Revisiting LinkedIn’s Board Member Connect service

linkedin5When I engage non-profit organizations in board development related issues, it can be like simultaneously operating in two parallel and polar opposite universes. One universe exists where everyone is talking about how things are “supposed to be” done. This is described in the agency’s written board development plan. In the other universe, there are board members and staff sitting around a table talking about “some guy” they know without any discussion about board composition gap assessment, prospect lists, prospect evaluation or anything that sounds like process.

Growing the capacity of your non-profit board is a complicated formula that includes you doing the following:

  • Understanding the holes you need to fill.
  • Successfully identifying prospects who fill those gaps.
  • Thoughtfully evaluating and factoring in a prospect’s skill sets/talents and experiences so a smart determination can be made about moving forward with recruitment.
  • Developing and using a recruitment process that sets expectations and helps a potential prospect see what they are potentially say ‘YES‘ to doing before making that commitment.
  • Employing a thorough new board member orientation program and ongoing boardroom training calendar.
  • Developing and using tools (e.g. performance plans, dashboards, scorecards, etc) to show board members where they’re at and what they still need to do.
  • Engaging in year-end evaluation discussions focused on recognition and deeper engagement.

Your board governance and board development program will be “top shelf” if you do ALL of these things. Just having it in writing doesn’t count. You need to practice what you preach.

Not doing even one or two of these things is akin to skipping ingredients in a recipe. Following this analogy through to its logical conclusion, I ask you to imagine what a bread recipe looks like if you forget to add the yeast or the flour.

I often hear board development committee volunteers and staff openly complain about how hard it is to:

  • identify good prospects
  • ascertain skill sets and experiences
  • complete prospect evaluation exercises in a satisfying manner

linkedin4With this in mind, I am reminded of an old “Mondays with Marissa” post from a year ago titled “How Nonprofits Can Maximize LinkedIn to Grow Their Community“. In that post, Marissa talked briefly about LinkedIn’s new Board Member Connect connect service. This was a new service launched in 2012, and it was just getting off the ground.

In the last few days, I was poked by LinkedIn about this fee-based service for non-profit organizations. They’re organizing another informational webinar on Wednesday, September 4, 2013 at 1:00 pm (Central Time). Click here to learn more and register.

In the meantime, I thought I would take a look around the blogosphere to see what others were saying about LinkedIn’s Board Member Connect service. The following are just a few of the more interesting articles I decided to share with DonorDreams blog readers who might be interested in learning more:

What I found most interesting is that I didn’t come across any web reviews from non-profit leaders who’ve used LinkedIn’s Board Member Connect service. It makes me wonder if . . . a) no one is really using this service or b) everyone is so happy that there isn’t even one random web review complaint?

I suppose the only way for your agency to find out is to attend the webinar and ask around.

Have you used LinkedIn’s Board Member Connect service? What was your experience? If not, how else is your board development committee identifying good prospects for your board? Please scroll down and share your thought, ideas and practices in the comment box below. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

What revenue model is your non-profit agency using?

source of fundsMore than a year ago, I stumbled upon a fun article published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR)  titled “Ten Nonprofit Funding Models“. It provided clarity for me around what I was seeing in the non-profit sector. So, I bookmarked it and re-read it from time-to-time. Recently, I’ve found myself talking to a number of different non-profit professionals and board volunteers about this article, which is usually a sure sign that I better blog about it.

As you know, there are many different types of organizations calling themselves members of the non-profit sector.

  • Churches
  • Universities
  • Hospitals
  • Arts organizations
  • Membership organizations (e.g. chamber of commerce, etc)
  • Human Services/Social Services

Each of these types of non-profit organizations look very different. Each board has different wrinkles, and their revenue models also take on a different complexion.

The SSIR article by William Landes Foster, Peter Kim, & Barbara Christiansen names and describes ten different funding models:

  1. Heartfelt Connector
  2. Beneficiary Builder
  3. Member Motivator
  4. Big Bettor
  5. Public Provider
  6. Policy Innovator
  7. Beneficiary Broker
  8. Resource Recycler
  9. Market Maker
  10. Local Nationalizer

Some of you are probably wondering what each of these models means. I encourage you to click-through to the SSIR article and read it for yourself. Those authors do a great job of breaking down each of the models.

