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Showing posts from August, 2010

Poke Your Head Up and Ask

I'M IN LOVE WITH BENCHMARKING.  I love gathering data about organizations, but not simply for gathering's sake.  It's got to be focused information that can help to paint a picture about success (or the potential for success).  For me, benchmarking is a nifty tool that can help to answer two key questions every nonprofit needs to ask: 1)  how can I tell how my organization's doing until I start to compare it with similar or better organizations?  and 2) how can I know all that might be possible for my organization until I know what's out there already? Benchmarking is one way to get a handle on exactly this type of information.  It can be as simple as sending an email or as formal as making an on-site visit with a laundry list of questions for specific staff or board members.  What you find out can help you to place your organization on the great continuum of organizations like yours.  It gets you grounded and lets you know if your organization is at or near the top…

Nonprofit Trends: Lost in Translation?

STARTING TODAY I'M SPENDING A BIG CHUNK OF TIME shifting the furnishings around in the nonprofit office where I work part-time.  My organization will soon be sharing space with another nonprofit in order to save a bit on rent.  The last time I had to share an office with others was almost 20 years ago and that was with a co-worker.  So, as much as I want to help the bottom line of my association, I'm a little worried about the personal workstyle adjustment I'm facing. I wasn't surprised, then, when I learned from a group of rural nonprofit leaders earlier this month that workplace sharing and consolidation are trends they're seeing on the horizon.  But, interestingly, no one knew of an organization that was actually doing it.  So far, it's just talk.  Almost in the same breath the group agreed that another trend is the demise of some nonprofits -- indeed, about three cultural organizations in their area were down for the count -- an arts council, an performing a…

Getting Beyond the "Bored" Meeting

MY AUDIO/POWERPOINT SLIDES TO MY WEBINAR for NYS Arts on how to up the quality quotient for board meetings is available here.

This webinar looks at some basics:  what board meetings should accomplish (and often don't), how revisioning an agenda can provide meaning as well as focus, and how dashboards, breakouts, facilitated discussions and conversation recorders can both deepen and expand understanding.



Illustration:  The Boring Meeting from fourborne via Flickr

Board Recruitment: Still Missing the Mark

LET'S FACE IT -- IF FINDING COMMITTED, DYNAMIC AND FORWARD-THINKING board members was easy, you wouldn't be reading this post.  And I wouldn't have written about board recruitment as much as I have (see here,here, here, and here to list a few of the dozen or so posts I written on this topic).  I'm not the only one writing about it -- there are dozens of articles and book chapters devoted to it and plenty of workshops and webinars (OK, these are webinars I developed for NYS ARTS) available.  I like to think we might be making some headway on understanding that board recruitment is an ongoing process made up of interlocking pieces.  And, indeed, we are. Nevertheless, I was struck when a nonprofit leader in a focus group I conduct recently declared that, in her community, most nonprofits had no clue what the role of the nominating committee was and no understanding of how important this committee was to the long term health of their organizations.  Several of her colleague…

You Get What You Deserve

MY COLLEAGUE LINDA NORRIS AND I HAVE a long history in the trenches of museum administration.  The post is really a tribute to her insight, which is that boards get the directors they deserve and vice versa.  It's a tough philosophy particularly when it refers to a negative relationship.  But, frankly, both of us have seen it played out in dozens and dozens of organizations.   It reminds me of what another colleague told me about a particular board that hired the same type of director over and over again and could never understand why they had a mess on their hands....over and over again.  What's that old saying? -- insanity is when you keep doing the same thing expecting to get a different result.  Boards who want to maintain tight control (or Machiavellian control) will generally seek a director they can control tightly.  They'll look for the passive personality, the blank slate, the eager to please.  Boards that embrace challenge with the understanding that it can lead to…