Recap: May 19th New Jersey Impact Economy Gathering

On Friday, May 17, 2017, the Support Center hosted the third NJ Impact Economy Gathering at the Livingston Campus of Rutgers Business School, in conjunction with the NJ Office of Faith Based Initiatives and Rutgers Business School. The Gathering brought together a large community of people who are passionate about the burgeoning social impact economy in New Jersey. The audience included a diverse range of nonprofit leaders, social entrepreneurs, capacity builders, grantmakers, lenders, impact investors, academics, and city and state government officials. Building off of last year’s two successful gatherings, this spring’s event featured speakers from nine organizations representing both the demand and supply side of the impact economy.

On the demand side, there were four social enterprises pitching their impact and business models:

  • Tom Sims, Food Bank of South Jersey, presented the Food Works Community Kitchen, which is a multi-faceted venture combining food preparation, culinary arts education, and microenterprise development.
  • Helena van der Merwe, A-Plus Consulting, pitched a vocational training and job placement program for high school students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
  • Kayla Jackson pitched the social venture PeduL, which is an online platform for students to fundraise for college through connections with scholarship providers, corporations, and individual patrons.
  • Bob Provost, Newark Symphony Hall, presented about the revitalization of Newark Symphony Hall and the proposed plans to transform part of the space into the National African American Arts & Entertainment Hall of Fame and Museum.

On the supply side, there were five speakers representing organizations that provide capital to social enterprises. They spoke about their organization’s mission and activities as well as the specific vehicles they use to capitalize social enterprises. The featured speakers were:

The final segment of the event was a panel discussion and inclusive conversation with our supply side speakers. Prompted by insightful questions from the audience, the speakers discussed their strategies for addressing social issues on the horizon and their organizations’ future directions.

The Gathering concluded with PeduL being named the “Audience Favorite” and awarded a package of 20 hours of pro bono Support Center social enterprise consulting. We would like to thank all those who attended for making it an inspiring, successful event.

To view photos from the event, please visit our Facebook page, Facebook.com/SupportCenterNY

Stay tuned for the announcement of the next Impact Economy Gathering in late fall!

The Overhead Myth

Pat Richter has been affiliated with the Support Center since 2002 in many capacities, including as a volunteer facilitator of workshops, affiliated consultant, C.O.O. interim, and most recently the Interim Director of Consulting. She consults with nonprofits and foundations both large and small. She has worked with a multitude of organizations to complete organizational assessment, including the PSEG Foundation and the Horizon Foundation. 

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Many nonprofits, especially those with operating budgets under $5 million, are starving themselves in terms of infrastructure and capacity.  The pressure to keep ‘overhead’ costs as low as possible to attract and retain donors results in under-investments in crucial areas.  Unfortunately, many donors do not understand how important these investments are to mission effectiveness, and often make their charitable contributions based on the ‘advertised’ percentage of each dollar that goes to direct services. 

Start-up nonprofits and those focused on controversial causes typically have higher than average fundraising expenses, so they are particularly challenged.

What are ‘overhead’ costs?  They are also referred to as indirect costs, administrative costs, shared costs, or fixed costs.  Any two people talking about overhead are likely to be talking about different things.    Overhead costs typically include liability insurance, staff training, computers/software, fundraising staff/consultants, financial management staff, audits, and physical plant maintenance and improvements.

How do ‘raters’ like Charity Watch and Charity Navigator calculate overhead?  They use each organization’s IRS 990 which divides expenses into three functional areas – program services expenses, management and general expenses, and fundraising expenses.  Management and general and fundraising expenses together make up the ‘overhead’ portion of expenses.  There is an unofficial standard that nonprofits should keep their overhead costs at or below 25% of expenses, reinforced by misleading reporting (most nonprofits under-report their overhead on the IRS 990 and in fundraising materials) and unrealistic donor and foundation expectations.

Wonder what overhead costs are in the for-profit sector?  The average overhead rates of twenty-five industries ranges from 13% to 50% with an average in the mid 20s.  In the service industries, none reported average overhead rates below 20%.