What I’ve found myself talking to many non-profit professionals and board members about lately isn’t which revenue model they’re using. My conversations have been rooted in what the authors of this article say in their final few paragraphs:

In the current economic climate it is tempting for nonprofit leaders to seek money wherever they can find it, causing some nonprofits to veer off course. That would be a mistake. During tough times it is more important than ever for nonprofit leaders to examine their funding strategy closely and to be disciplined about the way that they raise money. We hope that this article provides a framework for nonprofit leaders to do just that.”

In my opinion, it is so true that many non-profit organizations have sought money wherever they can find it, especially once they realized that the economy isn’t going to just snap back into place and we now find ourselves in a “New Normal”.

board of directors4So, the conversations I’ve been referencing throughout this post have to do with board development and not the actual revenue models.

I believe that non-profit organizations build their boards around their revenue model. For example, if your agency is highly dependent on fees, then you probably haven’t recruited world-class fundraising volunteers to sit on your board. The same holds true for organizations with a government funding revenue model.

So, when you start tinkering with your revenue model (e.g. adding an event, pledge drive, direct mail, etc), I believe it creates tension in the boardroom for two reasons:

  1. You’re asking people to do something that wasn’t part of the original deal.
  2. You’re also asking people to do something they aren’t likely good at doing.

If you find yourself in the position of having to tweak your revenue model, I suggest the following:

  • Facilitate a conversation in the boardroom and build consensus around the idea of changing or tweaking your revenue model. Make sure all consequences are understood and appreciated.
  • Ask your board governance committee to complete a new gap assessment based upon some of the new roles you’re asking board members to take on.
  • Focus your board recruitment efforts on bringing in new board volunteers to help fill your newly identified gaps.
  • Allow current board members to step off the board gracefully and help them find a new seat on the bus where they can still participate in your mission.
  • If you need a blended board to make your blended revenue model work, then deliberately talk about roles and responsibilities in the board room to avoid misunderstandings between volunteers.

The New Normal may have thrown your organization a curveball, but it doesn’t mean you need to go through a dysfunctional transition. A little bit of thoughtfulness and board engagement can go a long way.

Did you click-through and read the Stanford Social Innovation Review article? If so, what were your thoughts? Which revenue model is your agency using? Do you find yourself tweaking your revenue model in an effort to adapt to The New Normal? How is your board handling the transition?

Please scroll down and share your thoughts and observations in the comment box below. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Mmmmm … strategy for breakfast again?

breakfast5Welcome to O.D. Fridays at DonorDreams blog. Every Friday for the foreseeable future we will be looking at posts from John Greco’s blog called “johnponders ~ about life at work, mostly” and applying his organizational development messages to the non-profit community.

In a post titled “Making Breakfast,” John talks about how “culture eats strategy for breakfast“. He is referencing the importance of your organizational culture in everything you do. Of course, John says it in a way that only an organizational development professional can:

The strategy required specific organizational knowledge, competencies, and behaviors to effectively execute and deliver the results as envisioned. And the organization didn’t have those. So with every presentation of the strategy, I was conflicted.  Despite being consistently motivated by the possibility, I was increasingly concerned about the capability.”

In 2006, I made what I’ve now come to see as a brave decision when I left the front line and took a job as an internal consultant working for a national non-profit organization. For five years, I woke up every morning (usually in a hotel room somewhere on the road) and learned over and over again that culture eats strategy for breakfast.

To broadly and simply define my job . . . I was “Strategy Man”. My employer armed me with a 110 page manual focused on how to plan, organize, develop, implement and evaluate an annual campaign pledge drive. In addition to that manual, I was provided tons of tools, templates and samples that filled my consultants toolbox.

Some of you might be thinking “Easy, peasy, lemon squeezy.” But you would be way off target. Why? Because culture eats strategy for breakfast!

So, picture this . . .

I walk into an organization’s boardroom and sit down with a group of agency staff and volunteer board members. I pull out my PowerPoint presentation and lots of other shiny objects. Nothing up my sleeve … right? This fundraising thing is easy. Making an in-person, face-to-face fundraising solicitation is as easy as following these simple 12-steps.

When I was done selling the sizzle (e.g. teaching fundraising strategies), I was often met with resistance, bombarded with reasons why it wouldn’t work and told why they wouldn’t do it that way (e.g. organizational culture).

breakfast1Do you see it? Culture eats strategy!

If your non-profit organization has hired staff who don’t possess fundraising skill sets and don’t have a track record of success with resource development, then sitting through a meeting listening to “strategy” can be arduous and sometimes downright frightening. The typical response is “resistance,” which is what John means when he says culture eats strategy for breakfast.

The same explanation holds true for your organization’s board of directors.

