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The Power of Questions

Judge of a man by his questions rather than by his answers.  — Voltaire

Let me start this blog by expressing gratitude to Hildy Gottlieb, Dimitri Petroplolis of the Community Driven Institute and Nancy Iannone, a nonprofit and community development expert who started the monthly Twitter Chat, #npcons.  Every month they create a meaningful theme and use it to promote dialogue among nonprofit and community consultants.  Who ever would have imagined the power of these hour-long one hour 140 character conversations.

On the last chat, the discussion focused on how people learn to be consultants.  People come to this work from so many interesting places.  I came to it, having served as a nonprofit CEO in an amazing start up organization, HandsOn Greater Phoenix, which now 15 years after our modest (however, passion-filled) beginnings, now mobilizes 50,000 a year in projects 365 days a year.  After 12 years with HOGP, I knew I would be involved in community building for the rest of my life.  Others came to this work from the consulting sector, real estate and neighborhood development, and academia. It was exciting to connect with, and learn from, others on these Twitter Chats.

For those of you who we not on the last call, a discussion started about how to develop unique, interesting ways to create a dynamic, connected community of nonprofit/community building consultants. There where many excellent ideas.  And, a question that I thought was interesting was “what are the most important questions you ask your clients?” (and use the term “clients” freely, it can be questions you ask Boards you serve on, or teams you will be working with) I was really inspired by the answers and offered to compile a list of the “Questions shared.”   Some pretty terrific questions flew into the #npcons feed in 140 characters or less.  So here is my attempt at sharing them, please pardon the creative liberty I may have taken in recording them, and please make any changes and additions.  I am also adding a couple others that I find powerful, and a few from one of the BEST question askers I know, Miss Hildy Gottlieb.

There is so much power in the questions we ask.  One right question asked at the right time can build the strongest relationships with our clients and our teams.  Sometimes organizations can get to go to reach their goals and vision, because of the questions they ask and how they frame the questions to lead them to greatest possible future.

Here are some great ideas for “question asking” from some wise consultants.  I am also including their Twitter name/address so you can follow them if you are not already — Enjoy!

Also if you have other excellent questions to share, please comment! And feel free to share this post with anyone who you think would be interested in 1) the questions or 2) joining the #npcons Twitter Chat.

@hildygottlieb

“What is your vision for what is possible in the community?”

“What would “amazing” or extraordinary” or “Wow!” look like?”

“What would that make possible?”

“What would the community look like if _______ (fill in the blank)?”

* For more powerful questions, check out Hildy and Dimitri’s website at http://www.communitydriven.org

@joe_brown

“How are you?” (We are both real people)

“How can I help you?” (Address their needs not yours)

“What else is going on?” (What else is going on? Key to relationships and ongoing business)

@bonniekoenig

“What are you trying to accomplish?”

“What have you done so far?”

(Rest of the conversation usually comes from answers to those questions)

@elainecohen

“What do you do best?

“How can I help you be better at what you do best?”

@Help_Line_211

“What is your most important need right now?”

“What has worked in the past to support/solve this similar problem/situation?”

@AbbieF

“Are we on track?”

“Have your goals/objectives changed in the last six months?”

“What else can we do for you?”

@visionspun

“What is it going to take for this organization to not have to exist anymore?”

@askdebra

“What are your goals?” And “Be specific and please differentiate short-term, long-term, organizational and programmatic?”

@heyjuliak

“Do you have any money?” (or what resources do you have available do do this project?)

Some of my favorite are @alisonrapping

“If we were successful, what legacy would be built?”

“What are the most important questions I am not considering?”

“Help me understand…”

“What would success look like?”

A prudent question is one half of wisdom. — Francis Bacon
OK, I know, I forgot the most important question, from @elainecohen “Where do you keep the Chunky Monkey?”  Have to keep everything in perspective!

