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?