If you are just recruiting warm bodies to fill chairs around your boardroom table without being intentional, then you probably have a boardroom of people who say things like: “Ask me to do anything, but please don’t ask me to fundraise.”  (If I had a nickle for every time I heard that expression, I’d be retired and living on a tropical island sipping cool drinks in the shade.)

“If you want strategies to work, then you need to have the right people sitting around the table!”

Hire the right people. Recruit the right volunteers. Be intentional.

Last week, I was told by a board volunteer that he didn’t appreciate all of this talk about developing and following a board development process to increase the size of his board of directors. He kept arguing that we should throw process out the window and ask every existing board volunteer to ask a friend of theirs to join the board. Doing so would double the size of the board much quicker than how I was suggesting they do it.

breakfast2Hmmmm … looking back at that meeting, I think he was cooking up a hearty breakfast for me.

Some of you are probably wondering if your hiring and recruitment practices are intentional. If you answer ‘YES’ to many of the following questions, then you are probably being intentional:

  • Do you have a board development committee focused on growing the board?
  • Do you use tools that set expectations for prospective new board members (e.g. written volunteer position descriptions and commitment pledges)? Do you share these tools with prospects before asking them to join your board?
  • Do you build prospect lists with the thought of filling gaps and acquiring volunteers with specific skill sets and experiences?
  • Are you doing some informal background checking (e.g. asking friends and acquaintances about their current commitments, passions, past experiences, etc) before prioritizing who you plan on approaching first?
  • Are you able to rattle off a list of characteristics and traits of a successful board volunteer? How about a successful fundraising volunteer?

If you want to succeed at whatever your organization is looking at doing, then first ask yourself if your agency “possesses the organizational knowledge, competencies, and behaviors to effectively execute and deliver the results as envisioned“. If not, then you need to work on organizational culture first before introducing strategies into the discussion.

How do you change organizational culture? Be intentional!

If you choose to plow forward with strategy with a blind eye turned towards culture, then you better be hungry for a large heaping breakfast plate.  😉

Have you ever had to change the people (e.g. staff, board, etc) who were sitting around your table? If so, how did you do it? What lessons did you learn? Do you have a very intentional board development process? Scroll down and use the comment box to share your thoughts and experiences.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Non-Profit Governance: The Work of the Board, part 1

Dani Robbins is the Founder & Principal Strategist at Non Profit Evolution located in Columbus, Ohio. I’ve invited my good friend and fellow non-profit consultant to the first Wednesday of each month about board development related topics. Dani also recently co-authored a book titled “Innovative Leadership Workbook for Nonprofit Executives” that you can find on 

Governance: The Work of the Board, part 1

Hiring, Supporting and Evaluating the Executive

By Dani Robbins

board of directors3

As mentioned in Board Basics and reposted on this very siteBoards are made up of appointed community leaders who are collectively responsible for governing an organization.” That includes:

  • Setting the Mission, Vision and Strategic Plan,
  • Hiring, Supporting and Evaluating the Executive Director,
  • Acting as the Fiduciary Responsible Agent,
  • Setting Policy, and
  • Raising Money.

As you know, one of my goals is to rectify the common practice in the field of people telling non-profit executives and boards how things should be without any instruction as to what that actually means or how to accomplish it.

Since I wrote a recent post on Strategic Planning, I’m going to circle back to that one and start with Hiring, Supporting and Evaluating the Executive Director.

What that means is:

It is the Board’s role to hire the Executive Director, also called CEO. Prior to hiring, interviewing or even posting the job, it is imperative the Board discus what they want and need in an Executive Director. This conversation cannot be farmed out to a committee primarily consisting of non board members, or to a consultant or hiring firm. That will only get you what they want and think you need – not what you want and actually need.

What skill sets and experience do you need in a leader?

Growing, turning around or maintaining an organization require very different skill sets. Which trait do you want your new leader to have? Does your leader need to be a subject matter expert? Does she need to be local? Does he need to be a fund raiser, an operations person or both?

I recommend a search, REGARDLESS OF . . .

  • if there is a good internal person,
  • if someone on the board wants the job, or
  • if there is an obvious heir apparent.

Do a search, let everyone apply and see who best matches your needs. For more information on conducting a search, please click here.

exec searchOnce your hire an Executive Director, s/he needs to be supported. Supporting an Executive Director is where the rubber meets the road.