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The Power of Collaborative Organizations

“Collaboration equals innovation.”  — Michael Dell
In 2010, I have been writing about collaboration which I think is one of the most important topics affecting the Community Benefit Sector. For many community organizations, collaboration means the relationship between independent organizations. Organizations collaborate when they believe they can accomplish more together than they can alone, when a significant issue threatens to have an impact on them, such as an economic downturn, or when a donor requests “collaboration” as part of a condition for funding.
However, the longer I write about, engage in, and train on, collaboration, the more I realize that to create successful relationships between organizations, we need to create strong relationships within organizations.  To be  good organizational collaborators, we need to live the spirit of collaboration in our individual organizations.  Successful organization relationships are created because of successful personal relationships.  Where we learn to collaborate and build community is within the structures where we work day in and day out.  When an organization is intentional about supporting and inspiring a collaborative culture; the external collaborations are stronger, more vibrant and successful.
Creating outstanding collaboration is both an art and a science, requiring energy and dedication, and when done well, the results are transformative. Organizations with have high levels of social capital, trust, accountability and engagement create impact in their communities.  Collaborative organizations think about what is possible for their communities, the people they serve, and how they can strengthen their impact.
They commit to a unified, instead of a divided, culture because it moves their mission forward. Here are a few questions that can help inspire a collaborative dialogue within your organization.  Consider how you can engage both the Board and the staff in this discussion:
  • Where can we be more collaborative in our organization?
  • How will collaboration align our people to our mission and vision? How will it align them to each other? How can it align the Board of Directors, staff and volunteers?
  • How will it help us create services that meet the needs of our community?
  • How can it create greater client satisfaction?
  • How can it help us measure our results and community impact?
  • How can it make us a better, more effectively run organizations?
Creating real collaboration in our organizations takes commitment and hard work. However when it is done well, the results are astounding.
As collaboration expert Morten Hansen says, “creating collaboration amplifies strength, but poor collaboration is worse that no collaboration at all.”  Here are a couple of initiatives that can leader to good collaboration:
Create a Culture of Teamwork. Many community organizations evolve from the start-up phase (We are all in this together.  Everybody does everything.  We feel like a family.  We all get to experience the results.) to the more “mature” organization in which people have moved on and that magic sense of cohesion has faded.  As the organization grows, there is a program department, a fund development department, and an administration department. Subtlety our “we are all in it” together culture becomes the “this is my department” culture and goals of department become more important than the goals of the organization and its mission.
Organizational leaders have the responsibility — and opportunity — to foster a culture and set of actions that unifying both of the goals of departments or functions with the overarching goals of the organization. As Hansen notes in his book Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Create Unity and Reap Big Results, there are three fundamental unification mechanisms that support leaders in translating the lofty aspiration of unity into concrete measures: (1) create a unifying goal, (2) incite a common value of teamwork, and (3) speak the language of collaboration.  As Hansen notes, “Landing a man on the moon required the coordination of some 400,000 people, and this meant, that if one of the activities faltered, the whole thing could founder.”
Commit to Engagement. Commit to intentional contentious engagement at all levels of the organization.
Commit to continuous engagement.  Building a strong team takes time, energy and care. A strong collaborative organization requires time.  Time to engage our peers, to actively listen to what they are saying and to respect conflicting views. In many community organizations, this is the scenario: the Board of Directors meets, makes decisions and then adjourns; staff is then expected to carry out the policies.
However, often those very people who charged with implementing the policies into meaningful action, programs, and activities are not present at the meeting, or are invited as “silent” participators, there to take notes and listen but not to engage in the discussion or decision making process. A culture is created where the  people who devote their professional lives to the organization, don’t have a place to give input to the most important decisions.
I have also watched as well-intended staffs create and implement plans which have significant policy and financial implications and do not think to engage the Board of Directors in the process.  The Board learns of this new program or activity only after it as already been implemented.  Neither of these situations create strong, collaborative organizations.
It is important to create meaningful opportunities for everyone in the organization to discuss important issues.
Annual Planning. Commit to hosting annual planning meeting (preferably off-site) to focus on your organization’s vision, mission, strategies and annual goals.  A successful off-site re-energizes people in thinking about what is possible, creates goals and builds an outline for action planning.   A great benefit to engaging everyone in the planning process is the development and deepening of each relationship.  A successful planning outing helps build trust and clarify commitments. It also supports unity around vision, mission and action plans.
Rigorous Follow Up. Commit to reviewing, modifying and evaluating the plan.  Commit a section of every Board meeting to “moving the plan forward.” Create space for honest dialogue, let people know that their input is welcomed and desired.  Ensure there is an opportunity for committees and staff members to honestly discuss successes and challenges. If it is a large group, consider a breaking out into  smaller groups, so that everyone has an opportunity to participate.
Celebration. Lastly develop opportunities for organizational celebrations.  Be intentional about celebrating successes, Ensure that celebration is a part of your organizational culture.  Consider inviting people from the community to come share their stories and create time in meetings to celebrate organizational and individual accomplishments. Host social events.  Let people know that they are valued and respected.
Organizations who foster a culture of collaboration achieve success.  They commit to a focus on overarching goals, unify people, foster a culture for a healthy exchange of ideas, and celebrate their accomplishments.
We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.  Martin Luther King Jr.