The good news is that Guidestar, Charity Navigator, and the Better Business Bureau issued a joint statement denouncing the use of the overhead ratio as the sole measure of nonprofit performance.  We shall see if that has any impact on donor behavior. 

Here are things nonprofits can do to fight back:

  1. If volunteers provide a significant number of hours toward direct services, monetize that value and add it to program services revenue. Include this value in your financials and annual report.  The IRS 990 does not capture the value of volunteer hours (and neither do the watchdogs) which requires your organization to expand on it in the program accomplishments section.
  2. If you have many facilities to maintain, consider breaking out facilities as an expense category in your annual report. Donors understand that a safe and adequate physical plant is essential; they may not understand that you need an IT consultant!
  3. Educate your Board about the results of inadequate overhead investments on mission effectiveness and good management and help them be comfortable with overhead expenses under 30%.
  4. Provide funders with better ways to measure performance than program ratios. A conversation about costs to achieve outcomes can be much more meaningful.

Here’s an example of how changing the story can benefit a nonprofit:

A therapeutic riding program depended on many volunteers performing a range of activities to support each horse and student rider with a disability for 50 lessons each week.  The operating budget was small as they were a start-up, and fundraising costs were high as all their income was from small fees and unrestricted fundraised dollars.  When they calculated the value of their volunteers, they were shocked to learn that it exceeded their annual operating budget!  Once this value was added as revenue their ratios were more in line with donor expectations.  Donors felt they were getting terrific value for their donations as they were ‘leveraged’ with volunteer hours.  By making capacity investments over several years, the therapeutic riding program has quadrupled in size and attracted a wide range of foundations and corporations as supporters.

Our job as nonprofit leaders is to shift the conversation with donors to results and mission effectiveness, and away from artificial and meaningless formulas that encourage dishonesty and starve the sector.

 

Support Center Launches Major Rebrand

New York (April 7, 2017) – Today, Support Center|Partnership in Philanthropy announces a comprehensive brand review and unveils its new name, logo and location. The new brand reflects Support Center’s 2017-2021 Strategic Plan and amplifies its legacy of innovation and vision. Rollout of the new brand will begin by April 10, 2017.

During the strategic planning process, the organization revisited its mission, vision and values, took a closer look at programming and thought about high level strategies that could guide its work in the years to come. After the plan’s completion, the organization revealed its new streamlined name: Support Center, dropping “Partnership in Philanthropy”, the name of the New Jersey-based organization with which it merged in 2012.

To honor the ongoing success of that merger, the organization will rename its grantmaker partnership program: Partnership in Philanthropy (PIP). Support Center will continue making strides in the philanthropic arena, particularly in the Tri-State area.

The new brand provides a fresh, modern and sophisticated look with the introduction of a new logo and style guide. The updated tagline, “Accelerating Positive Social Change”, is captured within the logo which features gradient arrows that were designed to depict both motion and growth over time, illustrating Support Center’s mission to empower nonprofits and social enterprises to transform their leadership and management and accelerate positive social change.

The rebrand of the logo and tagline was directed by Kate Vocke, Creative Director and Graphic Designer at Six13Creative. Support Center also plans to launch a new website later this year.

On March 15, 2017, Support Center re-located to the headquarters of the Foundation Center at 32 Old Slip, 24th Floor, New York, NY 10005. Foundation Center’s mission is to strengthen the social sector by advancing knowledge about philanthropy in the U.S. and around the world. This shared goal around capacity-building in the sector as well as the co-location offers opportunities for deeper collaboration between the the two organizations.

“We realize change is hard. We work with organizations every day to change, and it requires patience and commitment. But seeing that patience and commitment pay off in the form of a new strategic plan, new space and a new logo makes it all worth it. As we look ahead to how we can accelerate positive social change through our workshops, consulting and executive transition work in the future, these new tools and renewed sense of enthusiasm and excitement are going to fuel that new direction,” said Keith Timko, Executive Director of Support Center.