I once had a colleague tell her board to “Support her or fire her, but to choose.”  While I was shocked, I was also in agreement. The job of the Executive Director is very difficult and energy spent on worrying is not spent on moving the organization forward. (To the Executive Director’s out there: Worrying about keeping your job precludes you from doing your job. You have to do what you believe is best, based on your experience, information and training, within the boundaries of your role and the law. We all know that any day could be the day you quit or get fired. That can’t stop you from leading.)

Communication is key: the Board needs to know (and approve of) what the Executive Director is doing and the Executive Director needs to know (and be willing to do) what the Board wants.

It is the Board Chair’s job to be the direct supervisor of the Executive Director and the entire Board’s job is to support him/her, set goals and hold her accountable to those goals. This means the Board has to let the Executive Director fulfill the bounds of his/her role. There should also be a strategic plan that is being implemented, board approved policies that are being followed and an annual evaluation process for the Executive Director (and the rest of the staff).

The vast majority of Executive Directors rarely get evaluated, and when they do it’s often because they asked for an evaluation. (To the Board Presidents out there: Executive Directors, just like Board members and most other people, when left to their own devices will do that they think is right. What they think is right will not necessarily be aligned with what the Board wants, especially if what the Board wants has not been discussed or communicated. It also may not be aligned with anything anyone else is doing. See the Strategic Plan link above to create alignment.)

Executive Directors should be given expectations and goals (just like all other staff) and should be evaluated against those expectations and goals every year. There should be a staff (including executive) compensation plan that has a range for salaries for each position and reflect comparable positions in your community; raises should be given within the confines of that plan, or the plan should be revised. (More on that in the Setting Policies blog to come in the next few days.)

Hiring, Supporting and Evaluating the Executive Director has to happen – in full- for your executive to be an effective leader, for your board to fulfill its responsibilities and for your organization to fulfill its mission.

When an Executive Director is hired right, supported appropriately and evaluated effectively there’s no end to the impact it can make on an organization and a community.

What’s been your experience? As always, I welcome your insight and experience.
dani sig

What are the golf balls in your non-profit organization’s jar?

I have people in my life who I consider friends that like to spam my email inbox. I bet you have friends like that, too. It isn’t malicious, but it is annoying. However, every once in a great while they catch me in the right mood, and I open one of those emails. Typically, I find sappy stuff about friendship and other times it is a modern-day chain letter. This last weekend, I opened one of those emails and found a fun little video about life and priorities. After a little reflection, I decided  there is a lot of wisdom in that video as it pertains to your non-profit organization.

Rather than spam your email inbox, you can either click here or on the picture below to view the short little inspiration video produced by

Borowski video screen shot

Cute . . . sappy . . . everything that I promised. Right?

However, what if the pickle jar in the video wasn’t your life, but it instead represented your non-profit organization? What would those “golf balls” (aka those things that are most important to your organizational mission and success)?

Here is a short list (in no particular order) of what I think your golf balls should be:

  1. Clients
  2. Staff
  3. Board volunteers
  4. Donors
  5. Program volunteers

jar of golf ballsI suspect many of you are nodding your heads right now. However, stop and think about your last week and where you spent your time. I suspect that many of you focused lots of time, energy and resources on the pebbles, sand and liquid in your non-profit jar such as:

  • an upcoming fundraising event or campaign
  • facility issues
  • technology challenges
  • bookkeeping or accounting issues
  • donor database administration
  • reconciliation activities

I suspect many of you are now starting to rationalize how these activities are related to the golf balls in your non-profit pickle jar. If you’re doing that, then I encourage you to STOP.

Yes, everything is interrelated. Of course! But take a moment to step back and see the bigger picture.

It is far to easy to focus your attention as a leader on things at the granular level (aka sand). In my experience, leaders are able to focus on the little things as well as the big things.

When putting your calendar together, make sure that your schedule reflects BOTH big and little things. For example, you should be sitting down with your board volunteers in between board meeting as well as putting the agenda and board packet together. You should be meeting with the annual campaign committee to plan the next pledge drive as well as sitting down with donors over a cup of coffee to talk about how their contribution is making magic happen.

The pickle jar analogy can be used to analyze any number of activities related to your non-profit organization. You could be asking questions like:

  • What are the golf balls in my fundraising plan?
  • What are the golf balls in my board development plan?
  • What are the golf balls in my program plan?

The following are links to other bloggers who offer other lists of golf balls for other pickle jars:

Did I get your brain working on this wonderful Monday morning? Which pickle jar are you thinking about? What are the golf balls in that jar? What strategies do you use to make sure you aren’t just focusing on the sand as the days and weeks slip through our hands? Do you have time management best practices that you would like to share with your fellow non-profit friends?

