Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Volunteer talent management

Recruiting and retaining volunteers is a perpetual challenge for most of our nonprofits, a challenge that calls for fresh ways to think about how and why we engage others in our mission.

Two recent articles, published in two of the magazines I shared last week, offer interesting perspectives on managing and nurturing our volunteer talent. Both articles are available free, online.

The first, "Using the Whole Talent Pool," appears courtesy of Nonprofit Quarterly. The second, "The New Volunteer Workforce," is available online at Stanford Social Innovation Review. This one also is available as a PDF download, easy to share with your board and staff.

I'd love to generate some discussion here about both of these articles, particularly as you think about your organizations' volunteer management processes. What resonates? What challenges you? What excites you about the ideas presented in these pieces? How might we use them as starting points for thinking more broadly and creatively about building our volunteer resources -- including our boards -- in our community? Please share your thoughts via a comment on this post.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Nonprofit Quarterly infrastructure issue

Continuing the 'infrastructure' theme of my last post, I'd like to share another great resource on the topic, this one courtesy of our friends at Nonprofit Quarterly.

The NPQ editors continue to offer a pdf version of their special issue on "The Nonprofit Regulatory Landscape" on the magazine website. You do need to register (free) to access the file, but it is worth the minimal effort -- which will give you access to other online resources you'll find valuable.

Click here to access the link to the issue file. If you need to register first, you'll find a link to do that on the page as well.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Community nonprofit infrastructure

If you had the power to create infrastructure to support Laramie's nonprofit community, what kind of support would you include?

What would have the greatest potential to impact capacity to serve our city and enhance life here? What would build up our nonprofits as worthy, rich places to not just make a living but create a meaningful career? I often ask myself these questions. (It's a hazard of a multi-decade obsession with nonprofits and a multi-year focus on the sector's professional development needs during my doctoral work.) '

The marvelous Hildy Gottlieb, introduced to readers of this blog earlier this month, has offered one compelling vision at a national level. Click here to access her post at I found it quite easy to buy into her vision, and to grasp the potential of what she has proposed. As grand as it may seem, it also is entirely achievable. With help, of course.

I am even more energized personally to ponder what might be possible if we were to take Hildy's ideas to the local level. We may not feel the power to effect national-level change, but we certainly have the capacity to take charge of our community-level response -- and visioning for the future.

Certainly, nonprofits in our community understand what Hildy proposes. Definitely, there have been pockets of success, particularly in collaboration for common goals. Imagine, though, the power of truly community-level collaboration.

As an individual member of this community, I have an even more focused sense of where I might contribute. It should be no surprise to either regular readers of this blog or nonprofit friends who have been following my doctoral studies that two of Hildy's recommendations would resonate: creating systems for organizational education and creating systems to facilitate learning communities/communities of practice. Frankly, they have been the key drivers of the "what I want to be when I grow up" journey for the next phase of my professional life -- before Hildy articulated them so spectacularly.

I offer Hildy's vision as a starting point for what I hope can be a community-level discussion of what is possible here in Laramie. I invite you to help me begin the discussion here, by posting a comment and sharing your thoughts about what how we might go about building the capacity of our local nonprofit community. I'm particularly interested in your thoughts about how we might go about creating one or more learning communities -- serving nonprofit staff, nonprofit board members, whatever groups might benefit from regular opportunities to explore, reflect and ultimately learn together.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The board's sustainability role

Today's 'gift' comes in the form of a 2007 article published in the Nonprofit Quarterly, offered in online form here.

The article, an interview with Richard Brewster of the National Center for Nonprofit Enterprise, encourages boards to take a more proactive role in defining and building short- and long-term financial sustainability of their organizations.

Brewster gets straight to the point of a topic that may cause many boards to squirm. Your board may find it to be a good starting point for a discussion that members may be challenged to initiate on their own.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Three nonprofit magazines

Today's 'gifts' are not free, but these magazines are valuable resources that would benefit any nonprofit management team. If your agency budget doesn't allow for at least one affordable subscription, may I recommend a gift from a board member?

