Program Director, CFO, Director of Development) and Board members – even if those roles aren’t filled for some time – will provide clarity and serve as an objective reminder down the road.

Change in Leadership

When an Executive Director leaves the organization – particularly when it is unexpected – a Board member may volunteer to (or have to) step in and provide day-to-day oversight and sense of stability to staff members and donors alike.  While this may be appropriate, and can work for a short period, it is not an ideal arrangement for a longer period of time.  Here are a few reasons why it is not an ideal long-term solution:

  • This reporting structure can be awkward or uncomfortable for staff members
  • The Board member serving in this role may not be well-versed or equipped to handle the significant responsibilities of the Executive Director
  • Continuous transitions in leadership may be confusing for donors and other supporters

If the organization plans to launch an immediate search to replace the Executive Director, this solution is acceptable; however, if the organization needs some time to get organized, confirm direction, etc., it may be more beneficial to hire an interim Executive Director to fill this role.

Strong, Collaborative Relationship

In organizations where the Board and staff have worked together for many years, the result is typically a strong, collaborative partnership.  There is mutual trust, and often a “rhythm” in the collaboration among the leadership.  However, it is important to remember that this balance can easily shift.  For example, if the Board members start getting “in the weeds” of the day-to-day programming direction and decisions, or if they begin to tell staff members directly what to do or how to do something, the established trust can easily be broken.

So, whether your organization is new or old, big or small and whether you are new to your role or have been in it for some time, it is healthy to review roles and responsibilities with the other leadership team members periodically.  Formalizing this process (perhaps as a part of your annual goal-setting conversation) will help keep your organization humming and provide an objective way to get things back on track if the relationship starts to shift.

by: Susan Bottum Matejka, Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Are you “tough as nails” or “soft as cotton?”

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As a CEO, or Executive Director, how would others describe you? Charismatic…pushy…a visionary?

What would your donors and staff say about you?

I’ve worked with many nonprofit leaders. A few have fallen into one of two distinct camps: Tough as nails or soft as cotton.

So which is best?

The soft as cotton leader was magnetic, warm, and a great listener.  He ruled with his heart and hired individuals he knew and trusted to run the organization he founded. Some of the staff members were friends who lacked a nonprofit background.  But he was confident they would find a way to reach the organization’s goals.   He was a consensus builder and attracted donors that inherently trusted him to make the right decisions for the organization.

On the other hand, the tough as nails leader didn’t always entertain the opinions of everyone around the table.  She would not be described as a consensus builder, but was intelligent and made swift decisions.  People might call her firm, but fair. She too, put the mission of the organization first.

These two people are opposites in my mind, but it takes all kinds of leaders to make the world go round right? So which ED would you trust to use your hard eared, donations wisely? Who would seek to guide your organization into the future?

You see, the warm, magnetic leader didn’t put the right people into the right positions to lead the organization. He ruled too much with his heart and not enough with his head.  This jeopardized the mission.

The tough as nails leader earned my dollar, my respect, my time.

I trusted this leader to sidestep emotions that might develop during tough decision and keep the mission of the organization first. As an individual, her magnetism was easily rivaled, but as a leader, she was solid, believable, and trustworthy.

Each of us has an impact on the level of trust that donors have in our organizations. Find the style that works best for you.  Most importantly be the type of leader you would follow.

by: Michelle Jimenez, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Transitions

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My wife and I aren’t the biggest TV watchers beyond the nightly news, a White Sox game and the occasional political news station, however, we have recently been engrossed with the Netflix biographical drama The Crown. We’re just a few episodes into the first season where the show highlights Queen Elizabeth’s sudden ascension of power soon after her father King George VI passes away.

One of the key themes is the many transitions that take place because of the new leadership. We see promotions and demotions with the new assistants, deputies and private aides which lead to a lot of uncertainty. It’s no different when changes happen at a non-profit. When a new President, department head or manager joins the team, there is without a doubt change that will transpire. The changes mostly likely aren’t going to be made overnight but change is inevitable.

One of the roles we can play and assist with during these times of transition is making sure the new team members are properly informed on the institutional background of the organization. Yes, they will have to do their own homework, learn the systems and especially familiarize themselves with the many stakeholders but taking the time to provide them with your knowledge is the right thing to do personally and for the organization.

Transition without solid communication is a recipe for confusion and frustration. It is essential to keep the lines of communication open as there will most likely be anxiety amongst the team and employees will require some time to engage the newness. Transitions are hard on everyone and making sure that everyone is informed can be an easy win to avoid pessimists and unnecessary conversation. If you aren’t in a position of authority you should speak up and ask questions so you are informed.

For transitions that are self-induced, they should be handled skillfully as your reputation is on the line. Think back on the time you joined the organization and how well or how poorly the transition went. It’s important to make sure you are leaving your replacement and team in good hands so any required reports or notes that are provided are completed with accuracy and are on point.

