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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

LESSON 23 - Focus on Mission Impact and Sustainability

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. Steve Moore is our guest blogger this week for the second of three lessons in "Part 7: Boardroom Best Practices.”


LESSON 23 OF 40 - Focus on Mission Impact and Sustainability
The "dual bottom line" equips boards to address dead horses and sacred cows (or goats).

THE BIG IDEA FROM THE BOOK:
 In Lesson 23, the authors point us to the helpful resource, Nonprofit Sustainability: Making Strategic Decisions for Financial Viability. The book’s chart on page 25 provides the outline for a “heavy lifting” session at your next board meeting. Ask your CEO to plot your ministry’s key programs in the four-quadrant grid with these icons: Hearts, Stars, Money Tree, and Stop Sign. Then discuss and discern next steps as you weigh mission impact and sustainability issues. The goal is to be in the “Stars” quadrant: High Mission Impact and High Sustainability.

One way to think about this incredibly helpful resource from John and Dan is to recognize the #1 responsibility of every nonprofit board: “The stewardship of the mission, and the organization.” In Lesson 23 we are given practical tools to assess at a high level the way the mission is expressed through its programs and resources. This helps us understand where the rubber meets the road—the way the mission comes to life through the activities the nonprofit does! 

MY FAVORITE INSIGHTS from Lesson 23, pages 115-119: 
• “Nonprofit is a tax designation, not a management philosophy.”
• “Are you tempted to prolong a program that will never be sustainable—perhaps unduly swayed by your heart?”
• “Scripture doesn’t confuse us with a negative dichotomy between business and ministry. The better question is, ‘Whatever tax code we use to serve others (nonprofit or for-profit), will we be sustainable and God-honoring in the long-term?”
• “Nonprofit” is a status awarded by the government for serving communities, not an excuse to manage poorly or to be unfocused in the deployment of resources!
Attention Board Members: Don’t check effective business practices at the door of the board meeting! 

MY COLOR COMMENTARY:
At the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, we seek to inspire organizations to focus on sustainability in their important work—so they will flourish not just for three years, but for generations perhaps. We’ve noticed that some organizations hyper-focus on failing programs, thinking more funds will prop up a failed strategy. That rarely works. Money is rarely the solution.

Instead, we commend boards and CEOs that understand their mission and their calling and thoughtfully focus on how their “Heart” programs (High Mission Impact and Low Sustainability) can gradually become “Stars” (High Mission Impact and High Sustainability).

The “Stop Sign” is the perfect metaphor. Even though it’s a painful decision, boards and CEOs must eventually act—and “pull the plug” on a failed program.

One of the most common sayings in the nonprofit world is that the board’s biggest responsibility is to pick the president. While that is an important responsibility, it actually falls under the biggest responsibility—to steward the mission!

Tragically, many nonprofits are full of vision or passion but thin on strategy and execution. We often have groups that seek our support as a foundation who hope they can simply inspire us with their vision. We are regularly inspired! But, we are sometimes saddened when little thought has been given to deploying their resources, human and financial, in the ways that most effectively represent that vision and mission. Boards must learn to ask hard questions and encourage leaders to say no to “good things,” and focus on the highest and best ways for the mission to come to life in the programs and activities of the nonprofit. 

“Everyone who has ever taken a shower has had a great inspirational idea; it’s those who get out of the shower and plan and execute that finally make a difference in the world.”

THIS WEEK’S QUOTES & COMMENTARY BY STEVE MOORE:


Steve G.W. Moore, Ph.D., serves the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust as the Executive Director and CEO. The Trust is a private foundation which seeks to nurture and enrich the educational, spiritual, cultural, and social life of individuals, families, and communities with particular interest in the Pacific Northwest. Steve is an alumnus of McMurry University, Asbury Theological Seminary, St. Andrews University, and the University of Michigan. He did post-grad work at Hebrew University and Harvard University and was a visiting scholar at Oxford University. He is a widely published author and speaker and has served in a number of leadership roles in community and professional organizations.