The first is my favorite, by far: Nonprofit Quarterly. The affordable subscription price doesn't hurt. What it most attractive, though, is the presentation of timely topics that encourage reflection on issues that matter to nonprofits. Writing style is accessible but respectful of our ability as adults to understand complex issues impacting our organizations.

The second encourages a slightly longer stretch on content, but the presentation is equally rich and accessible. It's also offered at a subscription rate that many nonprofits can manage. Stanford Social Innovation Review focuses content a bit more than NPQ, taking readers a bit further from more familiar management and leadership topics (though it does offer articles and other resources on such issues). But the stretches it fosters generally are in the direction of ideas where exploration and creative thinking would seldom be nonproductive. Another advantage: SSIR makes several of its articles available online for free. Subscription definitely is worthwhile, but the articles archive will give you a chance to test content before committing.

The third comes as a benefit of membership in the Society of Nonprofit Organizations. Nonprofit World presents material in a more basic format, but the topics are very germane to daily nonprofit life. If the magazine isn't attractive enough to commit to membership in the society, the other resources (including access to grant announcements) may be.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Better nonprofit leadership in 2009

Today's 'gift' comes from another Facebook friend, Rosetta Thurman, who shared a terrific post yesterday that we all should take to heart.

10 Ways to Become a Better Nonprofit Leader in 2009 offers something for everyone, whether you're a board member or a nonprofit staff member. I've bookmarked it myself and look forward to reflecting on her counsel in the days to come.

While you're there, be sure to check out her website. I always learn something from her and trust you will, too.

Monday, December 22, 2008

"Strongly Led, Under-Managed"

Today's 'gift' to readers of this blog is a thought piece from another one of my favorite nonprofit resources, the Bridgespan Group.

This article, Strongly Led, Under-Managed, offered a twist on the "leadership/management tensions" discussion: starting with the assumption that leadership is stronger within an organization than management practices. (Most articles I have encountered over the years that address the topic tend to assume that more nonprofits struggle more with leadership than day-to-day management.)

It is not, of course, an either/or proposition. Effective nonprofits gain strength from visionary leadership and sound management practices. I'm one who believes we can't hear and reflect on that often enough.

This article offers two key ideas that continue to resonate, each reinforcing the value and need for balanced attention. As a mission geek, I connected immediately to the authors' description of, and advocacy for, strategic clarity. But I also appreciated the way they addressed the need for managing change processes -- particularly processes that ultimately reflect the mission of the organization.

I'd encourage you to bookmark this article or, better yet, download a PDF version (link at the bottom) and share it with your board.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Good Governance Guide

Today's 'gift' to blog readers is a new favorite, the Good Governance Guide from Governance Matters.

It's a nifty little online toolbox offering resources on a range of topics, from "board effectiveness" to "board operations" to "funding stability" and "external relations." At the end of each section, you'll find one or more case studies, which offer a great, non-threatening (because you're talking about another organization) way to engage in discussions that encourage group exploration and reflection on issues of importance to governance effectiveness.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Nonprofit Law Podcast

Today's 'gift' has a multimedia twist. The Nonprofit Law Podcast is one of my favorite audio learning sources, because it offers accessible information on a topic that generally terrifies me.

This free podcast is available in iTunes, and accessing it is easy. Simply go to one of the search tools offered on the storefront, enter the podcast name, and click on the icon for the cast.

As with any iTunes podcast, you'll have three options: you can listen online to a specific session by clicking on the title, you can download sessions one by one, or you can subscribe (via the button next to the icon on the left) and download new casts automatically when they become available.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Free nonprofit management library

Many of the readers of this blog may already be familiar with today's "gift," but I thought I'd share it, anyway -- for those who have not yet encountered it and for those who might enjoy revisiting an old friend.