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From Competition to Collaboration

It is interesting to watch the rapid increase of contests asking donors to “vote”  for one organization over another. Or others, which list 100 wonderful organizations and then allow you to vote for only “your 5 favorites.”   So there you are, a friend and donor to 10 of these organizations; yet you can only “vote” for 5.

While, I am a proponent for vigorously adopting and using best organizational practices to support organizations in their quest for quality, fiduciary  responsiblity and  accountability, I am far less comfortable ranking organizations against each other or asking them to compete in “contests.”  It is not that I don’t love contests, I do.  I just believe that when we ask organizations whose purpose is not profit but community benefit to compete for popularity in the communities they support, we do them, and, and ultimately ourselves a disservice.  If we invested these resources in engaging organizations to work together, think how much more powerful it would be.  Now, that would be a contest we would all win.

Perhaps because when a group “wins” they have really accomplished something.  To solve the complex and interdependent issues that are plaguing our country now, we need to come together. Unless we can create opportunities for MANY to win, we can never powerfully impact the most critical issues facing our communities.  Collaboration lets us create and own OUR collective values and vision for OUR communities. Successful collaborations are harder  than successful individual wins, although often more powerful.  We can’t focus on quality education for a child without thinking about affordable housing, proper nutrition, health care, and safe communities.  Individually organizations can accomplish good things; however collectively organizations can accomplish GREAT things.

Here are five tips for developing great collaborations; these suggestions come the wisdom of brilliant writers and thinkers and from my personal practitioner’s perspective — 20 years on the ground developing, coordinating, staffing, facilitating and engaging in collaborative relationships.

“A solution is the result of many ideas coming together.”

1.  Create A Strong Framework In 1984, Thomas Cummings wrote an article, “Trans-organizational Development” from which Joan M. Roberts masterfully summarizes in her book Alliances, Collaborations, and Partnerships. I have taken her outstanding matrix and crafted six questions EVERY collaboration should ask before formalizing a collaborative relationship:

  1. What intractable problems are surfacing in our environment that we cannot resolve by ourselves?
  2. What is our motivation to collaborate? What is in it for us? For our partners? For the community?
  3. Who cares about this issue and will be willing to join us in our efforts?
  4. Should a formal collaboration be created?  If so, what are its vision, mission and action plans?
  5. How do we build it? How do we organize this vision and action into structure, timelines and leadership?
  6. How will we measure our impact in terms of 1) performance outcomes, 2) quality of interaction 3) member satisfaction and 4) organizational participation, commitment and engagement?