Assisting in the transition no matter what role you play or what level you are in the organization is everyone’s job. As I’ve witnessed in The Crown and in work evolutions I’ve been a part of, support and most of all trust are required ingredients to have in a successful and smooth transition.

 by: Tim Kennedy, Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Seasoned and Green

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Is your current Board comprised of established members – constituents who have been a part of your organization for a decade or longer?  Over the past few weeks, I have found myself in conversation with several non-profit leaders where this topic has been raised.  The consistent concerns are twofold:

  1. How do we continue to engage this important (and aging) group; and
  2. How do we attract and engage the “next generation” of leaders?

Let’s take the first group first.  Obviously, it is important to continue to recognize and thank your faithful leaders.  But it is also important to read their cues.  In other words, do you have a Board member who is getting tired?  Is he/she hinting that it may be time to take a less active role with the organization?  The best approach is simply to have a conversation with this person.  Invite him/her for coffee or lunch and listen.  Ask open-ended questions.  Find out how they would like to stay engaged and informed.

If your organization does not have one, perhaps you should consider creating an Advisory Council or a President’s Council.  Designed to meet the needs of your organization and a select group of constituents, this type of “board” typically meets only once a year for lunch and a “state of the organization”-type presentation.  In addition, the members of this Council may be consulted occasionally for advice or assistance.  This arrangement is typically a “win-win” for members and the organization alike.

It is equally important to “listen” to the senior Board members who want to continue to be active and engaged.  Unfortunately, I have seen active Board members forced to “resign” to a role as a Life Trustee – or something less meaningful – as a way to open a Board spot for someone else.  This can be a big mistake, as some may take offense and become less engaged, both with their time and their resources.

In terms of attracting the “next generation” – it is also important to listen and understand what type of volunteer work they are interested in and what role they may want to play with the organization.  It’s typically a good idea to find more entry level roles for younger constituents – perhaps they can help with a benefit or serve on a Junior Board.  This helps both the volunteer and the organization get acquainted before making a potentially bigger commitment, such as a Board role.  It is also fun to identify and cultivate family members – children or other relatives of Board members or volunteers –  as they typically have a good understanding of the mission and may be interested in developing a relationship with the organization as well.

In any of these scenarios, it is often just a matter of observing, asking good questions – and truly listening to the needs and interests of your constituents.  Which simply translates into good development.

by: Susan Bottum Matejka, Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Multi-Directional Managing

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After a career of 45 years, I’ve earned the title “Senior” Advisor.  But the truth is, like most employed people, I’ve spent my entire career somewhere in the middle of the management structure.  Think about it.  No matter where you are in management, you have responsibilities to manage down, up, and across your position.  Understanding the differences is important for people with positions of responsibility in non-profit organizations.

Most management theory has to do with giving direction to those beneath you in the organization: how to boost productivity, manage the work-load, and get the most out of people who report to you.  Chances are you spend the majority of your time managing down.  Your “to do list” probably has a list of deadlines and tasks to be accomplished, and getting those things done is a large part of what you were hired to do.

People who work in non-profit organizations also spend a good portion of their time managing up.  If you report to an Executive Director, look at your organization’s goals from his or her perspective, and think together about how you can help the ED to achieve the goals.  If you are an Executive Director, you know you have direct responsibility to members of your Board.  Good managers know that they need to spend significant amounts of time each week recruiting and retaining productive board members, and strategizing with them on the future goals and accomplishments of the organization.

The most neglected part of management is what I call managing across the organization and profession.  It took me many years to realize that I myself and the people who report to me cannot accomplish the goals for the organization in isolation.  Observing effective managers, I realized that they are adept at gaining support from peers within and outside the organization.  In a large non-profit, you as a development professional will be more effective if you work together with peers from marketing, intake, human resources, technology, accounting, etc. to accomplish the goals you all share.  In a small non-profit, you may have to look outside the organization to find peers who can complement your skill set and help you to think about how to accomplish your goals from a different perspective.  Some of the ways to do this include joining professional organizations, seeking consultant services, and/or attending professional workshops and national conferences.

The next time you visit your list of goals and objectives, take a few minutes to analyze it.  Make sure that you include goals to manage down, up, and across.  You will be more productive and happier if you do!

 by: Steven Murphy, Ed.D., Senior Advisor, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

 

 

Our Champions

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January 15 is a special day in America…the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. MLK Day is observed on the third Monday of January each year as a day that we remember a champion.  It’s not only a day where banks and schools are closed, but a day to celebrate the life and legacy of a man who brought hope and healing to America. Dr. King’s values of courage, truth, justice, compassion, dignity, humility and service defined his character and empowered his leadership.

MLK Day is also a national day of service.  All across America over this weekend, people are volunteering to feed the hungry, rehabilitate housing, tutoring those who can’t read, mentoring at-risk youth…the list goes on and the projects are many.  Many of these volunteer efforts impact the organizations that we also work to support.

I encourage you to take pause on this Holiday and think about your leaders.  Who are the champions of your organizations? Many of us are so fortunate to have caring compassionate leaders who dedicate their time and resources to support our organizations.  Our board members, donors, committee members, volunteers and community partners are key to our organization’s success in carrying out our missions.

