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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

LESSON 6: Eliminate Hallway Whining

Welcome to Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom Blog, a 40-week journey through the new book, Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom, by Dan Busby and John Pearson. Each Wednesday, we're featuring a guest writer’s favorite snippet from the week's topic. Rev. Patrick Clements is our guest blogger this week for the third of four lessons in "Part 2: Boardroom Tools, Templates, and Typos."

LESSON 6 OF 40 - Eliminate Hallway Whining
The 5/15 report to the board takes just five minutes to read and 15 minutes to write.

 In Lesson 6, we look at the needs for every effective CEO to “Eliminate Hallway Whining.” It is interesting that every survey I’ve seen, that measures a board member’s satisfaction with board service, has reported lower scores for the CEO’s communication—than for other factors. So the CEO’s knee jerk reaction is to simply send more reports. This too is a potential problem. Great board members are generally very busy men and women. What a dilemma for the executive! How do I hit the sweet spot? What is the holy grail of effective communication?

CEOs worth their salt want to have open, transparent and effective communication with their boards. My answer is to gain agreement that the board will accept a monthly report that can easily be read in five minutes (and takes the CEO just 15 minutes to write). I have found the best tool is what has come to be called the 5/15 Report. The rule of thumb for the report—less is more. You want to give full information in a quick, easy-to-read format. 

If I am really honest as a CEO, the motivations for this are fully selfish. First, I know in my core that the board will respond best if they have confidence that they are informed. Providing no surprises is a great way to work with a board. Secondly, as a busy executive I don’t have time to labor over a monthly report. I need a template that gives the information without burdening either the board or me. Voila! Problem solved with a well-structured 5/15 Report.

MY FAVORITE INSIGHTS from Lesson 6, pages 26-32: 
 The board of directors can tend to lose confidence, or whine as the book posits, if they feel out of the loop.
• As in life, communication is a vital key in the care and feeding of board relationships.
• The 5/15 Report is a tool that has stood the test of time. No matter what generation of leaders you are working with, you will find that effective, time sensitive, and transparent communication works.
• It is very important to consider the key elements that you include in your version of the 5/15 Report. Not all boards or nonprofits are the same. Be sure that you keep the goal in mind—less is more. 

I have had the wonderful privilege of serving on a number of nonprofit boards, and chairing several of them. Those opportunities to serve proved to be great educational moments for me. Without fail I found that the successful and respected CEOs were outstanding communicators. Not all the CEOs were dynamic, charismatic men or women, but all the great ones were transparent and effective communicators. 

Truth be known—if we approach the opportunities of service as lifelong learners—we will find insights that will serve us well over time. I believe that the 5/15 Report concept is a good answer. It was developed out of a random conversation with mentor and friend Ted Engstrom, then president of World Vision. We didn’t have a name for the report when we talked. Soon after that conversation, the 5/15 Report became a regular part of my reporting regimen with the board I served as CEO. It proved to be a tremendous tool which has now been used successfully by many.


Rev. Patrick Clements is the recently retired president of Church Extension Plan where he served for 34 years. CEP, a ministry affiliated with the Assemblies of God, makes loans to churches and ministries to build buildings. It is also a place where individuals and organizations invest in a note program which provides the resources for the loans. CEP’s total asset base is over $500 million. Clements has authored two books: Proven Concepts of Church Building and Finance and Financial Freedom: More Than Being Debt Free—Tools for Managing Your Personal Finances. He has served on eight nonprofit boards and has chaired three of them. Pat, and his wife Connie, have four sons and 12 grandchildren.

• Spend some time thinking about what should be included in your version of the 5/15 Report.
• Review your draft 5/15 Report, and the concept, with your board chairperson and gain agreement with the new communication tool.  


On Jan. 3, 2018, watch for Jim Galvin's commentary on Lesson 7, "Typos Matter! Pious shoddy is still shoddy."

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