The Free Management Library offers foundational information on a vast range of nonprofit management topics. Included in that library is a board toolkit that addresses specific issues of governance. Click here, or use the link on the main site, to access those topics.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Community Driven Institute articles library

Today's gift to blog readers comes from a favorite resource -- and new Facebook friend -- Hildy Gottlieb.

Hildy is doing some amazing work at Help 4 Nonprofits/The Community Driven Institute. One of the more accessible and valuable parts of the institute's website is a terrific library of nonprofit articles. Click here to access the library page. I'd particularly like to point out her offerings on boards.

I became acquainted with Hildy's work, and appreciative of her expertise, while reading her posts on a listserv to which we both belonged. She has a knack for getting right to the point and offering pragmatic approaches to addressing the topic at hand.

Monday, December 15, 2008


Today's gift comes from the Nonprofit SOS blog. In a word: templates!

This post shares a variety of financial management templates, including samples of budgets, audit documents, and fiscal sponsorship agreements. On Friday, the authors shared templates for newsletters, annual reports, and other promotional materials.

Also shared during "samples week" were this post on evaluation, a post on fund-raising, and one that you know caught my eye immediately, offering templates related to board work.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Board Cafe/Blue Avocado

Today's gift is a two-fer: CompassPoint Nonprofit Services' Board Cafe electronic newsletter and its successor, Blue Avocado.

I subscribed to, and enjoyed, Board Cafe for years. You won't find significant depth on any subject, but the writers cover a lot of different board-related topics in a pragmatic way. Click on the "Past Issues" link to access the Board Cafe archives.

Blue Avocado builds on what its predecessor began: providing a wealth of information about topics that are (or should be) of tremendous interest to nonprofit boards. On the Blue Avocado page, you will find two options if you're thinking that you'd like to receive this resource on a regular basis: via e-mail or RSS subscription. Whatever vehicle you choose for subscribing, I'd encourage taking that step. It's a great little resource.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Five questions to ask

Today's "gift" to blog readers is a food-for-thought piece, "Five Questions Every Board Should Ask," by Sam Pettway. It is available on the BoardWalk Consulting website.

Click here to access a PDF copy of the article. If that doesn't work in your browser, go to BoardWalk's templates page (also bookmark-worthy!) and click on the link for the article by that name. Currently, it is the fifth link down.

I'm a big fan of this kind of resource, because it's designed to spark reflection on purpose that is absolutely essential to board work. These conversations offer opportunities to focus attention on governance priorities and bolster motivation that sometimes lags in the hard work of governance.

Unfortunately, most boards are so busy scrambling to meet the routine demands (and occasional fires that pop up) that they have little time or energy left for the group-level introspection that would benefit them in the end. Been there, done that too many times myself in a board setting. In the end, though, having these kinds of conversations is a good investment of board time and energy.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Emily Davis: Young nonprofit leader (and resource)

Today's "gift" to readers of this blog comes in the form of my new Internet acquaintance and Facebook friend, Emily Davis.

I became familiar with Emily's work and perspectives on nonprofit life via her blog. I became appreciative of her knowledge and role as a resource when I requested more information about research she's conducted on young nonprofit professionals. The interchange that resulted from that request, and the resources she so willingly shared along the way, has made me a true fan of Emily and her work.

Click here to access Emily's website. Be sure to check out her links on emerging leaders, paying close attention to the links to the research I mentioned. There is a link to both an executive summary and the full report on that page. Also, take a few moments to follow some of the links that she provides there -- many great resources on critical topics! The board geek in me has also enjoyed visiting her resources on board development. Some of the links there led me to familiar friends and sources. Others were new and soon added to my social bookmarks.

Speaking of bookmarks...

I think you'll find a lot on Emily's site that will leave you wanting to not only bookmark it but return often to learn from her.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Nonprofit economic vitality resource

In the spirit of the season, I'll be sharing a few of my favorite nonprofit things in the coming days: resources focusing on various aspects of capacity building.

