Posts Tagged ‘Decision Making’

Non Profit Board Resolutions for 2014

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

Is Your Non Profit Board Ready to Tackle 2014?

By Joseph John

Two years ago, I wrote an article about making and keeping non profit board resolutions. I thought it would be fair to dust off that document from 2012 and see what — if anything — has changed with your non profit’s organizational resolutions for the New Year.

The first question you need to ask is this: Were there ANY formalized resolutions for 2012 or 2013? Was there a board retreat (or at least a special meeting) to determine goals/resolutions for those years? Another question: Were there ANY personal commitments from board members to contribute to the organization’s growth, health, and well-being? And so here we are heading into 2014; what has your organization accomplished over the past two years? What do you hope to accomplish in 2014?

Non profit board resolutions are really no different than the personal resolutions individuals make. Oh yes, there are always great intentions behind those resolutions, but invariably, there are periods through the year that the resolutions tail-off into a nose-dive, one-by-one. What resolutions an organization needs are the same as an individual — manageable resolutions. Yes manageable resolutions that will encourage board commitment AND follow-through during the entire year.

You’ve probably seen dozens of resolutions before, but let’s reinforce some of the ones below that you and your board can and should make. These are resolutions that will ultimately make a difference to the community you serve.

First things first: Determine where your organization exists on the mediocrity-good-great continuum. What will move you and the organization from mediocrity to good. What will move you from good to great? [Note: see my article “Moving Beyond Mediocrity”]

Second: You may remember an article I wrote regarding “Organizational Milestones.” In that article, I stated that an historical timeline creates a better grasp for seeing trends over the almost thirteen years since the millennium to determine what the next one, three, or five years might look like. It’s a great planning tool. And yes, I’ve already tested this concept with a number of associations that I deal with — and they collectively say “OMG…that would be fantastic for all of us to review.”

Let me ask you: Does your non profit organization have the organizational “guts”, that is, the commitment, to set the bar higher, and to venture into new markets that you haven’t approached before? Is your organizational “vision” aggressive enough to make reaching for new goals a real challenge?

The following resolutions, or goals, are not new. You’ve seen them before. However, it’s time to review each one and determine which of the following items your organization can achieve in order to reach higher and ultimately move from Mediocrity to Good to Greatness. Let’s recap:

Friend (member) raise. Remember the axiom: “Friend raising comes before fund raising.”

Open the box. Now seal it! Be different. Be unique. Make people say, “now that’s a unique and creative non profit organization.”

Raise communication awareness internally. Start talking to each other — board members and staff members. If you can’t communicate clearly among yourselves, then the next resolution is going to fall flat on its face.

Raise communication awareness in the community. Again, “open the box” and start thinking of unique ways that will generate POSITIVE communication throughout the community.

Raise your hand. That’s right! Don’t sit on your hands. When you start leaning towards delegation, then delegate to yourself first.

Raise the bar. Set some higher goals for friend raising, fund raising, and other initiatives that require going that “extra mile,” and beyond!

Dust off the bylaws, vision, mission, and values. Challenge, if need be. Change or modify them if necessary. DON’T wait. Mediocrity is mired in dusty old bylaws, vision, mission, and values.

Take ownership. “It’s Your Board.” Make yourself an owner of the organization and begin pushing for excellence, unity, and most importantly trust.

Sow the seeds of board recruitment. Recruit and groom new talent on the board and that means looking towards the “X” and “Y” generations so they can become the future leaders on your non profit board and great community spokespersons.

Try a fresh coat of paint. Determine if your organization’s image needs a fresh coat of paint to create a brand new, and vibrant, organization to the community.

Plan for the future. Focus on the here-and-now with an eye for keeping the pipeline of future funding open for your organization.

Say “thank you.” Two little words are two HUGE words. “Thank you” is one of the greatest ice-breakers, which leads right into friend-raising — and the cycle continues from friend raising to fund raising.

The previous twelve (12) resolutions were presented in 2012 and again in 2013. Has anything changed in your non profit organization since then? Go ahead and rank-order the ones that you and your fellow board members can work on immediately. Commit to excellence. Resolve to keep your resolutions for 2014. Remember that keeping your resolutions will result in benefits for you, your organization, and the communities you serve.

