Streamlining Your Board Meetings – Part II
March 6th, 2013
Last week in Nonprofit Matters, we explored Simone Joyaux’s ideas on what hinders board members from getting down to important governance issues during board meetings. One great way to maximize your board’s meeting time is to implement a consent agenda. In its guide, The Consent Agenda: A Tool for Improving Governance, BoardSource discusses the advantages of using a consent agenda to make the most of board meetings: “a consent agenda can turn a board meeting into a meeting of the minds around the things that matter most. A consent agenda is a bundle of items that is voted on, without discussion, as a package. It differentiates between routine matters not needing explanation and more complex issues needing examination.”
Some of the items that can be packaged for a vote to expedite the approval process include minutes from the previous meeting, the executive director’s report, and updated organizational documents. In fact, items of any sort that are merely self-explanatory, informational, or previously discussed could appropriately be listed on a consent agenda.
The chief executive and board chair of the organization collaborate to determine the agenda but during the meeting, all board members are at liberty to identify portions of the agenda they feel require more deliberation. For the chair, executing this new meeting style will demand a different approach to meeting facilitation, an approach that stays true to the agenda but also provokes discussion.
Making such changes to the routine of board meetings requires a willingness to break with tradition and to apply a new system that is focuses more on the future of your organization than the past. “Rather than the ‘old business, new business’ approach that emphasizes reports on past performance,” the guide continues, “a consent agenda energizes board meetings and creates space for deep and forward thinking on the organization’s most important challenges.”
Be prepared! Your board members could end up making stronger contributions and leaving meetings with a new sense of value and satisfaction!
You can find the guide and read BoardSource’s seven steps to using a consent agenda here.
Posted by CNP Staff
Streamlining Your Board Meetings – Part I
February 26th, 2013
Have you ever walked away from a board meeting wondering, what did we really accomplish in there? And what is the purpose of a board meeting anyway?
Many times board meetings can get bogged down in superficial matters and end up consuming all the time members need to actually get around to crucial elements of organizational governance.
What are some of the obstacles that can get in the way of governance at meetings? According to Simone Joyaux, consultant and “board whisperer,” agenda items such as reviewing reports that members can read (and should read before attending the meeting), adhering to Robert’s Rules of Order instead of focusing the meeting around the most important issues for the organization at the time, and spending time on management topics can distract from the board’s central function.
Instead, she advocates, expect your board members to be prepared in advance. Spend your meeting time tackling “strategic and cage-rattling” questions such as: How are we foreseeing the unforeseeable? What is of concern that, if we don’t address it, can become alarming? In Joyaux’s opinion, it is up to the staff to come prepared to broach important topics, and staff and board should work together to compile questions that will guide the meeting toward a substantive discussion. Use your agenda to carve out a segment that encourages discussion regarding “anything that might cause public embarrassment or threaten beneficiaries or programs or mission.”
To read Joyaux’s article - What Do You Talk about at Your Board Meetings? - go to http://www.nonprofitquarterly.org/governancevoice/21574-what-do-you-talk-about-at-your-board-meetings.html
Posted by CNP Staff
Endowment Losses Lead to New Strategies for Nonprofits
February 20th, 2013
A recent study of 268 organizations conducted by the Chronicle of Philanthropy discovered that the median return on investment for endowments in 2012 remained at essentially the same rate – 5% - as it did in 2011. The 2012 Endowment Management Report addresses concerns related to “lackluster investment returns” for the second straight year.
Many endowments took a significant hit during the recession, and flat returns are not making up for those losses. Most organizations have been faced with difficult choices as a result: take less from the endowment for annual expenses and cut spending; ask donors to contribute more to compensate for the losses; or adopt a riskier investment strategy in hopes of reaping better returns.
Grant makers, who have suffered losses in their own endowments, are turning to recovery strategies such as impact investing by offering low-interest loans to nonprofits and investing dollars in businesses with a social mission with the intent of generating more funds to distribute.