Many nonprofits are undoubtedly feeling the pressure of the nation's current economic challenges -- or anticipating difficulties to come. The National Council of Nonprofits has set up an online portal dedicated to helping organizations ride the rocky tide ahead: the Nonprofit Economic Vitality Center.

This is a resource in progress; but early on, the NCN is making available a variety of tools that your board and management may find valuable. It offers resources in three focus areas:
This is a site definitely worth visiting now, and bookmarking as a help down the road.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

What boards need to know about the new 990

What are the most important changes to IRS form 990, and what do nonprofit boards need to know about them? Why should boards care?

Blue Avocado offers a good summary that board members may find useful. Links provided, to the IRS site governing nonprofits, a speech on the topic by IRS Commissioner Steve Miller, and GuideStar, are worthy of exploration as well. Click here to access the post.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Giving Circles-Building Philanthropy

In this season of giving -- and increased anxiety about how the economic environment might impact our budgets -- it behooves us to be open to new thinking and approaches to philanthropy.

I first encountered the notion of giving circles last year, during the annual Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action conference, and was intrigued by the potential they seem to offer to not just increase funds but build a spirit of philanthropy in a collaborative environment.

A new post on the PhilanthroMedia blog, by Caroline Heine, offers a good introduction to the concept. It may spark some creative thinking for readers of this blog. Click here to access Heine's post.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Nonprofit governance: The last 20 years

BoardSource has posed a video and a timeline covering the last 20 years in nonprofit governance, both of which may be of interest to this blog's readers.

To access the streaming video, click here. To view the timeline, click here. Whether you're new to nonprofit boards or simply curious about the big picture, you might find these worth a peek.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Boards 101 video

My "Intro to the Nonprofit Sector" class is wrapping up a unit that focused on the critical role of boards on Tuesday.

Faced with the challenge of how to create an in-a-nutshell presentation that addressed the most essential ideas, I created a video that I would like to share with readers of this blog. Click the link below to access a streaming video version of that presentation. (Note: I was learning new technology on an aging laptop as I was creating this. It's a bit of a personal victory that it even exists, even if it's not the prettiest thing to grace your computer screen.)


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Virtual board orientation

My interest in social media, particularly its application to nonprofit sector professional development, is becoming as much of a personal and professional obsession as boards.

Recently, I discovered a site where the two intersected, resulting in a novel approach to board orientation. Click here to access the highly interactive site offered by CompassPoint Nonprofit Services. Note that it is interactive -- you'll be able to navigate to the sessions that most interest you and even ask questions of the presenter. Be sure to also check out the "Conference Bag," with links to resources that you will find useful.

This represents a significant jump forward in technology use, one that should prove valuable in efforts to reach across the wide open spaces of Wyoming (my larger passion: finding ways to connect the state's nonprofit practitioners and volunteers, and to deliver formal and informal professional development opportunities that build capacity to serve our communities).

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Nonprofit insurance: A board member's guide

One of those "we're scared to ask but need to know" topics facing many nonprofit boards is the issue of insurance.

Blue Avocado has posted a good, basic overview addressing this topic that may be of interest to readers of this blog. Click here to access that post.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Admitting mission defeat

This week, I conclude a three-year term on a local nonprofit board. It was an assignment that felt – still feels – like a perfect fit for both my interests and the skills that I can potentially bring to the assignment.

Yet, as I anticipate this last meeting, I can’t help acknowledging my complete failure to fulfill my ultimate responsibilities or find/generate inspiration to move me out of complacency. I acknowledge that up front, so that any reader encountering this post knows that I understand board membership’s bottom line. Governance is an active role, one that we not only follow via bylaws, routines and policies, but one that we create and advance by commitment to mission and sometimes sheer will when the work is hard or tedious.

