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Showing posts from March, 2009

Serving on Multiple Boards

I'm sure we all know people who serve on more than one board at the same time. You may be one of them. Makes sense. Most of us have multiple interests and, if we're committed to involvement in our communities, some of us will volunteer in ways that wed our interests to our desires to make better the places where we live and play. And, it stands to reason that, over time, we could be recognized by more than one organization for our strengths, our talents, or our connections.

Don't you marvel, though, at the number of talented people you know who would never consider serving on a board? Or they don't quite seem to make it on any organization's radar screen to be asked? When you think about it, it's no wonder so many organizations seem to be begging for board members. Well, there are two (at least) sides to that issue and today I want to explore the side that deals with the person who does make it onto the radar screens and into multiple board rooms.

Here…

Board Recruitment: Attributes and Skill Sets

A colleague of mine was asked to participate in a discussion this week about her experiences as a board member.  Knowing that I've worked for and with a good number of boards, she wanted to get my take on some of the questions the discussion was going to be structured around.
Her first question to me was, "What do you think are the characteristics of a great board member?"  Funny she should have asked me that as I've been thinking about that recently myself.  I ticked off a few characteristics -- passionate about the organization's mission, forward-thinking, optimistic, etc.  "What about skills -- like financial acuity or a legal background?" she countered.  
Skills are good, too, I agreed, but I was thinking about a retired history teacher who was on the board of a local history museum.  Sure, the guy knew A LOT about history, but he monopolized conversations and dampened the group's ability to generate ideas.  You wanted to say to this fellow, "…

Practicing Donor-Worthiness

There's no time like a recession to rethink your donor relationships.  Even if your institution has its financial back to the wall and all you can see is mounting debt, taking a few steps to deepen the conversation with donors about why what you do is important is never a wasted effort.  Your members, program sponsors, volunteers and funders help you when times are good and most appreciate hearing about your institution's challenges when times are tough.
This is not say that it's time to write that desperation letter.  In fact, professional fundraisers will tell you never to fundraise with a message of desperation.  Donors want to help organizations with a future, not organizations with chronic financial problems or organizations with leadership that is continually in a "sky is falling" mentality.  So, if you've got one of these types of letters written to your donors, just tear it up.
To me, rethinking the donor relationship in a time of economic crisis means …

Deliberate Practice as an Institutional Imperative

Geoff Colvin's recent book, Talent is Overrated, explores the whys and hows that separate "world-class performers from everybody else".  Most of us might believe that top achievers are destined for stardom, but tons of research indicates that isn't the case.  Top achievers hone their talents during many long hours of deliberate practice that are designed to nurture understanding and stretch ability.  
Deliberate practice can be defined as a sustained -- usually lengthy -- period of calculated effort designed to improve performance.  Whether it's music, a sport, or improving memory, the outstanding performers got that way through sheer, hard work.  This work is typically shaped by teachers, enriched by mentors, and encouraged by parents, teammates, or friends.  While some of the practice may happen in groups, much of it happens on one's own.
Most of the studies supporting the deliberate practice model have been done with musicians, athletes and chess players, be…