Please take a moment to scroll down to the comment box and share your thoughts and experiences. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

If you love me, you’d never ask me run another non-profit raffle again

IMG_20130719_171856_480The other day it was hot in the Chicago area, and I decided to run to the grocery store to get some sugar-free ice cream for my diabetic spouse. As I trudged through the hot blacktop parking lot, I saw an unfortunate sight . . . a volunteer sweating his rear-end off standing behind a booth selling raffle tickets for the Knights of Columbus (see picture to the right). I was immediately reminded of a time not-so-long-ago when that used to be me.

The year was 2000 and I had just been hired as the new executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Elgin. Just the year before this organization attempted to run its first Duck Race special event fundraiser. Without going into the details, it didn’t make them money. However, I was young and dumb. I was an inexperienced and a newly minted executive director. I had seen a very dear friend run a Duck Race in a different community, and he had been wildly successful netting close to $100,000.

If he could do it, then I could do it. After all, how hard could it be? All it seemed to entail was:

  • selling corporate sponsorships,
  • standing in high traffic areas and selling $5.00 duck adoptions to people who want a chance at winning a new car, and
  • putting numbers ducks in the river and pulling the winners out of the water to determine who wins which prizes.

What was the big deal? OMG . . . I wish I knew then what I know now.

As I approached the poor hot and sweaty Knights of Columbus volunteer, all of the pain came flooding back to me:

  • Recruiting 100 volunteers to help with every aspect of the race (e.g. marketing, tagging ducks, putting ducks in the water, taking ducks out of the water, data entry, and not to mention selling duck adoptions),
  • Organizing countless teams of volunteers to sell duck adoptions and trying every trick in the book to create a sense of fun-excitement-competition,
  • Chasing down volunteers to sign-up for weekend sales shifts (standing outside of the same grocery store where the Knights of Columbus volunteer was sweating),
  • Spending the entire weekend driving from sales location to sales location to support the volunteers by replenishing petty cash banks, restock merchandise, and fill gaps in between shifts where necessary, and
  • Personally filling holes in the schedule . . . standing outside of the grocery store or hardware store or bank . . . yelling out your sales pitch at people leaving the store . . . getting scowled at by people who don’t appreciate the disturbance . . . selling an adoption to approximately one-out-of-ten people.

ducks2These five bullet points are just the tip of the iceberg. The fact of the matter is that we started planning next year’s Duck Race in the immediate days and weeks after wrapping one up. This special event raffle was a year-round affair.

For me personally, it represented an eight week period of my life every year when I worked seven days per week . . . 56 days in a row without a day off for good behavior. I did this for six years, and when I was weighing the options associated with another job offer, the Duck Race was one of the Top Five reasons I left for greener pastures.

As I passed by the Knights of Columbus booth for the refuge of an air conditioned store, I put my head down and refused to make eye contact with that poor volunteer (just like thousands of other people did to me when I was selling duck adoptions). The last thing that ran through my head was the promise I’ve made myself to never work for a non-profit agency that runs any kind of raffle. The following is a list of reasons for this decision:

  1. Raffles are nothing more than gambling and there are laws, rules and regulations that don’t seem to be worth the time, energy or effort.
  2. Raffles entice donors to make a contribution to your charity for reasons other than your mission and getting these donors to crossover to other campaigns or events is next to impossible.
  3. Raffles involve prizes which means you better not mess things up or you run the risk of being sued.
  4. The record keeping is overwhelming and can involve double and triple entry of financial data depending on how your donor database, financial management system and raffle software are configured.
  5. Opportunity cost and return on investment calculations point to greener pastures when you look at using the same amount of time in other fundraising efforts (e.g. annual campaign pledge drives, etc).

The bottom line for me is that selling raffle tickets and chances should be an activity that is beneath every non-profit board volunteer. Their time is too valuable to ask them to sweat outside of a grocery store selling raffle tickets $5.00 at a time. How many donors could they have sat down with in the same amount of time and asked for a $250, $2,500 or $10,000 pledge?

Here is another way to think about it. If you don’t have the type of volunteers who feel comfortable sitting down individually with important donors and if your volunteers are more willing to sell raffle chances, then you probably have the wrong people sitting around your boardroom table. Perhaps, these people are  well-intentioned fundraising volunteers, but they certainly aren’t good board prospects.

If this last revelation upsets you, please accept my apologies. However, don’t dismiss this thought too quickly. Like a good cup of tea, let this idea steep and then share your thoughts in the comment box below.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Is your non-profit good at the Why-How-What?