With memories of the recent recession still fresh, many nonprofits have realized the benefits of having an endowment in place to sustain programs in the case of financial hardship, and are trying out creative ways to incentivize donors to make endowment gifts. The Report gives some examples of how organizations across the country are addressing the hesitations donors have to making an endowment gift and boosting contributions: asking donors to give an annual amount equivalent to what they intend to will to the endowment, matching the interest earned on an endowment gift, asking companies to establish an endowment and name it for a company leader or executive, or launching an endowment campaign.
To read more on the state of endowments, find 2012 statistics, and examine the endowment returns of 273 charities and foundations, download the 2012 Endowment Management Report here.
Posted by CNP Staff
2013 Nonprofit Communications Trends Report Released
February 11th, 2013
Staying on top of communications for your organization can be an intimidating prospect. You have to keep up with your weekly newsletter, get out the press release for your next event, constantly engage your followers on Facebook, and at the same time evaluate how all of these pieces are fitting into the marketing strategy you hope to achieve for your organization. On top of all the tasks involved, how do you ensure that your messages are getting through the landslide of so many other messages?
Though there are no easy answers or shortcuts in this arena, the Nonprofit Marketing Guide releases its annual Nonprofit Communications Trends Report to give nonprofits an insight into what overall trends might be most important in the upcoming year and to give readers a way to gauge the communications preferences and goals of other nonprofit organizations.
According to the study, most of what organizations will be focusing on depends on whether their main objective is to fundraise or to build their brand in the community. Those organizations that used communications largely as a fundraising tool prioritized email and direct mail marketing (appeals), in-person events and tended to “take a more conservative approach to social media.” Those that saw their communications as more of a function of brand-building typically worked for larger organizations and invested more time in media relations/PR, blogging, social media, and content marketing.
Overall, nonprofits surveyed indicated that the top three communications channels for them this year will be websites, social media (other than blogging), and email marketing. As far as social media goes, nonprofits surveyed prefer Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and are most likely to experiment with Pinterest this year.
Nonprofits anticipate their biggest challenges in 2013 will be “lack of time to produce quality content” and “lack of budget for direct expenses.” When asked “what scares you about 2013?” nonprofits also expressed concern about their “inability to keep pace with and effectively manage social media” and “inconsistency and disagreements about how to approach marketing.”
When it comes to communications in nonprofits, many have one common denominator: no written and approved plan in place. The 2013 report showed that only 30% of nonprofits surveyed had a formally written marketing plan endorsed by organizational leadership.
To access the full report, click here.
Posted by CNP Staff
How to Avoid Being a Pesky Meeting Scheduler!
January 28th, 2013
DISCUSS OUR LATEST E-NEWS ARTICLE BELOW!
There are a few necessary evils in life that we just can’t avoid: things like death, taxes, and . . . meetings! And in the nonprofit world, it seems that we have to schedule and attend more than our fair share.
To help us navigate the tricky business of setting up meetings, Vu Le, humor columnist from Blue Avocado, has laid out his “official rules for scheduling nonprofit meetings."
First, determine whether you are the meeting “initiator” or the meeting “grantor”; then, follow these steps to blissful scheduling:
- If you are the meeting initiator, propose a minimum of three dates and times over several days for the meeting grantor to choose from to avoid the time-consuming back-and-forth of determining an appointment. If those three don’t work, it’s up to the “meeting grantor” to then respond with three available slots.
- The meeting initiator should travel to the meeting grantor’s location.
- The meeting initiator is responsible for confirming the meeting and also exchanging the appropriate contact information in case a conflict arises.
- If you are a meeting initiator with an expense account and you meet at a coffee shop or restaurant, offer to pick up the tab. If you don’t have an expense account, you may still want to consider paying.
Click here to see all of the “official rules” and ensure you don’t earn the reputation of pesky meeting scheduler. And don’t forget to read through the comments in response to the article for more ideas on how to make scheduling meetings an efficient and considerate prospect. You may also want to forward this column to a few colleagues (wink).
FOR DISCUSSION: What are your personal pet peeves when it comes to scheduling meetings? What "official rules" or protocols would you like to add to the list?
Posted by CNP Staff