“The board of directors is excited about future that the Support Center has set. The strategic plan boldly challenges the sector to create a network of capacity building organizations across the country. Thus “Accelerating Positive Social Change” exemplifies perhaps our single greatest strength; our ability to convene practitioners, funders and capacity builders. The new strategic plan and mission, and rebranded logo sets in motion our goal to harness the power of our community of people and resources to drive social change. Innovation and unwavering support of our vision will continue to be our guide in the future.” said John Emmert, Board Chair of Support Center.

About Support Center:

For over 30 years, the Support Center has worked in collaboration with nonprofit and philanthropic leaders and their organizations to increase organizational effectiveness and efficiency, enabling them to improve the quality of life in our communities. Through training, change consulting, coaching and executive search and transition management services, Support Center is committed to working with nonprofit organizations and social enterprises of all sizes and at all stages of their development to strengthen their leadership, management, and financial sustainability.

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Recap: 2017 Interim Executive Director Training

The Support Center recently held its first of two Interim Executive Director Trainings for 2017 at the LGBT Community Center in the West Village neighborhood of Manhattan. Twenty-one participants gathered on the last Thursday and Friday of February for two long and intense – but rewarding – days of learning with a cohort of like-minded leaders looking to pursue interim executive opportunities. They hailed from the NY/NJ/CT metropolitan area, the Hudson Valley, greater Philadelphia, and even Detroit, MI. The training was led by Keith Timko, Executive Director, and Lynne Molnar, an Affiliate Consultant. The purpose of the training is to help nonprofit leaders transform their wisdom and knowledge into a highly adaptive, interim-oriented mind- and skillset. Those who complete the training and are actively pursuing interim opportunities join the Support Center pool of Trained Interim EDs, which now totals more than 300 program alumni.

During the training, participants learned a great deal from several featured presenters who are all experienced interim leaders themselves. Helene Blieberg spoke about the essential aspects of leading and managing an organization and its people during times of transition. Regina Podhorin’s presentation focused on the importance of a conducting a rigorous financial assessment during an interim placement. As one participant remarked later, “The wealth of information and experience of the participants and the presenters provided a rich environment.” The participants also heard from Xander Subashi, Associate Director of Programs, and Keith Timko about Support Center’s process of landing interim opportunities and working with the pool of candidates. They learned about the stages of the process with current examples of placed interims, searches in-contract, and opportunities nearing contract execution that will soon be available to them.

The two-day training wrapped up with a panel discussion on interim work overall: the challenges, the rewards, and all the experiences in between. Our panelists were Ngozi Okaro, Gilles Mesrobian, and Richard Burns, and in total they have served in more than 10 interim engagements. The panelists shared candidly and expansively as participants asked about their best and worst experiences, how they have handled challenging legal situations, their methods of adapting quickly to new, unique office cultures. One participant said as feedback on this section: “The panel was outstanding!” Another participant later wrote about the overall training, “I found the Interim ED training to be very meaningful…all the components in the Interim ED training left me with solid insights and lessons learned.”

We at the Support Center are delighted to have welcomed such a great and talented cohort to our pool of Trained Interim EDs, and we are excited to involve them in our interim placement service and support them as interim leaders and contributors to the nonprofit sector. For more information about our interim executive director program and future trainings, click here.

Profile: The Steve Fund Executive Search

The Steve Fund was established in 2014 to honor the memory of Stephen (Steve) C. Rose. Steve lost his life to mental illness after graduating from Harvard College and completing a Masters degree at City University.  The devastating loss of their son and brother inspired the Rose family to create the nation’s only organization focused on supporting the mental health and emotional well-being of college students of color.  The Steve Fund works in partnership with colleges and universities, the clinical and research community, and the public health and nonprofit communities to stimulate dialogue; design high impact technology-based services; build knowledge and thought leadership; and promote awareness as students of color enter, matriculate in, and transition from higher education.