That said, I must explain – for myself more than anyone – where I failed. The challenges that came with this particular assignment were large, larger than I’d encountered before. That is, frankly, what prompted me to say yes when invited. Having the opportunity to shape a nonprofit from its organizational toddlerhood is a rare thing. It’s also incredibly tough, as one is simultaneously creating necessary infrastructure while also trying to keep an eye on the mission horizon.

This is where I think the board, and I as a member, fell short. We lost that horizon, and I reached a point where I gave up pushing. That is my biggest failure. My role could have been – should have been – pressing to stay focused on our reason for being and for the role that we aspired to play in our community. But I tired, and I lost heart. I fell short of my responsibilities.

Magnifying the gap, and fueling my fatigue, were two very different board experiences that I encountered in the last few months: conducting my doctoral research featuring a nonprofit board for which mission is everything, and serving on another board where a difficult situation prompted a profound moment of mission clarity that promises to lead us to a new phase of energy and productivity.

My takeaway from this personal board failure is this: mission IS everything. My ultimate responsibility (and perhaps my most critical role) may be to insist that we leave every board meeting feeling good about our response to this question: How did we advance our mission today?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Starting board reform where it begins: at home

As I prepare to record a podcast for my "Intro to the Nonprofit Sector" class this week, a "boards in a nutshell" lecture, I was pleased to see an interesting post from PhilanthroMedia that offers a nice framing of the essential responsibilities of boards and their individual members.

"Reform of Boards Starts at Home" offers a blending of the familiar -- the three duties that I intend to offer as the foundation (a good refresher for readers who would appreciate revisiting that foundation themselves) and a list of "keys to success" that I find refreshing in their broader focus on what should be obvious but often gets lost in the shuffle of busy lives and too much work on the agenda.

I'm happy to share a link to that post, along with encouragement to read and share with your own boards.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Engaging the older volunteer: New research

This must be the week for releasing new research of interest to nonprofits.

Today, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports on research just released by AARP, on new incentives driving older volunteers.

To access the Chronicle report summarizing the highlights, click here. A full copy of the report itself may be downloaded via the link contained within the Chronicle article.

How might our local nonprofits make the most of this information? Where are our growth opportunities, when it comes to reaching out to older residents who have a desire to make a difference in their communities? Please share your thoughts, and great ideas, by commenting here.

Monday, September 8, 2008

New report touts value of recruiting younger members

My e-mail in-box seems to be a treasure trove of must-share nonporofit resources these days. Today, I received word of a new BoardSource report on a topic of intense interest to me right now -- the importance, and challenge, of recruiting younger members to our boards.

I'm still reading the report itself, but I wanted to help spread the word on this new information source. Click here to access an overview of the report. Click on the link in the second paragraph to access the report itself.

Then please return to this space to share your reactions to what the authors outline. What are the challenges your board might face with increased attention to engaging younger members? What are the potential opportunities that might be introduced if your board made this a priority? Please share!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Governance as Leadership podcast available

This morning, I stumbled upon a podcast on the driving force of my dissertation research, Governance as Leadership, featuring one of the work's co-authors, Bill Ryan.

It's well worth a listen, and can be accessed here. You have two basic access options: listen to it online (it will launch automatically) or download it for later. This one definitely will be added to my iPod library!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Keeping One's Eye on the Prize

As I wrote earlier, this space has a new competitor for my attention. He's nine weeks old today, furry, feisty, and a mix of incredible joy and frustration (my black lab puppy, Dewey).

Yesterday, as I was on potty run #6582934, pulling him out of Daddy's flowers one more time, it occurred to me that my mission as Dewey's guardian is very much like a nonprofit's journey toward fulfilling its mission.

The process is a long one, and there are challenges of all sizes. Some are easy to address, some inspire us to try harder, others we simply hope to survive. Just when we think we have no more energy left to stick with it, we'll experience a breakthrough. It may not be a large one, but it's enough to confirm that our efforts are worthwhile.

In the end, I know that persistence and a focus on the end result -- in Dewey's case, a healthy, confident dog who will be a companion for the rest of his life -- is worth the trouble.