TED TalksA few days ago I bumped into a non-profit friend who had recently viewed a TED Talks video on YouTube featuring Simon Sinek titled “How great leaders inspire action“. It was obvious to me that this was a TED Talks video that I needed to view because it had inspired her to take action. Not only was she talking to everyone about what Simon calls the “Golden Circle,” but she had also shared the video with board volunteers as a precursor to a strategic discussion.

I think there are three things that make this video so contagious and easy to watch:

  1. The idea of the “golden circle” is easy . . . What-How-Why.
  2. These ideas are woven into many non-profit professionals’ DNA.
  3. The speaker does a nice job of relating What-How-Why to other companies and their successes (e.g Apple)

Early in the video Simon says,

Every single organization on the planet knows WHAT they do . . . Some know HOW they do it. Whether you call it your differentiating value proposition, you proprietary process or your USP . . . But very, very few people or organizations know WHY they do what they do.  And by WHY, I don’t mean ‘to make a profit’. That is a result. It is always a result. By WHY I mean what is your purpose? What’s your cause? What’s your belief? Why does your organization exist?

I’ve done a lot of strategic planning over the years. I’ve also done lots of tactical planning. And Simon hits on a super powerful idea with his What-How-Why.

what how whyThose organizations that excel at strategic planning have a very clear understanding of what they do, how they do it, and why they exist. However, those organizations that are little fuzzy on these ideas do a lot of wrestling with themselves. Sometimes countless hours are spent at the 50,000 foot view talking about these issues . . . and for good reason! Without clarity on What-How-Why, there is no way you can set goals, develop objectives and write action plans that are meaningful in any way, shape or form.

Some of you might be scoffing right now and asking, “How in the world can a non-profit agency not know ‘WHY’ they exist? It is as simple as revisiting their mission statement!

Well, not so fast, my friend. There are at least two situations that come to mind where this simple idea starts to get blurry.

  1. Some organizations have LONG histories and over the course of time their mission changes. For example, the March of Dimes was founded to address polio and today it exists to improve the health of mothers and babies. When this happens, sometimes the shift isn’t as clear as it was for March of Dimes . . . the ‘WHY’ gets fuzzy . . . and the challenges ensue.
  2. Some organizations experience mission creep because their resource development strategy wasn’t well-defined and board members let staff chase all sorts of funding opportunities regardless of what it was for or what they do. The end result kind of looks like a McDonald’s restaurant that also sells electronics and chiropractic adjustments. In short, the ‘WHY’ gets fuzzy.

I believe that good non-profits revisit the questions of What-How-Why on a somewhat regular basis. I applaud my non-profit friend for using this YouTube video to frame and stage an engaging boardroom discussion. If you have a little time today, I suggest you click-through to YouTube and view the video. If you like it, then forward it to your board president and have a discussion with them about its value. If you’re both excited and engaged, then share it with your board and talk about it as a group.


If you end up doing any of what I just suggested, please circle back around to this blog post and share your experience in the comment box below. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Has your non-profit discovered Quora yet?

questionsWhen I used to work at Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA), my colleagues were responsible for the existence of something called theFUNDRAI$INGbank, which is a special webpage embedded inside of the intranet accessible to local affiliates. We outsourced maintenance of this page to There were many different resources located on “The Bank” including a free service called “Ask The Expert“.

Whenever I talk to agencies who aren’t Boys & Girls Clubs about “Ask The Expert,” I’m typically told how lucky local Boys & Girls Clubs are to have such a service (and to have access to it for free). Usually, somewhere in those conversations, the person with whom I’m speaking says they wish they had access to such a thing.

For those of you who don’t have a national organization behind them offering such resources and services, I’ve always told them not to fret because we now live in the 21st Century and answers are mostly just a click away. I’ve encouraged non-profit friends to open their minds to the full potential that Google search offers them. I’ve also reminded them about how many non-profit bloggers are out there begging for comments, questions and engagement (this blogger not withstanding).

Now I am adding another suggestion to those non-profit staff and board volunteers who are in search of answers for free . . .


Have you checked out this new online Q&A webpage yet? If not, I suggest you do so because it looks like a great resource for non-profit folks with questions. Here is what Wikipedia says about Quora:

quoraQuora is a question-and-answer website created, edited and organized by its community of users. The company was founded in June 2009, and the website was made available to the public on June 21, 2010.[3]

Quora aggregates questions and answers to topics. Users can collaborate by editing questions and suggesting edits to other users’ answers.[4] Quora’s main competitors are social bookmarking sites like redditsocial networking sites like ChaCha, and numerous question and answer websites.

