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If you build it they will come.


Thinking about the NYS Attorney General’s investigation of Cooper Union’s Board of Trustees’ financial oversight practice – which led to their decision to charge tuition for the first time in the institution’s history – I was struck by the Trustees’ fundraising naiveté.

If we build a world-class building, someone will come along to put their name on it,” went their thinking. And that someone would give them gazillions of dollars for that privilege.

Great concept.

But in reality – NOT. 


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Posted on in Nonprofit

If the increased scrutiny of the 990 didn't already do it, mentioning FEGS is a sure-fire way to strike fear into the heart of a boardroom.

The very fact that such a large nonprofit could fail – even apart from why and how it failed – is a huge object lesson to nonprofit board members that there can be considerable consequences to not paying attention.

Sometimes staff can’t, actually, do it alone. (Or what they do alone is inept, or inadequate, or just plain wrong.) 


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The first Friday in March is marketed as “Staff Appreciation Day.”

Another Hallmark Holiday, a made-up occasion to sell greeting cards, boxes of chocolates, etc. Ho hum, you might say.

And yet.

Last year, a basket bursting with fruit – both plain and chocolate-dipped – was waiting for the Cause Effective staff when we arrived in our office that morning. From a board member. “For all you do, on Staff Appreciation Day,” the message read.

Did we feel appreciated? You bet.


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Cause Effective received a check this week from a long-time friend.

Nothing unusual about that, it’s the season of giving.

But it was a large check, much larger than we ordinarily receive from this person.

Wow!” I wrote him immediately. “That was unexpected and oh so appreciated. You know we’ll do good with it!

His reply?

The pleasure is most especially in the giving. Glad that I could.


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Having just come off a weekend flurry of emails and calls, I started reflecting on how much of a board chair’s work happens behind the scenes.

When it goes well.

Drop a critical issue into the mix at a board meeting without some preparatory groundwork? It might lead to important next steps; it might get sidestepped; it might panic board members right into even deeper disengagement.

But raise a point for discussion that’s been vetted and “owned” by a small group of board members – and the conversation’s more likely to get steered in a productive direction.

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