Steve and his wife, Thanne, a professional speech pathologist, have four children: Madison and his wife Chandi, now with The University of Texas, and daughters, Maegan, who works as a business consultant in Great Britain; and Mollie, who works in Washington, D.C. They share the house with Cooper, a fun-loving yellow lab. 

TO-DO TODAY: 
• Inspire one or two board members to read Nonprofit Sustainability: Making Strategic Decisions for Financial Viability (see the chart on page 25).
• After you’ve plotted your key programs in the four quadrants, pray and discern your next steps.
• What are the top three programs that represent the mission of the board on which you serve? Is that where your resources flow? 




NEXT WEDNESDAY:

On May 2, 2018, watch for Scott Rodin's commentary on Lesson 24, "Ministry Fundraising 101 for Board Members: Could your board members pass a pop-quiz of fundraising practices?"

Subscribe to this blog by submitting your email (just above the date/day). Visit the Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom webpage and order extra 
copies for your board members.




Wednesday, April 18, 2018

LESSON 22 – The Most Underrated Board Position

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. David McKenna is our guest blogger this week for the first of three lessons in "Part 7: Boardroom Best Practices.”


LESSON 22 OF 40 - The Most Underrated Board Position 
The position of the board chair is pivotal to a healthy board.

THE BIG IDEA FROM THE BOOK:
 Election of the board chair should be based on the same criteria used in the selection of deacons in Acts 6—good reputation, practical wisdom, and filled with the Holy Spirit. Good reputation is required because the chair is always the face of the board and in times of crisis or change, the face of the institution or ministry. Practical wisdom is essential for keeping the Big Picture before the board as issues are debated, initiatives are considered, and outcomes are assessed. First and foremost, the chair must be filled of the Holy Spirit in order to lead by discerning the mind of Christ, assuring the guidance of the Spirit, and obeying the will of God. 

MY FAVORITE INSIGHTS from Lesson 22, pages 110-114: 
• The board chair must have the character of being first among equals in integrity, trust and humility.
• The board chair has no inherent authority or power. The board itself authorizes the chair to speak or act on its behalf. 

MY COLOR COMMENTARY:
A board member once told me that an organization has a choice between a strong chair and weak CEO—or a weak chair and a strong CEO. Experience often proves him right. But should it be? Isn’t the goal for the most effective ministry to have a strong chair and a strong CEO? Have you been a part of that kind of team, or know of a ministry, that modeled that partnership? If so, was the board more efficient in its process and the ministry more effective in its outcomes? If you had no other choice, would you choose a strong chair and a weak CEO—or a weak chair and a strong CEO? Why? If a strong chair and a strong CEO is your preference, how can you work to achieve and maintain that goal?
 

THIS WEEK’S QUOTES & COMMENTARY BY DAVID McKENNA:


David McKenna is the retired President of Spring Arbor University, Seattle Pacific University, and Asbury Theological Seminary. He is Chair Emeritus of the Spring Arbor University Board of Trustees and Founding Chair of Bakke Graduate University. Author of more than 35 books, his ECFAPress book, Call of the Chair: Leading the Board of the Christ-centered Ministry, is a primary source for the selection, leadership, and assessment of the board chair in Christ-centered ministries. Board members will also appreciate the wisdom in Stewards of a Sacred Trust: CEO Selection, Transition and Development for Boards of Christ-centered Organizations.

TO-DO TODAY: 
• Review the criteria and process for the election of your board chair.
• Read “Maestro,” the final chapter in Call of the Chair.




NEXT WEDNESDAY:

On April 25, 2018, watch for Steve Moore's commentary on Lesson 23, "Focus on Mission Impact and Sustainability: The 'dual bottom line' equips boards to address dead horses and sacred cows (or goats)."

Subscribe to this blog by submitting your email (just above the date/day). Visit the Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom webpage and order extra 
copies for your board members.