Non Profits: Moving Beyond Mediocrity

Monday, November 4th, 2013

Non Profit Mediocrity Can Be Changed

By Joseph John

A month or so ago, as I was leaving a meeting, I overheard an associate mutter something under his breath. I caught up to him and asked him “Hey, [name], I didn’t quite catch what you just said.”

He looked at me and smiled — or was it a pained grimace? He said, “Good to Great.” And then he added “some people should read that book.” He shook his head, and again I saw the look on his face.

My associate’s look and his comment took me aback briefly because I realized that he was so right. He did not have to elaborate. The non profit organization to which he was referring: was it good and didn’t know how to get to great? Or worse, yet, was it just mediocre?

I thought about that statement and I realized that the organization he was referring to was truly mired in mediocrity. Yes, an organization that majored in and was mired in mediocrity. That organization has a long journey before it even gets to good, let alone great.

When I got home, I scoured my bookshelf for yet another well-written classic of organizational behaviors and mindsets: GOOD TO GREAT, Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t, by Jim Collins. Yes, that was what my associate was referring to.

Collins talks about the Nucor System which “…rejected the old adage that people are your most important asset. In a good-to-great transformation, people are not your most important asset. The right people are.” Do we say “Amen” or “Right On” to that statement?  How many organizations look for someone just to fill a seat on the board rather than perform due diligence to determine if that person is a good “fit’ for the board?

Yes, Collins’ research is geared to the for-profit arena; however, there are just too many salient points in his book that can be applied to the non profit sector as well. He states that “Good is the Enemy of Great.” YIKES! If that’s the case, is it safe to assume that Mediocrity is the enemy of Good? Visually, this is what the Mediocrity continuum looks like:

Mediocrity                      >                       Good                          >                           Great

Gee, does our non profit organization enjoy being all the way over to the left-hand side of Greatness?

Now, let me pose the next question about non profit organizational behavior: How many degrees are there between mediocrity and good?  Oh, I’m sure there might be degrees that can be measured as an organization moves along the continuum to being good. But, instead of degrees of separation from being good, I believe it’s really a matter of shaking off as many of the traits that comprise mediocrity and prohibit the movement towards good.

Some of those traits are: complacency, lack of vision, unwillingness to establish stretch goals, unwillingness to measure productivity and accountability, preaching the gospel of “we never did it that way before,” and the list goes on.

Andrew Carnegie stated, “People who are unable to motivate themselves must be content with mediocrity, no matter how impressive their other talents.” Based on Carnegie’s quote, I believe it is safe to say that many nonprofit organizations don’t attempt to find (or can’t) the best-of-the-best to sit on the board of directors. And why? Simply because they have no concept of greatness or the potential for their board and the organization to be good and then great. They’re mired in a culture of mediocrity and fail to focus on the personality traits that need to be fixed to be able to move along the continuum.

Going through the motions, year-after-year is mediocrity. Not challenging each other to establish stretch goals is mediocrity. Not challenging and questioning the status quo is mediocrity. Not establishing a year-long friend and fundraising campaign is mediocrity. Not holding every board member accountable for results and positive growth is mediocrity. seo company usa Not electing visionary leaders and doers is mediocrity.

Yes, I think you can see that mediocrity is a negative trait. It’s a trait that creates a delusional sense of self-satisfaction when, in fact, the organization is underachieving and, in essence, failing.

As a good friend said, when I discussed this article with her, the response was “Is mediocrity the contentment with where you are, or the fear of reaching higher?  It just takes one step….” Yes, just one step: a commitment to change and change with the right people.

Non Profit Organizations – Can You Make a Decision?

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Is Your Non Profit Organization Suffering from Analysis Paralysis?

By Joseph John

It’s not a perfect world, and it’s definitely not a perfect world in the non profit sector when it comes to decision making.

Decisions have to be made, and projects need to be implemented — on a timely basis. And yet, there are too many non profit boards that suffer from Analysis Paralysis.