It may be on a different scale, but I've experienced that same assurance in nonprofit settings. The mission may feel impossible to attain, but it's important to always keep one's eye on our reason for being there: to work toward its fulfillment. Steps may feel tiny when compared to the larger prize we can see on the horizon. But they move us forward.

Little stumbles will happen. Occasionally, we'll take big steps backward. But in the long run, as long as we keep our purpose in front of us and work toward forward motion, we're in good shape.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Fundraising as War -- or Dance?

"Fundraising is War." The title of a recent PhilanthroMedia post caught my eye as my own board-related development experiences flashed before me.

As one of those board members who has always cringed at the "F" word, and a one-time development officer charged with supporting a fund-raising board, I'll admit that one early response was, "oh, yeah..."

But the reader counterpoint posed in the first comment was what caught my attention: "What if we said that fundraising is music or dance or something more uplifting than the ugliness of war?"

How different is the giving experience for everyone if we frame it in a more uplifting and inspiring way? How many of our boards see fund-raising as a grin-and-bear-it task that we 'had' to slog through to get to the good stuff? How would their approach, and their attitude, be different if they saw it as a privilege?

My old friend, Chuck Jerden, offered one of the best definitions of nonprofits that I've ever heard, one that has guided my teaching and work over the years. He said that nonprofits serve one of two purposes: their either change lives or save lives (If they're lucky, they accomplish both).

How does that simple and beautiful definition fit within the 'war' metaphor? How could it lead to a more inspiring and fruitful vision of our fund-raising responsibilities? How could it impact the outcomes of our development efforts?

As I think back to this year's Snowy Range Nonprofit Institute, and particularly the inspiring talks by representatives of two remarkable and visionary foundations, I can't help thinking of the opportunities to create beautiful partnerships with donors, finding that perfect match between donor and nonprofit missions. 'War' doesn't seem so fitting, as I think about the way they described the privilege of working to fulfill their donor's wishes. A far more appropriate and inspiring vision of that relationship, in my mind, is a lovely dance, one where partners move in harmony to create something new and fresh.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Costs of Nonprofit Board Management

Just how much of an investment do you make managing your nonprofit's board? A recent national survey by the Alliance for Nonprofit Management attempted to answer that question.

Survey results suggest that "the average nonprofit incurs more than $7,500 in staff time and expenses annually to manage the work of its board of directors." To say that that number surprised me is an understatement.

For a brief round-up of the survey highlights, click here. I'd be interested in your reaction to the evidence presented in this overview.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A Few New Board-Worthy Links

Between wrapping up SRNI 2008, completing the Susan G. Komen Wyoming Race for the Cure, conducting dissertation interviews, and preparing for the arrival of our new puppy, I've felt a bit challenged to keep up my responsibilities here lately.

While I haven't been writing about boards in the last two weeks, I've certainly been thinking about them. A large part of that focus comes from a full week of board member interviews for my dissertation research (on board learning). Sharing details is not possible, though I hope to be able to offer some lessons learned for other boards by the end of this long journey.

Besides moving that major project forward in a big way this week, I've discovered several new online resources that local nonprofit board members may find useful. If you haven't visited my bookmarks page (click here to access) recently, you'll find links to many of those new tools. Today, I'd like to point out a couple that may be most interesting:

The online library for the Center for Community-Based and Nonprofit Organizations at Austin Community College. They have cataloged a diverse array of resources on a range of nonprofit management and leadership issues, including governance topics. I occasionally reach the point where I feel like I've seen and read it all on the topic, but I was pleasantly surprised to find several links to resources that were new to me.

Governance Matters is another great portal that offers a rich array of treasures. Click on the "resources" tab and follow the links to a host of resources you may find interesting. One that caught my eye -- and stimulated some thought -- was a piece titled "Deadwood or Just Dormant? A Guide to Stimulating Board Engagement." Since engagement is a perpetual concern, I appreciated their perspective on this critical topic.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

SRNI keynote speaker shares resources

Dan Condon, keynote speaker for SRNI 2008, launched the core learning experience with a terrific exploration on multigenerational nonprofit leadership and workforce challenges. He's shared three of his key resources on his blog, found here.