Since its inception, The Steve Fund has built a strong reputation in the mental health and academic community.  They captured the attention of key funders including the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Ford Foundation, The Knight Foundation and several others in that league. Their website is a rich compilation of research, resources and roadmaps for understanding the troubling state of mental health and emotional well-being for students of color in higher education settings.  Some of the factors that pose a high risk for mental health issues include cultural under-representation on college campuses; perceived and experienced racial discrimination; microaggressions; and stressful transitions from home to campus.  The consequences of these current trends are emotional, physical and academic, and they are creating demand and raising expectations for the higher education community to get engaged and strengthen their counseling service models.

In late 2016 the board decided it was time to appoint a full-time leader to take the organization to the next level.  The Support Center was selected to lead a national search for the first Executive Director, and we were poised to leverage our expertise in Executive Search and Transition Management in support of The Steve Fund’s work.

This assignment, although standard for our practice in many ways, was also a bit nuanced.  Throughout the process we balanced several factors: The Steve Fund is a startup organization and the first of its kind; the board was seeking an experienced leader who also had specialized mental health expertise; the appointed Executive Director would be the board’s first full-time hire and and an immediate partner to a range of researchers, consultants and funders; and, finally, the board considered the ideal candidate to be someone who possessed both the stature and social capital to engage high profile national leaders and the humility and empathy to connect with students whose lives and well-being are at the heart of The Steve Fund’s mission.To find the person best suited for and most passionate about the position, we cast a wide net across traditional recruiting sources, online platforms, and in numerous search outlets specific to the mental and public health communities. The response was immediate and substantial both in volume and quality, yielding over 100 applicants.  The field of candidates gradually narrowed as we juggled the dynamics of a national, virtual search with candidates and a search committee scattered across the country.  Once a final slate of candidates emerged, we assisted in crafting and negotiating the terms and conditions of the job offer.  From that final slate, the board then made an outstanding selection of a candidate whose background, professional experience, skills and personal passions are tailored exactly to this position. Dr. Terri Wright, of the American Public Health Association, will become the first Executive Director of The Steve Fund.  She brings extensive leadership skills and expertise in advancing the public’s health through policy, practice and management in government, philanthropic and nonprofit organizations. Her vast experience includes maternal, child and adolescent health, environmental public health and population health. Dr. Wright is driven by a vision for health and social equity for all members of society, and she will boldly lead The Steve Fund to a greater level of excellence.  As we begin to plan the onboarding process, we are now reflecting on and capturing the many key lessons we gained in order to strengthen our ESTM practice and fulfill our own mission to accelerate positive social change.

 

To learn more about our executive search and transition management services, please click here.

Succession Planning for Leadership Transitions – It’s Not Just About the Executive Director

Frank Abdale has worked on numerous succession planning and strategic planning projects for the Support Center, including the succession plan that led to our new Executive Director.   Frank is a proven strategist and facilitator, and the writer and editor of numerous publications, articles, and manuals. He is the co-author of “Practical Abundance: A Comprehensive Guide to Fundraising and Development for Nonprofits” and has taught strategic planning, fundraising and advocacy at the Support Center since 2009.

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Written by Frank Abdale

Succession planning can be challenging and emotional; it can also be inspiring and uplifting.  It begins with a look at the things board, staff and supporters love and admire about the current leadership, and the values the organization wants to perpetuate.  Succession planning builds on the past and present and looks ahead to where the fresh energy and vision of a new leader might take your organization.

Hopefully every organization has some kind of emergency succession plan.  This is basically an inventory of all the important file locations, passwords, contacts, contracts, policy numbers and other critical data.  It includes who will step in, or up, in the case of a sudden, unplanned loss of leadership. 

In the case of a planned executive transition, a thoughtful and thorough succession plan looks at the leadership qualities, management skills and values the organization wants in its next generation of leadership.  The process of identifying those attributes represents a rare opportunity to engage with all stakeholders and results in cataloguing the experience, background and traits to look for in candidates.  Even when there is a strong internal candidate, the process can identify where she or he might need additional support and training in order to succeed.  It also gives departing leaders an opportunity to think about their legacy and plan some next steps.