Wikipedia defines Analysis Paralysis as “…the state of over-analyzing (or over-thinking) a situation, or citing sources, so that a decision or action is never taken, in effect paralyzing the outcome. A decision can be treated as over-complicated, with too many detailed options, so that a choice is never made, rather than try something and change if a major problem arises.

We talk about a non profit board’s “fiduciary responsibility,” and yet, we tend to ignore, or mention another major board responsibility — the need to ACT. I believe that a board’s inactivity and fear of initiating projects on a timely basis ranks extremely high on the list of costly board errors.

“Let’s discuss this at the next meeting,” or “I think we need more time,” or “ I think we need more information.” Sound familiar?

Are there any ground rules a board can establish in order to avert that insidious organizational illness called Analysis Paralysis? The answer simply is “yes.”

Here are some basic steps to get your non profit organization moving towards a healthy and vibrant organization.

  1. Eliminate the fear of failure. Failure only occurs when you don’t do anything.
  2. Accept the unknown. There is not enough data to eliminate the unknown — it’s a fact of life.
  3. Eliminate the search for more data by establishing a “no read” zone and a “no more data” zone — and stick to those rules.
  4. Establish a timeline by putting a stake in the ground — and stick to it (no pun intended).
  5. Establish ground rules for implementing your specific project — and stick to those ground rules.
  6. Establish board consensus that the entire board is unified and committed to action; and willing to take the kudos and the lumps, if they occur.
  7. Embrace the fear of inactivity.

What’s the worst thing that can happen to a non profit board by moving forward? Nothing negative. And why? Because you have just given the “data seekers and crunchers” even more data to analyze once the project has been implemented.

So, eliminate Analysis Paralysis and make your organization Nike-like — “Just Do It!”

“Lincoln on Leadership”

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

Noteworthy Ideas for Non Profit Boards

By Joseph John

Recently, there has been a lot of excitement about the movie “Lincoln” — and rightfully so. Excellent directing, acting, cinematography, and the list of kudos continue for this brilliant film. I saw the movie and was impressed. Not only impressed, but on the way home I got my “ah-hah!” — it was a flash. That movie prompted me to go back to my bookshelves and search for a book that I had read and used many times at my prior company — oh, just a few years ago.

Aha! There it was. I found it high up on the bookshelves: Lincoln on Leadership, Executive Strategies for Tough Times, by Donald T. Phillips (find it on Amazon). I wiped a few years’ worth of dust off the jacket (now I know why they call it a “dust cover”) and opened it up. Wow! Some concepts never change. I asked myself, “Joe, why haven’t you used this book in your nonprofit presentations?” No need to answer that question. I realized at that moment that every concept Donald Phillips notes in his well-researched book is easily transferable to the nonprofit sector. The book, and its content, is very much in tune and up-to-date with all issues facing board members and the entire board in the nonprofit sector. It’s an incredible resource and will always be relevant.

I turned to the table of contents and reviewed the “Parts” (categories) Phillips employs, to categorize his chapters: 1) People, 2) Character, 3) Endeavor, and 4) Communication. I realized at that point, just by looking at the table of contents, that this book, and everything Lincoln practiced, is the “stuff” nonprofit boards need to practice.

Allow me to highlight each Part with the resulting chapter. Also, I challenge you to reflect with me on the following thought: Isn’t every Part & Chapter the basis for Board success? Aren’t these principles the very basis for what all board members and boards should be practicing?

PEOPLE: (1) Get out of the Office and Circulate Among the Troops; (2) Build Strong Alliances; (3) Persuade Rather Than Coerce.

CHARACTER: (4) Honesty and Integrity are the Best Policies; (5) Never Act Out of Vengeance or Spite; (6) Have the Courage to Handle Unjust Criticism; (7) Be a Master

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of Paradox.

Now, can you see why I got excited about the many lessons that are loaded in this exceptional book? But there are more —two more parts and eight more chapters (or lessons).

ENDEAVOR: (8) Exercise a Strong Hand — Be Decisive; (9) Lead by Being Led; (10) Set Goals and Be Result-Oriented; (11) Keep Searching Until You Find Your “Grant”; (12) Encourage Innovation.