2. Progress Is As Important As Outcome - The greatest work in collaboration building is in the creating of strong, dynamic, motivated collaborations.  Building the collaboration is 80 percent of the work. If we focus on building relationships, creating shared vision and developing processes for dealing with conflict, the chances for success are greater.   When the first 80 percent is successful, the next 20 percent is more strategic, powerful and most likely, stronger than you ever  imagined.  Spend time on the process. If this is a funder mandated collaboration, talk to the funder about  investing in the process driven part of the work.  Craft a program outline, highlight the steps you need to take to ensure the collaboration is successful, and create an exact, detailed budget to describe the resources required for success and impact.

“The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.” — Don Williams Jr.

3. Invest In A Good Facilitator – A good facilitator create opportunities to focus and energize group members, engage them and inspire them to see how the are part of the solution.  A good facilitator can help everyone answer the question, “What is in it for me?” What is in it for us? And “What can we accomplish together?”  A facilitator helps define group values and rules for engagement, provides a process for exploring and answering key questions from participants: “Why are we here?” “What is the desired outcome?” “How are we going to work together to achieve our goals?” and “How will we get the work done?”  A facilitator also captures everyone’s ideas and documents them; creates a space for all voices to be heard; serves as a neutral moderator to support everyone’s engagement in the process, and helps hold people accountable for their commitments.

“When team members feel free and safe to really express opinions, great ideas surface and flourish. ”  — Leading Groups to Solutions

4. Invest in Relationships and Building Trust — In Bruce Tuckman’s model of the four stages of group development ( Forming, Norming, Storming, Performing ) he  shows that groups are continuously evolving and conflict is part of the process.  Embrace conflict, it means you are really moving somewhere. When we avoid the “elephants in the middle of the room” it is prescription for failure and zaps the energy that would otherwise be focused on meaningful engagement. Create group values that embrace honesty, including respect for conflict and respect for confidently.  Create processes that promote relationships and trust. Examples include: check-in’s and check-out’s, a review of group values at the beginning each meeting, creation of opportunities at every meeting to share successes, and processes to celebrate conflict. And, most importantly, build trust by communicating, communicating, communicating, and when you think you have communicated enough, communicate some more.

Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships. – Stephen R. Covey

5. Take Time To Reflect — It’s important to allow every participant to process what mattered most to them during the meeting, planning session or retreat.  Reflection is a wonderful learning tool and allows everyone’s voice and ideas  to be heard.  Make sure to spend a few minutes at the end of the session to ask people to reflect.  An easy process for this is to ask a couple of questions and give everyone 5 minutes to write down there thoughts. Some sample questions are, “What was the most important thing you learned today?” “What was your favorite moment of the day?” “What surprised you?” “What is something you are going to do in the next week as a result of our meeting today?” “What is one thing you would recommend for our next meeting?”  There are no “right” questions, and these are only examples, just choose 2-3 that resonate with you and try them out.  People appreciate being asked what they think and feel. Allow people to take a moment and “enjoy the view.”

“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” – Oliver Wendall Holmes

And now my favorite part of the blog — The THANK YOU’s.  First thank YOU for reading this.  So many of you have given me great feedback, lots of wisdom and support, and for that I am grateful beyond words. Second thank you is the authors and trainers who writings have helped inspire this blog (a number of you are quoted/mentioned in last couple posts.) And, third, is a huge thank to some of my favorite collaboration partners, mentors and teachers who have taught me so much along the way — HandsOn Network, Community Driven Leadership, and  the fantastic team at HOGP — You have shown me that the impossible IS possible.

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Questions Every Nonprofit Board Needs To Ask In 2010