Consider too, that it is not just the ED at the center of succession planning.  The process of succession planning asks many critical questions:

  • Will the board remain stable during an executive transition?
  • How do term limits for officers and others align with the projected date of the ED’s departure?
  • Are there any senior staff or board members who are likely to leave around the same time?
  • If so, who will take on their roles?
  • Do we have a culture of developing board and staff leaders from within our ranks?
  • Who will take on short-term stewardship of the key relationships held by the current ED?
  • How will stewardship of key relationship be transferred to the new ED?
  • What fundraising and communications opportunities are to be found in honoring a departing ED and celebrating the arrival of a new one?
  • Is this an opportunity to rethink our structure, maybe explore a merger?
  • Should we plan on hiring an Interim ED who can give an unbiased assessment of the state of the organization before deciding on a new permanent ED?

The list goes on. 

It is often helpful to have an outside, consultant facilitate the process.  The Support Center can field a skilled and experienced transition expert who can keep discussion of these highly charged topics and related issues on neutral ground, have confidential conversations with all involved and keep the succession planning process on time and on track.  In the case of one client, the data collected by the transition consultant became the basis for a new round of strategic planning once the new executive director was on board. 

 

Additional Resources

The Support Center http://supportcenteronline.org/executive-search/succession-planning/

Annie E. Casey Foundation http://www.aecf.org/resources/building-leaderful-organizations/

Nonprofit Coordinating Committee of New York https://www.npccny.org/executive-director-transitions/

Succession Planning Toolkit – https://www.kansascityfed.org/publicat/community/Nonprofit-Executive-Succession-Planning-Toolkit.pdf

Highlights from the Ahead of the Curve Symposium Report on Risk Management: Defining, Assessing and Managing Risks at Nonprofits

Written by Keith Timko and Wendy Seligson

In 2016, the Support Center joined with other capacity building organizations under the banner, “Ahead of the Curve,” to host a symposium on risk management.  The goal of the symposium was to “advance the collective knowledge of the discipline of risk management within the nonprofit sector” by learning from leaders in the sector.

 

On September 28, 2016, about 200 executives, board members, capacity building representatives, consultants and academics convened in a packed, interactive day to share their knowledge and experience.  The full report, “Ahead of the Curve Symposium: Defining, Assessing and Managing Risks at Nonprofits” can be found here.    The report was co-sponsored by the Support Center and SeaChange Capital.

 

In planning the symposium, John MacIntosh, partner at SeaChange, expressed the goal that, before long:

“nonprofit leaders would develop a knowledge and practice for risk management similar to the depth of knowledge and practice which exists for strategic planning.”

 

Speakers and participants alike emphasized the importance of embracing risk and proactively managing it, linking this approach to creating healthy sustainable organizations.

 

On Friday, January 27, 2017 the Support Center is sponsoring a workshop on risk management “Putting Risk Management to Work at Your Nonprofit” presented by Wendy Seligson, author of the symposium report.  To register, click here.

 

A snapshot of the key insights and action steps from the Symposium follows:

Key insights from Symposium

  • Risk is not all about the “negatives.” Positive risks provide opportunities for growth and change and risk management provides a path for achieving a healthy, sustainable organization.

  • Nonprofits want support to expand and operationalize risk management. They don’t need to be convinced about its value. They want best practices, tools, networks, facilitation and consultants.

 

  • The discipline of risk management needs to be built around collaboration and communication within the nonprofit organization and integrated into the nonprofit’s planning and operations.

 

  • Financial and associated contract risks are a top issue, but not the only issue. Participants also identified other areas of major risk: governance/leadership, reputation, operational, compliance, quality of services, safety, growth, innovation and external risks.

 

Next Steps: Moving to Action 

  • Community Resource Exchange (CRE) is creating a risk assessment tool, with the goal of making it available to the nonprofit sector at no cost. It is known as the CREFT (Community Resource Exchange Fitness Tool). 