And the final Part:

COMMUNICATION: (13) Master the Art of Public Speaking; (14) Influence People Through Conversation and Storytelling; (15) Preach a Vision and Continually Reaffirm It.

Following every chapter is a set of “Lincoln Principles,” principles such as “unite your followers with a ‘corporate mission’”; “delegate responsibility and authority by empowering people to act on their own;” “provide a clear, concise statement of the direction of your organization, and justify the actions you take;” and “prepare yourself thoroughly for your public speaking engagements.”

Phillips lists at least eight principles at the conclusion of each chapter. The principles provide further “step-back-and-reflect” moments from one of the greatest leaders in American history. You’ll see that every principle that Phillips notes in his chapters is easily transferrable to the nonprofit board of directors — principles that can and should be implemented.

I hope you will read this book. It could provide a great theme for a board retreat. However, even if you don’t purchase or borrow this book, I urge you to review the titles of the Parts and the Chapters that I just listed. Review the titles and then ask yourself, “Isn’t this what our organization and our nonprofit leadership should be achieving?”

Believe me, I’m not going to allow dust to cover this book again. I’m ready to share it with a lot of board members. Yes, even in 2013, Lincoln’s principles are still relevant!

Business Ethics

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

When are we going to sell right?

by Joe John

Business EthicsSince September of 2011, I have enjoyed writing about topics that impact the nonprofit sector. Hopefully you have found them both interesting and helpful. Writing about the nonprofit sector was a challenge by my BCG associates  — the challenge being to wed both my for-profit years of experience with my involvement with nonprofits for many years as well.

It has been fun. I was preparing another article this week focusing on communications among board members and the communities they serve. But then IT hit me. The “IT” was yet ANOTHER wave of newspaper and TV news that just took me over the edge.

The edge: The lack of public confidence; compliance departments growing; market conduct issues; the disappearance of Business Ethics. Serious issues in doing business that won’t go away. I got irate, again, and so I decided to dust off a speech I made a number of years ago to a professional group.

Our editors have helped me condense it into a white paper. I am using it simply as a forum to voice my unease about a problem that hasn’t gone away, and I’m getting very annoyed that ethical selling and business ethics is a topic we need to address. WHY is that!? Oh, well. Perhaps you’ll share my sentiments when you read the presentation.

I wish I could say “enjoy” — at least I’m hoping you will share my sentiments about ethical issues in the business world that just won’t go away.

To read this white paper, go to the upper right-side of this Website’s home page to “document links.”


Should you join a non profit board?

Monday, March 26th, 2012

Non profit invitation: turn on that personal station WIIFM and decide for yourself

By Joseph John

non profit boardYou’ve had your interview for the board, and during the process you most likely have conducted your personal due diligence on the non profit organization. That due diligence includes items such as the organization’s impact on the community, programs, finances, structure of the board, bylaws, fund raising, and most importantly, board member responsibilities.

And now? Well, now you’ve just been asked to join the non profit organization and become a board member. You’re flattered and ready to join. But before you say “yes,” you should turn on a famous radio station: WIIFM (what’s in it for me).

Yes, even though you probably asked great questions about the non profit organization and got the answers you were seeking, you really do need to switch the dial to WIIFM — it’s a station only YOU can tune into.

Now, before you get upset at me that I’m condoning ego trips and major league boosts to your resume, let me explain why WIIFM is not a negative. It can be a helpful station that filters out all of the personal traits that are counter to altruism.

Just What’s In It For Me to become a board member?  Begin with truthful responses, so begin with the most basic one: Do I want recognition, or do I really want to serve and give back to the community? (egoism versus altruism).

O.K. If you can get past that first set of questions, here are some other questions to consider (not in any specific order). And by the way, as you read each question, remember Socrates’ famous words — “know thyself:”

  1. Can serving on this non profit board enrich my life while developing passion for the organization’s cause?
  2. Can I grow as a board member and add value to the board?
  3. Can I move out of my “comfort zone” and learn new skills?
  4. Can I become a valuable asset to the community?
  5. Can I place the non profit organization’s interests above my own and serve the organization’s needs?
  6. Can I network with those like me who are serving, to broaden my horizons and sharpen my people skills?
  7. Can I learn to “play nice” and become a TEAM player with a group of people who also are contributing their free time to serve?
  8. Can I make a difference?
  9. Can I commit to self-improvement while helping to improve the non profit organization?
  10. Can I be empathetic, accountable, and ethical?