We are entering a new decade.  And let’s face it. Our communities are suffering.  Increasing demand, decreasing resources and needs that far outweigh our capacity has made us vulnerable.  However, this vulnerability creates some remarkable opportunities.  Our society’s needs are so great, that we just don’t have the luxury of  thinking small.  As my friend Lydna says, “Now is the time for us to be unreasonable.” Reasonable is not enough now.  Reasonable isn’t serving us.  Now we need vision, innovation, collaboration, passion, advocacy, and commitment.  We need impact. To create this impact, here are some good questions to ask your organization in 2010. Engaging in this discussion is energizing and amazing ideas can come from the conversation.
  • Vision —  Focus on 50,000 feet up. What is the future we see for our community?  What are the possibilities? What are three things we can do this year to move this vision to reality? What is the story of success we want to tell at the end of the year? Ask each member to visually “fast forward”, “What is the legacy you want to leave for this organization?”
  • Innovation —  Devote some time to  brainstorm  this question “What creative thinking can we do to serve our clients better?” What resources are available?  What investment do we need to make?  What risks are we willing to take?  What one or two things can we do differently that would have an exponential effect on the people we serve?
  • Collaboration How can we create new ways to work with other organizations, elected officials, funders and volunteers to serve our community better?  What partnerships, collaborations, strategic alliances can we create? What conversations can we have to learn more about our community? Consider hosting a purely social event and invite Board and staff members from other community organizations to attend.  Invite people into a conversation about what is possible, and what is possible for you to do together.
Note I feel compelled to add: The trend is to do this work in silos – education, health care, housing, hunger – while the real power to create systematic community change is in collaborations. Our work is holistic and we must create better ways of working together to address our most urgent social, environmental, and economic issues.
Collaboration and innovation are critical for our organizations, and more importantly, our communities success.  The tremendous need for collaboration rang clear to me over the holidays when bombarded with requests to vote for one excellent organization over another in a on-line giving contest. With limited information and nothing more than a click of a mouse, I was going to choose one great group over another.  I just couldn’t do it.   We are in this for the community, our organizations are the vehicles to make our entire community stronger.
  • Passion Passion is what keeps us going.  It is so easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day “stuff” and start to lose sight of the reason we are in this work.  It is SO important to remind ourselves of the GREAT work we do, and who benefits from our efforts.  At every BOD meeting ask, “how have we moved our mission forward this month?” Celebrate the accomplishments of individual board members. And celebrate the organization’s successes. Invite someone who has benefited from your organization to come tell their story. Invite a funder  or a donor to come and talk about why they fund you.    Nonprofits do a good job of planning and implementing, although we don’t always do a great job of celebrating and reflecting. Take time to celebrate accomplishments. Always plan to plan, implement, reflect (evaluate) and celebrate.  The evaluation and celebration are critical to keep the passion burning.
  • Advocacy — Ask Board members to share how they have advocated for your organization.   Have they engaged friends and family members, have they invited someone to join, have they ask for a contribution? As nonprofit leaders, one of the most important roles we can play is the role of advocate.  Ask people if they would commit to advocate by having coffee with three friends/colleagues in 2010 to talk about your organization and your work, to meet with one elected leader to share the impact of your organization and the people you serve, and send out a personal e-newsletter to their friends and families.  Ask the Board to brainstorm their ideas for being advocates or “friend-raisers” in 2010.
  • Commitment One of my favorite expressions as I do this work is, “this is a marathon, not a sprint”; Our work in communities is ongoing, invigorating, often “never-ending” and challenging.   Our organizations have many excellent people, often volunteers.  It is important to ask members, “what is it that keeps you committed to this organization?”  “How can we support you  so that you don’t “burn-out.”  Ask, how can others support those that are carrying a lot of the load.  Ask Board members what is one thing they could do this year that would energize their commitment.  And, while it takes courage, ask what is something you are doing that isn’t energizing you?  It is also critical for Board members to ask what can they can do to support and sustain the  CEO’s and staff’s commitment. A mentor told me once, ” the tenure expectancy of a nonprofit CEO is shorter than that of only race car drivers and professional baseball managers.”  There are many expectations — to the community, board, staff, funders, volunteers and critically, the people being served.  There are never enough hours in the day to do everything and nonprofit staffs put in long, hard hours.  Ask what are some things you can do to support staff commitment?  Maybe it is a special acknowledgment, professional development or training opportunities, mentorship experiences, or a special three-day weekend.
When we ask these questions we create energy and excitement for our organizations and our work.  People want to engage in a conversation about what is possible.  There is real power in this honest, thoughtful dialogue. The dialogue creates ideas & commitment.  Ideas &  commitment turned into action can change the world. What a great way to start the new decade.