 

  • New York City capacity building organizations working together under the Ahead of the Curve banner have agreed to use the CREFT risk categories as the framework for risk management. These are: Leadership, Governance & Strategy; Personnel & Administration; Finance; Compliance & Legal; Programs & Services; and External Environment.

 

  • A new Ahead of the Curve website is being created to make information, materials and resources about risk management accessible to the nonprofit sector in New York City.

 

  • The Support Center and the other capacity building agencies in the Ahead of the Curve consortium are working collaboratively to raise awareness about risk management and connect nonprofits to resources and tools to integrate risk management into their operations.

 

For more information on the Support Center’s training and consulting services that support risk management and other change consulting practice areas, contact Carolyn Champ, Associate Executive Director, via email at [email protected] or 917-522-8302.

Outcomes Measurement: Don’t Let Fear & Confusion Keep You from the Journey!

Laurel Molloy began teaching public workshops at the Support Center | Partnership in Philanthropy back in 2001. Since then, she has expanded her involvement to include a wide variety of customized on-site trainings and ongoing consulting engagements. She is Founder and CEO of Innovations Quantified (IQ), a consulting firm that has been helping organizations increase their impact since 1999. To learn more, please click, http://supportcenteronline.org/about/our-team/

 
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Written by Laurel Molloy 

Picture this: you’re a passenger in a car humming down the highway. The driver turns to you and says, “I’m not sure where we’re going, but we’re making great time!”

Kind of hard to imagine the circumstances that would prompt this kind of statement, isn’t it? And yet, nonprofits that focus solely on the achievement of their own tasks, without a concrete idea of how they are making a difference in the lives of those they serve are essentially doing just that – heading down a path without a clear sense of where their efforts should be taking them.

This illustrative quote comes from Leap of Reason, an outcome measurement call to action that makes the case for clearly defining your organization’s intended outcomes (the changes and benefits you’re seeking to achieve), and then determining whether those changes have actually happened.

For almost 20 years, I’ve been helping organizations figure out how to do just that. And one thing I’ve noticed is that it’s not a lack of desire that keeps most from tackling this important issue. It’s a lack of understanding of where to start, and/or fear that missteps will result in wasted time and resources.

To address those very real concerns, I emphasize in both my training and consulting engagements that “M.M.O.M. is always right” – as in “Meaningful and Manageable Outcome Measurement.”

Many organizations believe more data is better, when in reality less is often more – especially at the outset. So I encourage organizations to ensure their process is both meaningful and manageable (and therefore sustainable) by: (1) prioritizing and collecting only a few key pieces of outcome data first, (2) leaving time to actually review and learn from those results, and (3) adding more data only as needed from there.

In my experience, using this approach is often the difference between success and frustration. So as you embark on your outcome measurement journey, remember: “M.M.O.M.’s always right.” And ask yourself, “Is this really something we can feasibly and consistently track and learn from?” If the answer is, “I’m not sure,” then find a way to pare it down. Because in the end, if you don’t actually review, discuss, use and share your outcomes data, you’re missing the whole point!

For more information on training and consulting services to support your organization’s outmode measurement efforts, contact Carolyn Champ, Associate Executive Director, via email at [email protected] or 917-522-8302.

Recap: November 4th’s New Jersey Impact Investment Gathering

The Support Center recently held the second New Jersey Impact Investment Gathering at the Livingston Campus of Rutgers Business School, building off the inaugural gathering held in May.  At that first gathering, five social enterprises presented to the audience.  At this November gathering, nine social enterprises (listed below) presented in three different categories – early stage nonprofits, scaling nonprofits, and early stage for-profits.  The leaders of these organizations pitched their impact and business models, demonstrating how they can achieve social impact and financial sustainability or profitability at the same time.  They appealed to the large audience of funders, investors, and lender for a range of investments – both in money (grants, equity, loans) and time (pro bono services, advisory support, networking).  Participants gave feedback to the presenters and offered a great deal of advice and suggestions to help the social enterprises grow and get access to capital.  The event was particularly successful in connecting like-minded people and fusing disparate networks together in support of the New Jersey impact economy.  