What a great start to the core learning experience of this year's institute! We were fortunate to have Dan present the practicum, on collaboration, last year -- and even luckier that he was available and willing to present this year's keynote.

A direct link to his blog is here. I've subscribed to it and trust that it will become a valued resource in the weeks and months to come. For more information on the remarkable school where he works -- and changes young lives -- click here.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

New Snowy Range Nonprofit Institute blog

We've just wrapped up a successful 2008 Snowy Range Nonprofit Institute, held at the Hilton Garden Inn in Laramie. I hope to be able to share a few highlights here in the next few days.

In the meantime, I'm pleased to offer a link to the new, more user-friendly SRNI blog. To access that new resource, click here.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

New Volunteerism Data Released

Hot off the virtual presses are new (2007) data on volunteerism in the United States.

Released July 28 by the Corporation for National & Community Service, the reports offer national data. They also offer state-by-state profiles. Wyoming's profile is accessible here. Our home state can take pride in its national volunteerism ranking (12th) and the rate at which our citizens volunteer (35.1 percent). According to the report, 142,000 Wyoming residents contributed 17 MILLION hours of service per year between 2005 and 2007. Estimated economic contribution of all of that time is $332 million per year.

For national data, click here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

SRNI: Y'all Come!

I've been lamenting the lack of time this week to sit down and write something, when I realized that the big challenge for the task is exactly what I should be sharing with you.

The 2008 Snowy Range Nonprofit Institute is just around the corner -- Aug. 3-5 in our hometown (Hilton Garden Inn and UW Convention Center, Laramie). As I've been finalizing details and writing releases on each of the incredible sessions we're offering, my own excitement has grown. I'm confident that this year's participants will leave the institute with not only a stronger understanding of multi-generational volunteer leadership challenges and opportunities facing the sector, but that they will be inspired to act to ensure that their own organizations are prepared for success in the future.

A visit to our institute website will yield several things:
  • All those session descriptions (click on the "News" link)
  • Access to our new institute blog (click on the "Blog" link)
  • Downloadable and online copies of our agenda
  • An opportunity to register online (via the "Register" link)
Sessions that may be of particular interest to nonprofit board members would be Mary Ellbogen Garland's opening talk on "Leading for Mission," Phil Van Horn's workshop on "Becoming Better Volunteer Leaders" (focus on boards), Terry Galpin-Plattner's roundtable on "Nonprofit Life Cycles," Randy Bruns' workshop on "The Threat and the Opportunity for Hiring the Next Generation of Nonprofit Leaders," and Sparky Turner's closing conversation on "Organizational Mission -- Passion to Action."

Early bird registration deadline is 4:30 p.m. Friday, July 25. But later registrations are welcome as well. (You'll save $25 if you register by Friday, though.)

This is an excellent opportunity to look into the future and to take a proactive approach to building your organization's capacity.

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

‘Great Boards’ offers committee evaluation resource

One of my favorite online newsletters devoted to nonprofit governance issues is Great Boards, published by Bader & Associates.

While devoted primarily to health care boards, many of the articles translate well to any nonprofit setting. I usually find something of value in every new issue.

The Summer 2008 edition is no exception. In fact, the entire special edition, on “Evaluating and Improving Board Committees,” probably should be required reading for any nonprofit board.