The preceding questions, not all-inclusive, comprise a WIIFM exercise NOT designed to assess potential materialistic or power gains. The true nature of the exercise is to determine if you can serve an organization that needs you and one where you cannot nor will expect payback — other than the satisfaction of serving others.

I asked an associate of mine to read this article before posting. After reading it, he told me that he was creating a rating scale of 1-5 for the WIIFM questions — just so he could re-assess his commitment to the organization(s) he serves. What a GREAT idea.

So if you’re approached to serve on a non profit board, proceed with the necessary due diligence, ask the questions you need to ask about them, and then step back, turn on WIIFM, and listen to yourself.

Non Profit Board Meetings Can be Effective

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Start using the “Consent Agenda” and be pleasantly surprised and efficient.

By Joseph John

non profit boardIt’s on your calendar — your regularly scheduled non profit board meeting. OUCH! How many board meetings do you dread attending? Be honest! And why? Do those meetings always seem to be the same old thing? Once again, do you see that there’s no substantial business that is being conducted that NEEDS to be conducted!?

I didn’t coin this phrase (I wish I did), but check this out: Efficient [non profit] board meetings begin with an efficient agenda.

The following concept is not new, but if you’re not using it, try it: The Consent Agenda.

It’s surprising how many non profit boards do not use the Consent Agenda. Believe me, if the consent agenda strategy is used, meetings can be more effective and streamlined while the focus can be on the real issues that need discussion and votes. The proof is in the following citations:

“A consent agenda, sometimes called a consent ‘calendar,’ is a component of a meeting agenda that enables the board to group routine items and resolutions under one umbrella.” [BoardSource]

“A consent agenda groups the routine, procedural, informational and self-explanatory non-controversial items typically found in an agenda. These items are then presented to the board in a single motion for an up or down vote after allowing anyone to request that a specific item be moved to the full agenda for individual attention. Other items, particularly those requiring strategic thought, decision-making or action, are handled as usual.” [Core Strategies for Non-Profits]

“I think it’s a critical and helpful agenda tool. It was an invaluable and necessary element of the agenda, and it dramatically shortened the meetings. At least 70% of the time, at the board meeting, the items were not moved from consent by a board member for further consideration/deliberation.” [Dr. Michele Sabino, Houston TX]

The first thing to keep in mind is that the Consent Agenda is a bundle of routine matters that don’t really need any time for discussion IF those items had been distributed before the non profit meeting for pre-reads. That is one of the critical features of the Consent Agenda — it must be distributed in advance of the meeting so that the entire package can be voted on and then move on to REAL topics.

And what are some of those “routine” matters?

1)     Minutes of the last meeting,

2)     Committee reports

3)     Staff reports

4)     Routine financial reports

5)     Informational documents

6)     Future meetings (and the list goes on)

As you can see, many of those items and more can be reviewed by non profit board members, at their leisure, prior to the meeting, making the approval process of the entire “bundle” a time saving feature. Imagine a one-hour agenda where all of those previously mentioned items accounted for only a one or two minute vote of approval.

As noted by Dr. Sabino and the other sources I quoted, there may be times that a particular item from the package is requested to be moved from consent to deliberation. However, it’s worth the percentage odds that it’s not going to happen, and as a result, more strategic issues can be discussed in the remaining fifty-eight minutes of your one-hour meeting.

There are numerous sources for you to use. However, I found that BoardSource has an excellent monograph The Consent Agenda: A Tool for Improving Governance. This document explains the process and provides very helpful tips to create the agenda, what should and should not be included, as well including a section titled “Breaking with Tradition” — you know, the proverbial “we never did it that way before” statement.

Busy non profit boards and busy people need effective meeting management processes — give the Consent Agenda a try.