Unlike BGCA’s “Ask The Expert” service, the answers and advice you get from Quora might not necessarily be from an amazing expert like the folks at However, if you go into it with the right mindset and an understanding that the answers you receive might just be from your peers, then this could be a great resource for you. At the very least, it represents a good starting point for finding answers.

Here are just some of the non-profit and fundraising questions that I see being asked on Quora:

  • What are some good platforms for online fundraising?
  • How do you manage memberships and donation drives in a small or medium size non-profit?
  • What cutting edge fundraising techniques are charities using?
  • What are the characteristics of high-performing non-profits?
  • How much power does a non-profit board have?

Interesting questions!

Of course, there is the obvious question, “What are some of the best ways non-profits can use Quora?Click here if you want to see responses.

When you have a question with which you’d like other people’s opinions, where do you go online? Google? WordPress? Blogger? Facebook? LinkedIn? Quora? Where do you find the most value in your search for answers? Have you used Quora yet? If so, what was your experience? Please scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below because we can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Don’t put Dorothy on your board of directors

On Monday, I shared with you a few observations from The Wizard of Oz and Oz: The Great and Powerful as I think it pertains to non-profit work. At the end of Monday’s post I promised to take you further down the Yellow Brick Road by revisiting a series of Oz-inspired posts from two years ago. Today’s post is about board composition and board development. Enjoy . . . here’s to your health!  ~Erik

Don’t put Dorothy on your board of directors

Originally published on October 27, 2011

dorothySeptember 15, 2008 . . . do you remember where you were and what you were doing? It was the day the world changed. It was what some people have called an “economic 9-11″. Regardless of how you characterize the day that Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy and the stock market started its crash, it is hard to argue the following: 1) the economic paradigm we all used to live in shifted and 2) nothing will ever be the same again.

This week I have used characters from “The Wizard of Oz” to talk about current challenges facing the non-profit sector. Today, we will spend a moment talking about Dorothy.

Dorothy is an iconic character who has been described as a “level-headed, plucky, resourceful, determined, all-American, populist”.  However, I’ve always seen her as a traditional “conservative”. Don’t believe me? Refresh your memory with this quick YouTube clip. Of course, I don’t mean this in any kind of political way, but more of the traditional meaning of “holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation”.

You cannot afford to have Dorothy on your board of directors during these tough and turbulent economic times!

Mentally take a look around your board room and see if you can identify how many Dorothy-like volunteers occupy chairs. They are kind folks (dare I say friends) who look and sound like the following:

  • They are frightened by the economic “tornado” whirling throughout the world. They talk about economic news constantly.
  • They wish for yesteryear and reminisce about times when your non-profit was facing a different set of circumstances. They fixate on making things better . . . just like they “used to be”. They’re focused on making that formerly kick-butt special event awesome again. They’re insistent that you can hold onto all of your government grants if you just tried a little harder. After all, there is no place like home.
  • They are visibly closed to new and innovative ideas that have not been tried. They believe ePhilanthropy is a passing fad. They won’t entertain ideas around merger, acquisition, or strategic alliances that share back office functions. After all, that is not the Kansas they so fondly remember.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting a “witch hunt” to root out these folks and fire them. Dorothy serves an important role on your board. She is that cautious voice that keeps you from getting into trouble. She will stop you from pulling the plug on your annual campaign and direct mail appeals and “going all in” on ePhilanthropy efforts. Valuable? YES! However, what happens when you have too many Dorothy-like board members? Or what if you have those well-intentioned people serving in the wrong roles (e.g. board president, annual campaign chair, strategic planning committee, etc)?

My best two pieces of advice for non-profit staff and board volunteers this morning are:

  1. Be especially strategic and thoughtful about where you ask these people to serve in your organization. This means that you need to: a) identify who these folks are and b) have a clear understanding of which volunteer opportunities are acceptable for conservative personalities.
  2. Focus your board development efforts over the next year on recruiting people in your community who don’t resemble Dorothy to serve on your board. This is not the time to pine for Kansas! This means your board development committee needs to double down on the “prospect identification” and “prospect evaluation” elements of the board recruitment process. Gone are the days when everyone sits around a table and tosses out names of good, kind and resourceful people. BE STRATEGIC!