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Beyond the duties of care, loyalty, and obedience, there is, I suggest, a fourth board duty: the duty of imagination — Alice Korngold

I love this quote, it insightful and conveys the inspirations and aspirations of people who want to serve their communities as nonprofit Board members. They are excited and moved by the vision of what’s possible.

However often when we ask people to serve on Boards, as soon as they say “yes”, we tend to gloss over the “imaging what’s possible” and immediately hand them a contract and set up an orientation focusing on the expected commitments; the needs: “you need to fundraise”,”you need to invite people to our annual dinner” and the musts: “you must attend at least 75% of the meetings,” “you must make a personal contribution,” and “you must serve on a committee.”

People are enthusiastic to fulfill those obligations: They want to be responsible, committed board members, they want to support the organization as advocates, ambassadors, friend/fund raisers and they are happy to attend productive meetings. Meetings where people trust one another, where there is respect for different views and  encouragement of healthy conflict.  Meetings where members and the organization hold themselves accountable for results and vision and where creativity and innovation is encouraged and celebrated. And meetings that are energizing, and, just as importantly, fun!

Most importantly they expect to engage in moving the organization’s mission and vision forward and knowing there is value and respect for their time and service. They want to know that their actions and efforts are moving the vision for the community forward.  They want to know that they are making a difference. People serve on Boards because they want to govern; they want to serve as stewards and want to engage in strategic, dynamic organizations that positively impact their communities.  What could be possible for our communities if everyone who served on Boards believed that their service was positively impacting the world?

In supporting people in choosing if a board service opportunity is right for them, there are some questions I ask them to explore:

  • Is this an organization whose mission and vision I am passionate about?
  • Is this an organization whose culture and values I share?
  • Is this an organization who would benefit from the talents, skills, and leadership I would bring to the organization?
  • Am I passionate about being a community steward?

I also recommend they engage in this conversation with the organization’s leadership and ask:

  • How do you move your mission/vision forward?
  • How do you live your values?
  • How do you engage in strategic planning? Is conversation about strategy a part of every board meeting?
  • What is your business model?
  • How do you coach, mentor and train board members?
  • How do you address mission, vision and values during regular board meetings?
  • What is the process for dialogue? How is participation nurtured?
  • How do you develop and support new board members?
  • How do you structure committees to ensure the work of the Board gets done?
  • How does the organization celebrate its accomplishments?

There are many talented, innovative, and energetic people who want to serve on Boards; however, they are looking for experiences that have meaning. Experiences that build their team-building and leadership skills and enhance their sense of commitment to community.  If you are thinking about serving on a board these are some questions you may want to ask; if you are recruiting new board members, think about how you answer these questions.  And, enjoy! Board service is an amazing experience.

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The Board Experience

Ask people about their experiences on nonprofit boards, and answers can be downright jaw-dropping, “The meetings aren’t productive,” “This wasn’t what I expected when I joined the board,” or “I don’t see how these meetings make a difference”.  We join boards to make our communities healthy, vibrant places, to use our time and talents to support causes we care about, and to become part of a network that shares our passion about issues important to us.

A troubling new norm is developing — we start believing this “rather dull” experience is what we should expect. Many people tell me, “Well, that’s just the way it is.”  Although, I believe that’s not the way it has to be.

This norm is that it a rare experience for  a board member (or CEO) who thinks prior to a Board meeting, “I can’t wait to go to the meeting today, I expect to be inspired and energized.”

I think about this a lot.  I have spent the last 20 years serving on numerous boards representing of all types of organizations — local, municipal, regional, and national.  I have  also served as a CEO to four community organizations and have worked with some extraordinary people.  And,  I have the joy of engaging in the extraordinary Board meeting where everyone said, “Wow that was great, we accomplished so much, I can’t wait until we meet again!” In short,  I have left board meetings  exhilarated  and I have left board meeting exhausted.  Given the choice,  I will pick exhilaration any day!

