Your Board – Investors in Your Organisation

I’ve talked before about having your board onboard; and have thought from time-to-time about whether boards are truly invested in the work of the organisation.

When thinking about board members and their investment in organisations; one thing that I’ve often wondered is how many are on the board of more than one organisation and whether this truly works.

Another thought has been about whether board members financially contribute to the organisation, sure – many do by attending events etc; but do they donate to your cause more than they donate to others?

So finding “My ONE Wish For Boards – the Secret Revealed” on Asking Matters made me realise I’m certainly not the only one who thinks along these lines.

Have a read and see what you think …

My ONE Wish for Boards – the Secret Revealed

For 15 years now, I’ve harbored a secret wish. My one wish for the non-profit world. Here it is.

If I could snap my fingers and make one change in our community, it would be to have every board member sit on one board only… and give 75% of his or her charitable gifts to that board. I can dream, can’t I?! 

Here are the impacts that would have:

Board members would feel like investors.

We talk about how to encourage our board members to truly feel vested in our organizations, yet how can they when their attention and their giving is so broadly focused? If one of your board members gives $10,000 to charity and gives $2,500 of that to you, that’s a solid gift. Now imagine if that board member gives $7,500 to you. That would be quite an investment, and I can guarantee that this board member would then be laser-focused on helping your organization succeed.

Board members could stop the painful quid-pro-quo fundraising.

What a gift that would be! Can you imagine how much negative energy would be avoided? I’ve never met a board member who likes all that quid-pro-quo fundraising – every gift to your organization means a gift he or she makes to someone else’s. And then your organization has all these gifts from people who don’t care about you and don’t want to be cultivated…and will never have a direct relationship to your organization.

Read the full article here

Who holds the keys to change?

Getting change to occur in any organisation is difficult. Often it seems even more so in the NFP/charity sector. We explore some of the reasons why and seek to answer the question; “Who holds the most effective keys to facilitating change.”

If you’re involved in the charity/non-profit sector, this piece by Craig Fisher of RSM Hayes Audit is worth a read.


We all know the truism that “change is constant”.  And it is.  However in many organisations, being able to instigate change, or effectively respond to change, is often very difficult.  Generally the barrier to change is not the nature of the changes needed, but rather the emotional or human barriers to accepting the need and then moving to doing something about it.

Interestingly this situation is usually more pronounced in NFP organisations than it is in For-Profit organisations.   This is understandable when you consider some of the key differences between the two types of organisations.  This includes that most For-Profit organisations are generally more command and control in operational style, and more binary in their decision making, i.e. the driver for most decisions are: Will this make us more money – yes or no?

NFPs by contrast are commonly much softer in governance and management style because they often involve elements of volunteering and social motivation, as well as being driven more by service delivery rather than a single minded financial profit driver like the majority of For-Profit businesses.

Sadly however this can translate into NFPs being much more inefficient in how they do what they do, and much more resistant to change.  By not being forced to innovate as much as many For-Profit entities they can become flabby and inefficient.  Conversely, some NFPs are too lean, such that innovation is unable to flourish through lack of skills, time and resources.

Ironically though given the above, in times of financial crises or stress it is usually NFPs that will survive, or survive longer than many For-Profits.  Even though they don’t have the same single minded focus on their financial bottom line and financial sustainability, when times get tough their key stakeholders will generally support them “just enough” so they can struggle on.  Whereas by contrast, the situation for companies is much more binary; they either make enough money to stay in business or they go out of business.

Related to the above is the concept that; starvation often forces innovation.  And those that don’t innovate generally decline.

Continue Reading here

How to Get Your Board Engaged in Fundraising

I’ve previously talked about how the Board of any organisation needs to be not only attending meetings, signing papers they need to sign; and that they need to also be doing their share of engaging with the community.

Marc A. Pitman’s piece “21 Ways For Board Members to Engage with their Nonprofit’s Fundraising” is a great read and is likely to give you some ideas on how you can ignite the flame in your board members to do that “little bit” more.

What are your expectations of your board members?

Is your Board engaged, how did they become engaged?

See also

Your board and trustees should be working

Are you supported by your board and staff?

Use focus groups to move forward

Will You be Around in Five Years?

Now’s a good time to be thinking about the year in review, and as part of that, think about if you will be still be here in five years. Some won’t but that is possibly because they have done what they set out to do, others will be struggling.

Although almost a year old, “3 REASONS WHY YOUR NONPROFIT WON’T EXIST IN FIVE YEARS & WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT” from Strategy Lab is well worth a read.

