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Posted on in Fundraising

Someone from the media’s on the phone? The executive director, usually the public face of the organization, speaks with the reporter and shares the ensuing article with board members, supporters, and the like. End of story.

But not always.

When the issue is controversial, behind the executive director must be the board. And it’s the job of the executive director to know when to reach out to the board to think through, as a group, what the organization’s response should be.

The CEO does not stand alone.

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Posted on in Fundraising

My board leans on me for everything” – an oft-heard lament from executive directors.

It’s logical. Board members, knowing the competence of the executive director, simply assume that dynamic leader will let them know when they’re needed. It’s easier to follow their lead.

But executive directors, juggling a million balls in the air, resent that they’re expected to be in charge of the actions of yet another group of responsible adults.

Yet the opposite complaint is true as well: Beware the runaway decisions made by a board acting on its own without any staff members in the room…

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Posted on in Fundraising

The absent director: Doesn’t respond to emails, barely skims the material, misses more meetings than not.

Nobody wants somebody like this on their board. Non-participation drags the entire board down, as active board members wonder why they’re holding up their end of the bargain while one of their peers is allowed to skate unencumbered through their board service.

But consider the other extreme: board members who fixate on budget details, endlessly debate event programs, fuss over the intricacies of newsletter design.

Sound ideal, to have a board that involved?

Not really.

Because board members need a little distance to properly do their job. 


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Posted on in Fundraising

That which is tracked is achieved.

The fitness industry certainly understands this – witness the proliferation of exercise-monitoring, consumption-measuring devices intended to help individuals lose weight and get more fit.

What lessons can we in the nonprofit world learn from those ubiquitous bracelets, cousin to a “tie a string around my finger” form of memory-aid?

How can we adapt this visual mnemonic, this wearable micro-tracker, to help us do what we intend but that slips our minds?

More to the point – what can we take from our Fitbit universe to help our board members perform to their highest selves? 


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Posted on in Board Development

It’s an issue many nonprofits struggle with – for groups with a highly professionalized staff and a board of “interested laypeople,” what is the real value-add of a Board (aside, of course, from raising money)?

The standard answer, “ to set policy the staff implements” assumes a portrait that doesn’t quite fit – a board that knows enough, indeed, knows more than the staff, about the issues of the field and can therefore wrestle successfully with policy determinations and steer the agency’s course.

For many nonprofits, that just doesn’t ring true.

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