Wednesday, April 11, 2018

LESSON 21 - Back Off the Ledge of Dysfunctional Mayhem

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. John Ashmen is our guest blogger this week for the third of three lessons in "Part 6: Boardroom Time-Wasters, Troublemakers, and Truth-Tellers.”
LESSON 21 OF 40 - Back Off the Ledge of Dysfunctional Mayhem
When dysfunction reigns, healthy board members head for the door.

THE BIG IDEA FROM THE BOOK:
 In Lesson 21, we are introduced to six fictitious individuals who are all too real in many nonprofit boards. They end up in governance roles because of poor recruiting/vetting practices or cronyism, and are allowed to remain because those at the top lack the gallantry or diplomacy to address their disruptive and destructive behavior. 

This chapter calls out the fuddy-duddies, the goody-goodies, the know-it-alls, the power-grabbers, and the loose cannons. Moreover, it calls on board chairs to confront these underminers of progress in a timely manner for the sake of the organization. The underlying lesson is this: Having a scrupulous, courageous chair is paramount. 

MY FAVORITE INSIGHTS from Lesson 21, pages 104-108: 
•  “What do the [dysfunctional members] have in common? They distract the board from its responsibilities. Other board members wonder, with so many dysfunctional members, is it really worth their time to serve on this board?”
The insight: If you let your inept board members run free, they will eventually chase off the effective ones.  

MY COLOR COMMENTARY:
I was recently asked by a NPO chair to spend an entire day meeting with his full board and CEO to help them do organizational triage. Their board was imploding. In fact, when I accepted the invitation, the ministry had 10 board members; when I arrived at the meeting location three weeks later, they were down to six—all dominant individuals who would gleefully launch into loud debate at the drop of a hat. Two of the members who resigned said they were tired of feeling bullied. The third said she was frustrated because nothing of lasting value was being accomplished. The fourth departed member gave no reason for leaving, but did say he wanted no further contact with the ministry.

At the end of our time together, we mapped out a pathway to peace and purposeful governance—but whether they will faithfully follow it remains to be seen. My doubt stems from the fact that the board’s behavioral patterns were years in the making: controller-type people seeking their same kind to serve; never addressing the cause of turmoil, just trying to fix the ramifications of it (which repeatedly took them into operations). I’m praying for God to give the principal players a spirit of contrition and a full measure of courage to confront the improper conduct. It could happen, but the longer that dysfunction is left to fester, the harder it is to heal. 

THIS WEEK’S QUOTES & COMMENTARY BY JOHN ASHMEN:


John Ashmen is president and CEO of the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions, providing vision, advocacy, and resources for some 300 personal-transformation ministries throughout North America. His book, Invisible Neighbors, is considered by many to be a how-to manual for followers of Jesus who are serious about meaningful engagement with poor and powerless people. John previously served as vice president with Christian Camp and Conference Association. He is a National Association of Evangelicals board member and on the steering committee of the Circle of Protection, an alliance of national Christian leaders focused on ending hunger and poverty. 

 TO-DO TODAY: 
• Determine if there has been any ongoing, underlying tension within the board and, if so, determine if it needs to be addressed one-on-one (chair and responsible person) or if it is pervasive and needs to be addressed openly during a board session.
• Make sure there is a good vetting system in place to ensure you get spiritually, intellectually, socially (i.e., mature social skills) qualified candidates for the board.  




NEXT WEDNESDAY:

On April 18, 2018, watch for David McKenna's commentary on Lesson 22, "The Most Underrated Board Position" and learn why "the position of board chair is pivotal to a healthy board."

Subscribe to this blog by submitting your email (just above the date/day). Visit the Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom webpage and order extra 
copies for your board members.




Wednesday, April 4, 2018

LESSON 20 - Apply for a Staff Position and You Can Deal With That Issue!