I suggest that the type of people your board development committee should look for exhibit some of the following characteristics:

  • They don’t appear to be “personally” economically impacted by the Great Recession
  • Their business or line of work seems to be doing fine
  • They are naturally positive and have a decent outlook on the future
  • They seem to be open to new ideas (as evidenced in their personal and professional lives)
  • They are “outside-of-the-box thinkers (as evidenced in their personal and professional lives)

Remember, if you want to keep the flying monkeys away from your non-profit agency, STAY AWAY FROM DOROTHY.

OK — if you aren’t buying into my cheesy “Wizard of Oz” analogy, then please go to the library and borrow the book “Who Moved My Cheese“. You’ll thank me later.

How has your agency adapted to the new realities? Have you changed your resource development model or are you still trying to do things the old way? Do you see your board development efforts changing or focusing on different types of prospects? Please use the comment box below and weigh-in. Please remember that we can all learn from each other. In fact, it is probably the most effective way many of us learn.

Here is to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847|

Board Development Done ….. Less Effectively

Dani Robbins is the Founder & Principal Strategist at Non Profit Evolution located in Columbus, Ohio. I’ve invited my good friend and fellow non-profit consultant to the first Wednesday of each month about board development related topics. Dani also recently co-authored a book titled “Innovative Leadership Workbook for Nonprofit Executives” that you can find on 

process1Last month I wrote on post entitled Board Development Done Right. Let’s talk today about the other side of board development: what it looks like when it’s done less effectively.

In the absence of a board development plan that is being followed, most organizations do some combination of the following:

  • A board member or member of the senior staff meets someone in the community who they think might be good for the board.
  • They pass the name on to the Board Chair or the CEO who later meets with the prospect and may or may not invite them to join the board.
  • If they do, and the person says yes, they bring the name up at the next board meeting, and that person is voted upon and becomes a board member.
  • Usually, but not always, the new board member is brought on board without an orientation as to what the expectations and requirements are of board leadership.

It’s a process. It’s not great, but it is the process that is  fairly consistently followed by many organizations.

Will that process build a great board? Probably not, but it works — to a degree — and it’s much better than the alternative.

process3The alternative is this with the same beginning:

  • a board member or senior staff meets someone in the community who they think might be good for the board and asks them to join the board.
  • They say yes.
  • That person shows up at the next board meeting and is voted upon while in the room and voila! They are a board member.

Lest you think I am exaggerating . . . I attended a luncheon not too long ago where I was seated next to a nonprofit CEO. He asked what I did for a living, and I shared that I was a non-profit management consultant, who primarily works with organizations on board governance, executive couching, system development and planning. He immediately asked me to join his board.

As I’ve written before, strong boards beget strong organizations. It works the other way too. Less effective boards beget less effective organizations. Those boards hire less talented CEOs (or the wrong CEOs), for whom they don’t set goals and whom they don’t evaluate. They do not have a written strategic plan or a board development plan (or many other plans for that matter). There is no orientation process, no education and no board evaluation.

transparencyHere’s the rub . . . Board strength isn’t just an internal issue that is invisible to the community. It is visible. Here’s what it looks like:

  • The organization has a revolving door of CEOs.
  • The CEO has a revolving door of senior staff.
  • The CEO has a very strong personality and does the work of the board, which the board allows either because: 1) they don’t know they shouldn’t, OR 2) they are afraid that if they challenge the CEO s/he will leave, and they don’t have the time, the inclination, the ability, or a plan to deal with.
  • The Board Chair has a very strong personality (and may also be a big donor) and other board members are afraid to alienate him/her.
  • There are quorum issues.
  • Board members tend to stay only one term.

Just because it’s like this today, don’t mean it has to stay like this.

Organizational transformation is possible and even probable with the right plan and the emotional fortitude to implement that plan. Like any other challenge in life, if you don’t like the path you’re on, pick a new path! Get your board together (or at least your executive or nominating committee) and come up with a plan.

Start by answering these questions:

  • Who do you have around the table?
  • Does everyone look the same?
  • Is everyone, in fact, the same?
  • Are there gaps in skill set, faith, race, capacity, interest, thought, ability, orientation, age, and gender?
  • Are there leaders in your community who can fill those gaps?
  • Who can get in front of those people, introduce and engage them in your organization?
  • How will you decide when and to whom to offer board seats?
  • When will you vote on new members?
  • What will you include in your orientation?
  • What type of evaluation will the board conduct of itself and how often?
  • What type of education does the board need and want?

Board development is the intentional process by which the board is perpetuated, evaluated, and educated. Let’s get to it!

What’s been your experience? How have you built a board? As always, I welcome your experience and insight.
dani sig