So on this day, one of hope and promise and celebration of service, take a few minutes to think about your leaders…your champions…and, this week, make the time to write them each a handwritten note of thanks for all that they do.  Dr. King once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is…what are you doing for others?”  This week, remind your champions that their voice, their commitment and dedication to your mission that impacts others has great meaning and value.  That it makes a real difference and that we are grateful.

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

 

Thank you to a Philanthropic Leader

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During this season of giving, Hub Philanthropic Solutions wants to shine a light on a philanthropic leader in the western suburbs of Chicago — Community Memorial Foundation (CMF).  Established in 1995, CMF is a private independent foundation working to measurably improve the health of people who live and work in the western suburbs of Chicago. Health is broadly defined by CMF, and includes physical, mental, environmental, social, and spiritual aspects. CMF views its grantees as partners and is committed to being both responsible and responsive to community needs in its grant-making.

In addition to investing in programs of its grantee partners, CMF invests in their leadership in innovative and creative ways. One such initiative — Together for Health: The Impact of 3 —indeed had a tremendous impact on organizations. Designed to highlight the important role board members play in building a culture of philanthropy, this challenge helped organizations sustain their mission-driven work.

In November 2015, CMF invited board members and executive leadership to invest in the missions of the organizations they serve and to invite others to do the same. Within one year, CMF sponsored four leadership workshops for executive staff and board members, on topics ranging from creating a culture of philanthropy to developing and stewarding major and planned giving donors.

As part of the Challenge, CMF also offered a matching grant opportunity. CMF provided up to a $9,500 match on new or increased donations from board members — including former members, advisory members and standing committee members — provided that the board members also sponsor a similar $9,500 match on new or increased donations from individuals to their organizations.

In November 2016, CMF gathered all participants for its final leadership workshop and celebration. In one year’s time, the challenge had a tremendous impact on the western suburbs: more than 50 organizations leveraged over $4.1 million in new and increased contributions. These new gifts mean different things to different organizations: for one, it means providing mental health services to 65 individuals for one year. For another, it means providing safe haven to victims of domestic violence. Still another is enhancing its work with adults living with disabilities. Another is supporting its organizational infrastructure to continue creating a culture of philanthropy.

Thank you, Community Memorial Foundation.

by: Molly Galo, Senior Consultant, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

What’s on your summer reading list?

By Tim Kennedy, Senior Consultant, HUB Philantropic Solutions

If you are like me, your Facebook feed is full of friends asking for the best summer read. And while we all will and should indulge in the summer reading books it’s also a great time to keep up to date on our industry and the latest trends.

With so many types of resources available whether it’s research studies, reports and the latest Giving USA data and through so many channels such as social media, blogs (especially this one), conferences, webinars, websites and newsletters it can be overwhelming to read and dissect them all.

A colleague recently shared an article with me in the Chronicle of Philanthropy on Women in Philanthropy. It was an impactful piece on the ever changing demographic changes in philanthropy and how “women are primed to wield philanthropic power as never before.” I shared the article with a few of the boards that I work with and many responded how much they enjoyed the read.

It reminded me that it’s always good to share these types of articles and reports to fellow staff, leadership and the board members we work with to make sure everyone involved with the organization continues to stay informed.

It also reminded me of the pile that is accumulating on my home desk. I have articles from the Chronicle, Inside Philanthropy and Nonprofit Times piled up that I need to get to this summer. It’s our job as fundraisers to remain on top of the latest giving trends, donor habits and foundation funding strategies to name a few.

While the pile on my night stand can be daunting, I’m committed to making sure I leverage all of this information to stay informed and up to date. A colleague recently recommended a book entitled Asking by Jerold Panas so I’ve added it to my summer reading list. I’ll be sure to let you know what I learn.

Happy Summer. Happy Reading

 

Taking Inventory of Your Development Department

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by Susan Bottum, Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Over the past several months, I have been in a number of conversations with clients regarding the structure of their Development department.  These conversations have been interesting and have pushed my clients to think objectively the needs of their organization today.  Often times, Development departments “evolve”, based on the skill set of the team and the immediate needs of the organization.  I find it beneficial to take a step back every now and then to take inventory.

First, make sure you have a good understanding of the organization’s goals:

  • What are the organization’s objectives over the next 12-24 months?
  • What is the Development department’s role in helping to meet these objectives?
  • Do we have the right roles in place within the Development department?
    • If not, what roles are missing?
    • What roles are no longer needed?

Next, take inventory:

  • Do we have the right skillsets within our current team?
  • If so, are those skills aligned to the correct positions?
  • If not, what is missing?
    • Can we identify training to address this?
    • Do we need to add resources to the team?

This exercise can prove beneficial in ensuring the right support for the organization and it can often prove uplifting for members of the Development team.  Sometimes a little change to a current position can be exciting and energizing with new opportunities and challenges.

Lastly, if you determine the need to hire a new person, here are a few good resources for non-profits:

Job posting – You can post your position at npo.net for as little as $70.  Most of my clients have used this website and have had good luck in finding qualified candidates.

Salary information – If you are unsure about a salary range for a position, go to Payscale.com.  It will provide salary ranges and other details free of charge.