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. Rich Stearns is our guest blogger this week for the second of three lessons in "Part 6: Boardroom Time-Wasters, Troublemakers, and Truth-Tellers.”

LESSON 20 OF 40 - 
Apply for a Staff Position and You Can Deal With That Issue!
Help board members not to cross the line into operational details.

THE BIG IDEA FROM THE BOOK:
 In Lesson 20, we learn how to prevent board members from crossing the “bright line” between governance and ministry operations. Your board likely comprises professionals at the top of their fields, so it’s natural that they’re curious and opinionated about details in their realm of expertise. But just because they can wade into operational minutiae doesn’t mean they should. That’s not what a board of directors is designed to do. 

Clarifying the role and scope of board members is a foundational first step. Then, applying a few strategies to keep board members on task will mitigate the risk. 

MY FAVORITE INSIGHTS from Lesson 20, pages 99-103: 
•  “What happens when board meeting discussions regularly detour into operations? It squanders time that should be devoted to major issues, blurs the decision-making, and impacts the emotional well-being of CEOs and board members.”
“It is up to each board member to be spiritually discerning and highly sensitive about which topics they comment on during board meetings.”
• “Even though every board member can raise a concern about the level of the board discussion, the primary responsibility rests squarely on the board chair. He or she is the first line of defense for keeping discussions at the appropriate level.” 

MY COLOR COMMENTARY:
In 20 years with World Vision, I’ve had time to bring added rigor to an already well-managed board of directors. We’ve developed a strong philosophy of governance that is codified in our Board Policy Manual, clearly defined in our orientation materials, and reinforced by governance refresher training. We also leveraged external expertise, including a two-day session with Bob Andringa on board development principles and practices. 

What serves us well is to employ guidelines that remind board members of their scope. There’s the “three hats” framework from Bob, defining the roles board members can play: governance, volunteer, and implementer. Naturally only one hat can be worn at a time. Outside of official meetings, individual members are simply volunteers with no authority to make directives to staff, and only occasionally can they act as implementers. We also embrace the acronym NIFO, “Noses In, Fingers Out”—shorthand for keeping members focused at the policy level. If the conversation strays to operational details, the board chair or a member will throw out the NIFO flag.

If hats, noses, and fingers don’t do the trick, I rely on the collective wisdom of the board. In response to a questionable suggestion from a member, I’ll say, “Let’s share this with the other directors. If they agree that the idea has merit, we’ll put it to a vote to make it policy.” Not surprisingly, that’s often as far as the matter goes.

Thanks to all these strategies, along with the solid leadership of the board chair and well-planned meetings, we’ve avoided the kind of “crossing the line” behavior described in Lesson 20.

THIS WEEK’S QUOTES & COMMENTARY BY RICH STEARNS:


Rich Stearns is the longest-serving president and CEO of World Vision U.S., leading the Christian relief and development organization since 1998. He calls Christians to action on the greatest needs of our day, including extreme poverty, hunger, and the plight of refugees. His best-selling book, The Hole in Our Gospel, has encouraged thousands of readers to open their hearts to those who are hurting in our world. The former CEO of Parker Brothers Games and Lenox is a frequent commentator in outlets such as Christianity Today and FOX News, an in-demand speaker at conferences such as Christian Leadership Alliance and Q Conference, and the author of three other books, including Unfinished: Filling the Hole in Our Gospel.

 TO-DO TODAY: 
• Make sure an effective philosophy of governance is codified in your Board Standing Policy, and periodically refresh principles and practices of good governance with your board.
• From the board chair and CEO down, create a culture of healthy governance by preparing crisp agendas, conducting disciplined meetings, and holding one another accountable.




NEXT WEDNESDAY:

On April 11, 2018, watch for John Ashmen's commentary on Lesson 21, "Back Off the Ledge of Dysfunctional Mayhem. When dysfunction reigns, healthy board members head for the door."

Subscribe to this blog by submitting your email (just above the date/day). Visit the Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom webpage and order extra 
copies for your board members.