Often we  leave Board meeting feeling like the greatest accomplishment was “we ended on time.”  For a room full of intelligent, committed people this is deflating.  This doesn’t happen because the people aren’t committed, it happens because often the structure isn’t designed to focus on the most important issues. We approve the minutes, give reports (and more reports), and bemoan the budget situation.  We don’t spend much time on the “good” stuff” — what have we been doing right for the community, for our organization, for our clients? And, how can we do more of it even better?

Highlighted below are 10 tips for making Board meetings more engaging, productive and enjoyable.

1. Focus on the most important issues.  Plan to discuss the most critical issues first. What do we need to discuss/accomplish to move our mission forward.  Support this by: placing the organization’s mission and vision on the top of every Board meeting agenda. This keeps members focused on the key reasons they are there; to support the mission and vision the organization has for its community. Start each meeting with discussion about the most important issues on the agenda first.

2. Determine if it is Decision/Advice/Information. When discussing important issues, clarify how you are asking members to respond.  On each agenda item note: 1) does this issue need a decision, action or vote 2) does this issue require advice or guidance, is this an issue that the organization is seeking collective wisdom to make the best decision, or 3) is this an agenda item that is for information purposes, to inform and educate board members.  Again, place the most important issues on the top of the agenda. (“Act” and “Discuss” first, “Report or Information” second).

3. Create Opportunities for Creativity, Imagination and Vision. If the rule in real estate is location, location, location, the expectation for Boards is vision, vision, vision.  Create opportunities for the board to spend time focusing on vision; the vision they have for the community how the organization is meeting this vision. Ask them, what is the legacy you want to leave?

4. Create an Outcome Measurement Matrix. Create a chart  updated  at each meeting informing the Board about how organization is doing in critical areas: program and impact, fundraising, financial health, Board of Directors engagement, human resources and risk management/compliance.  Use a matrix or dashboard metric to show process on  quantifiable measurements.  Color code progress to goals (red=act; yellow=watch; and green=celebrate). Use the matrix  to focus on important areas without searching though pages of reports.  An excellent example of a good dashboard is available on the Blue Avocado website (www.blueavocado.org).

5. Change it up. Host meetings at different locations and consider incorporating different formats into the meeting agenda.  If there is a major issue that needs discussion, break people up into small groups for 10-15 minutes, then have groups briefly report back.  This gives everyone a chance to engage in the conversation.  When people engage, people commit.

6. Include Stories and Testimonials at Every Meeting. Stories are powerful.  Include at least one story about someone affected by the organization at every meeting.  People want to hear about people. Share the stories of those who benefit from your organization’s great work.   Testimonials are inspiring and give members stories to tell when they go out to fund/friend raise for your organization.  Stories give members the information they need to serve as champions, ambassadors and advocates for your cause.

7.  Build Trust. Create trust by creating a culture where confidentiality is respected, engagement is encouraged and final decisions are  presented to the community with “one voice,” Ask members to leave negativity and cell phones at the door.

8. Spend twice as much time discussing as reporting. Create opportunities for people to engage, deliberate and contribute.

9. Reflect and Evaluate. Take time to reflect. We tend to plan to implement and miss the opportunity reflect and evaluate is an important part of the process: (plan-implement-reflect).  Conduct an evaluation of the Board at the end of the year.  During the year provide feedback cards for optional thoughts and comments. If members have feedback there is a venue to share comments with the board leadership or CEO.

10. Celebrate! Annually (or more often!) share the organization’s accomplishments with the Board. Ask members to take part and share what they think are the greatest successes.  Take time during every board meeting to celebrate at least one major accomplishment and take time to acknowledge the excellent work of individual Board members and staff who have gone “above and beyond.” Celebration and focusing on the positive can have a contagious reaction that impacts the organization, board and staff.  Make sure to take time to celebration the organization’s accomplishments.

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