As you read it, think about you and your organisation.

See also:

Are You Stale – Have you Stagnated?

Do you feel your organisation is struggling to grow support as a result of stagnation?

You’re still striving to grow your supporter base, you’re segmenting your database to make the most of what you have already; yet nothing changes, no growth in support either by the number of supporters or amounts able to be raised?  … continue reading

Staff Morale – Is it a reflection on the Organisation?

When was the last time you took a helicopter view of your organisation, taking particular look at your staff?

The way staff interact with each other, the way they speak about the organisation can indicate how they feel about the organisation. Not their job, but about the organisation as a whole.

Staff who don’t speak highly of the organisation may have reasons for this, are they feeling under valued, have they been passed over for promotion?

It is important to look at the picture your staff are painting, if they’re painting an unfavourable picture about the organisation and sharing this with colleagues; they could be “poisoning” others and, there’s also the risk that they’re sharing this outside of work.

If staff are poisoning others, it won’t be long before their negativity rubs off on others, the sooner you spot something and act the better.

Unless you’re in touch with how staff are feeling you’re lost in the dark, you need to be speaking with your staff to hear their views, their opinions about their job, their worth within the organisation and, their overall view about the organisation and the work being it does.

If you’re staff are at the front of the organisation, it may be more important to be listening to what they have to say, if they’re feeling disenfranchised this could come across in their interactions with those they deal with – potentially negatively impacting on service delivery and funding opportunities.

When new staff join an organisation, if there is negativity among staff this can have a detrimental effect on the way new staff interact and perform in their role. If they’re feeling “out of place”, feeling as though they’ve made the wrong choice, it could impact on the employment costs of the organisation; and could even result in action in employment court.

Many companies and, organisations conduct regular performance reviews which is important, however unless these are a two-way process they can miss opportunities, miss indications of low morale in the staff.

Staff reviews should be conducted at least annually, some are conducted every six months; but as a rule, don’t conduct them less than once each year.

And, in between – always – keep an eye and ear out for what staff are saying.

What they are saying could be just what you hear to make changes you’ve been pondering, even negative comments can create valuable opportunities for an organisation to grow and flourish.

Do you conduct staff reviews, if so has there been anything come to light from these that has helped your organisation grow and perhaps change they way things were done?

What gems have you learned from staff reviews?

You need a Stable Board

Your board, like any other area in your organisation will need to replace or add new members; how you go about finding the right person, introducing them and helping them in their role will have an impact on how they do their ‘job’ and how long they’ll stay.

Like any other function in any organisation, a position description should be put together; outlining what the role is. From this you can’t write a person description, what type of person best suits the role – experience, contacts, abilities; what do they have to have?

Once you have done that, it’s time to start looking; your networks are the first place you should start. Ask around, someone knows someone.

And, like any other role you need to:

Introduce them to the organisation, whether this is possible face-to-face or through other means; ensure they are properly introduced.

Induct them into the organisation, explain the role and all expectations; meeting attendance, availability to attend events etc.

Bring them up-to-date, make sure make the time to tell them where things are at, mid-term goals etc; this will help them hit the ground running.

Some organisation team up a mentor, someone who has experience in the functions of the board and organisation; this is something worth considering especially in larger organisations.

Like all other roles in your organisation, you should be conducting reviews; these are an opportunity for two-way feedback on how the board member is doing, what their take on the role is, and what future plans, goals.

Keep all board members active, involved and encouraged to be part of the organisation; if you want to have a high turnover rate anywhere in the organisation, ignore their views, bore them with aimless tasks and ineffective meetings.

How do you manage new board members? Do you follow the above?

See also:

Does your board expect to be paid

Your board and trustees should be working

Are you supported by your board and staff?

Board Meetings – When do You hold them?

Board Meetings – When do You Hold Them?

Having attended many charity board meetings I find myself astounded by what could be a lack of commitment from board members to attend.

Sure, many board members are volunteers and have other commitments, but isn’t their offer to assist a commitment to the cause?

Most board or other charity meetings I attend are either held after normal business hours, nights or weekend, which, yes does cut into people’s personal time, is there a better time for these meetings?