Please check out these social enterprises and contact us if you’d like more information!

Build with Purpose
Talino EV Management Systems, Inc.
Forward Ever Sustainable Business Alliance
Just Peachy Salsa Program (Food Bank of South Jersey)
Bricks 4 Kidz 
Grades 4 Life
Revolution Outboards
Soups & Sweets Culinary Training Program (Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Southern NJ)
Camden Dream Center

We look forward to holding more gatherings in 2017 and continuing to grow this community and help social enterprises thrive! 

Since 2014, the Support Center and Rutgers Business School joined the Office of Faith Based Initiatives in a collaborative effort to build a pipeline of capital for New Jersey social entrepreneurs. For more background on the initiative, please click here.

Weren’t able to make the New Jersey Impact Investment Gathering? We’ve got you covered! Check out this exclusive video and photo gallery from the event down below! 

 

Subscribe to our Youtube channel, Support Center Media!

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PHOTO GALLERY

 

 

 

The Balance of Power Between Boards and Executive Directors: How to Share Authority

Katherine is a Partner at Growth for Good and has worked as a fundraising professional for more than 20 years. She has been involved with every aspect of fundraising and has developed special expertise in government appropriations and public competitive grant sources. She has led clients successfully through board development, strategic planning processes, capital campaigns and annual campaigns, and has vast experience in developing and managing public/private partnerships. To learn more, please click here.

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board-balance

Written by Katherine DeFoyd

What constitutes a healthy relationship between an executive director and a board of directors? How can organizations strike a healthy balance of power?

These are the questions Growth for Good helps nonprofits with every day.  
 
Most successful executive directors are entrepreneurial self-starters. They are mavericks. These characteristics inspire them to provide services to the world that the free market cannot provide, e.g., arts education, youth development, senior services, affordable healthcare. They lead lean organizations with fewer resources than their for-profit counterparts. And, while their “get it done” attitude is what makes them successful, unchecked, it can be a barrier to healthy board relations and organizational growth. 
 
Executive directors often feel they do not have time to seek input from board members, thus making decisions in a vacuum. Board members are left asking themselves “Why are we here?” When board members have minimal opportunity for meaningful input beyond basic legal and fiduciary oversight and fundraising, they lose interest, pull away, and stop contributing energy, ideas, and money. This disinterest further drives the executive director to act alone.  We call this downward spiral the “Lone Ranger Syndrome.”
 
Growth for Good believes that healthy board and executive director relations come down to thoughtful and inclusive planning processes and honest and ongoing communication of progress toward goals.
 
As one executive director said, “You can’t build an airplane while you are flying.” Good planning must include an organization’s executive director/staff and board leadership. This includes all planning categories: strategic planning, fundraising planning, and event planning. Plans should not be expressed in a few PowerPoint slides with broad sweeping statements and visions of grandeur. Instead, plans should include:
  • agreed upon and clearly defined goals;
  • time-bound and measurable objectives;
  • realistic budgets;
  • specific tasks; and
  • well-defined roles and responsibilities. 
An inclusive planning process is time-consuming and less efficient than some executives would like. But it is essential that it include board and staff members so there is real buy-in with their responsibilities. By helping to set the vision, board and staff members are eager to do their best work.  
 
Another executive director said, “Too many nonprofits only present a rosy picture to their board and sweep challenges under the rug.”
 
Both formal and informal communication is essential to board/executive director cooperation. Board meetings are the forum to report on program progress, budgets, and to make governance decisions. Informal communication between board meetings among staff and board members is also critical. This builds trust. Staff members feel safe and can be frank about progress (or lack thereof) toward an objective. It also allows board members to become advocates and help offer solutions, find extra resources, and use their executive intellectual skills to move the agenda.  
 
The Support Center provides a series of workshops on planning and board development here in the greater New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut area. To find out more about the Support Center’s services, visit our website: http://supportcenteronline.org/.