There are two things I appreciate about this issue, which was written by Barry S. Bader and Elaine Zablocki:
  • They offer both the context for evaluation and recommendations for both general questions about the committee process and specific questions related to its responsibilities. While the contexts and questions represent their target audience (hospital boards), they should provide good springboards for adapting to other nonprofit settings.
  • The committees they highlight are directly related to the governance function of boards, versus the all-too-common staff functions. A board that focuses its work on these areas increases the likelihood that it is fulfilling its responsibilities and impacting the organization’s future in a positive way. My favorite committee outlined: Community Benefit/Mission. A board can never focus too much on mission!
To read the special issue, visit this website:

Click on the “Print entire issue” link for the Summer 2008 issue.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Sharing Resources

One of my primary goals for this blog is providing a place to share great resources that nonprofits may find useful in their daily work.

I'll be writing about, and linking to, specific websites, articles, books, etc., in future posts. But to lay the foundation, I want to share my social bookmarking site

which I offer as a clearinghouse for the online gems I encounter daily. On the righthand side of the page, you'll find "tags" -- the topics I've used to categorize each resource. If you're interested, for example, in finding tools related to governance, you can access some of my favorite online resources related to that topic by clicking on the word itself.

I invite you to bookmark this site and encourage you to visit often, particularly when you have a question about nonprofit management and leadership. It's my gift to you, one I'm constantly updating to increase its value.


Monday, June 30, 2008

A Lesson in Mission from Mary Garland

When the Snowy Range Nonprofit Institute curriculum team began developing the 2008 agenda, I had an agenda of my own – at least for the opening talk on Sunday night (Aug. 3, Hilton Garden Inn).

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the importance of mission: understanding our organization’s mission, creating clarity about the mission, sharing it with others, and really living it. I struggle with follow through in my own daily board life, which is why the person we’ve invited to open the institute has become such a personal role model.

My acquaintance with Mary Ellbogen Garland began in 1999, when I joined the UW College of Education as its development officer. Mary was a founding member of the college’s development board. In my work with that group, I witnessed firsthand Mary’s energy and commitment to do whatever she could to promote our mission in ways big and small. While my duties shifted over the years, I was able to observe how she advocated for not only the college but for education across the state as she assumed a leadership role in the foundation named for her father, legendary Wyoming philanthropist John P. “Jack” Ellbogen.

I had a chance to interview Mary last year, for a profile that appeared in a college publication. During our chat, she made a comment that I will never forget. She said, “In all our thinking, we go back to donor intent: is this something that our donor would have wanted to do?” Then she added a personal connection: “I feel blessed. I can wake up every morning and ask, ‘What are possibilities for my dad’s foundation today?’”

That statement took my breath away then. It continues to do so as I read it again today. What a difference we could make in our communities – and our world – if all nonprofit board members could summon that kind of commitment to their organizations and their responsibilities.

This is what we’ve asked Mary to share with SRNI 2008 participants: that passion within that gives life to organizational mission. I know that she will inspire others to think about their own service and new ways to not only advance our organizational missions but truly live them.

For more information on Mary’s talk, click here. For more information on this year’s Snowy Range Nonprofit Institute, visit the institute website here.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Getting (Re)Acquainted

Whew! There are a few cobwebs on this one, aren't there? My passion for nonprofits hasn't waned in the break between posts, but life adventures definitely fostered a detour or two. Or three.

My excuses have been good: a major push to leap over the last process hurdles to begin my dissertation research (on how nonprofit boards learn); not only teaching my online courses on nonprofit management issues but learning how to introduce podcasts into the curriculum (and actually producing them!); and, as always, working with a creative group of volunteers to design an inspiring and informative curriculum for this year's Snowy Range Nonprofit Institute.

That said, maintaining this blog, as a resource and a potential opportunity to connect board members, has never been far from consciousness. So I am shaking off those cobwebs and committing to making this as informative as I possibly can make it.

I do ask one favor, though. If you feel so inspired, please post a comment now and again. Perhaps the greatest unfilled potential of this blog -- at least as it remains in my aspirations -- is as a place to share experiences, suggestions, questions. I'm but one part of that conversation. I'll do my best to share interesting insights, examples and resources that nonprofit boards might find valuable, so that my readers will have something rich and useful to discuss.

More soon -- I promise!