Today I’m off to a board meeting that I’ve suggested be held in the morning rather than the tail-end of the day. There’s a few reasons for this:
  • People attending meetings at the end of the day may not have full focus on the meeting, they could be distracted from what has taken place during their day
  • It’s a kick starter to everyone’s day, people attending will hopefully leave the meeting revved up for a productive day
  • Tiredness, who has their full wits about them at the end of the day – most people want to get home and put their feet up, morning meetings could see a more energised meeting
  • Staff attending the meeting will have the opportunity to (almost immediately) get started on things that may come out of the meeting
All up, I’m hoping that the attendance at the meeting will be higher than normal – I’m aiming for 80% attendance, the last board meeting held at night that I attended had less than 50% attendance. 

When do you hold your board meetings?
What is the attendance like?
Have you ‘canvassed’ board members for a more suitable time?

“Share Now” Are your board and supporters encouraged to share what you’re doing?

When was the last time you asked your board to tell their own networks know about the work your organization does? Chances are it’s been a while, for some reason organizations forget that their board is more than a group who help with the ‘management’ of the organization, but are a valuable asset when it comes to gaining support and raising awareness.

The same goes for your supporters, they’re already onboard so are in an ideal position to help you spread the word about the work of your organization and help gain additional support through their networks.

If an organization isn’t harnessing its resources, the board and current supporters – they’re likely making things harder for themselves than need be.

People who are already involve have almost an emotional attachment and are perfect to be tapped into to help solicit support financial and in-kind as well as helping to raise awareness.

Most organizations struggle to gain new support – it’s a fact of life. To gain new support takes effort, time and money and, if you’re lucky you may gain some support – but it’s a small return on the investment to gain them.

But if a concerted effort were put into utilising current supporters the amount of resources needed could be substantially less.

Current supporters already have some attachment and so the possibility that they will go that extra mile and help. All that is needed – is they need to be asked to help.

If organizations were transparent and openly asked their supporters for help, it’s likely it will come, sitting back and hoping they’ll help won’t achieve anything.

Think of business models where people are paid a ‘finders fee’ for introducing new people, these businesses do it because they know they’ll get a return asking, and they know it costs a lot less pay a ‘fee’ than using others methods (telemarketing, advertising, direct mail).

What organizations need do is have a call to action, a plea on all communication (email, newsletters) they have with their supports – this can be as simple as, “please help us by sharing this with your family, friends and work colleagues.”

Organizations have “donate now” on websites, “txt 246 to donate” for mobile campaigns – so why not have “share now” on all other communication?

If you are supporting an organization and they haven’t asked you to help share what they’re doing, tell them you want them to start asking people to “share now”.

If you are an organization will you now start saying “share now” and get your current supporters to share what you’re doing with their own networks?

What have you got to lose?

“Share now” – forward this with your network.

Stakeholders – Do you include them?



Every non-profit organisation has a board, committee or some type of management team; how many of these have representation from their stakeholders – the people they represent? 

Some organisations I’ve recently spoke with have said they don’t, that it wasn’t something they’d considered. Others were more blunt, perhaps shocking even; they said things like “what’s the point”, “how could they be of use?”. 

Whether it’s ignorance or oversight as to why “user stakeholders” aren’t included in the ‘management team’, that they’re not part of the ‘working group’. Whatever the reason I think this needs to change. 

At the very least “user stakeholders” they need to have a sense of being part of what you do, not just to receive the benefits, this would go a long way to building self esteem amongst some, a sense of belonging, a sense of ownership – get the drift? 

Imagine not just using the ‘image’ of someone in the community you help, but having them as part of the team that helps with the running of the organisation. Wouldn’t this be good for the overall vision, the overall dynamic of the organisation? 

I’d suggest that at minimum organisations (helping people) should hold a focus group meeting at least annually, at this the vision for the next period could be presented, “user stakeholders” would  then have the opportunity to voice their opinion. 

You’d likely be surprised what you might hear. Don’t be surprised if you hear people say “we don’t want to be seen like that” – or – “ why don’t you do such and such”. 

You never know what people are thinking unless you ask, you don’t know what people can offer unless you ask. What have you got to lose? 

By including everyone in your processes, your decision making you are likely to have respect and understanding of what you are doing. 

I once heard a story relating to malaria and the distribution of malaria nets. In short people who were simply given malaria nets were less inclined to use if for what it was given, instead using it for fishing. Those, who paid a token price for the nets used them for what they were for. Incidentally, I did find out that the communities who ‘paid’ for their nets had a lower incidence of malaria over a period than those who were simply given them. 

Next time you’re sitting round your boardroom table, think about the people you’re there to help, are they at the table with you? If not, why not? And when will you change this? 


© Sebastian Kaulitzki |