Thursday, January 29, 2009

Volunteer motivators: Two favorite frameworks

Volunteer management is the focus of the next week's unit in my online "Nonprofit Management & Leadership" class.

My lecture is a narrated presentation of two frameworks for thinking about motivators for volunteer service that I have found particularly powerful and descriptive. I'd like to share that brief video with readers of this blog.


I trust that you'll identify one or more motivation in these frameworks that describe why you donate your time and talents in service to others. Feel free to share your thoughts via a comment to this post.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Defining the board treasurer's role

One of the most unappreciated and misunderstood nonprofit board jobs is that of the treasurer.

Chances are good that, if you've served on enough boards, you've encountered at least one round-robin resembling this: "Will you do it? I can't do it -- can you? We REALLY need to recruit a treasurer..." Been there, had that conversation (about a dozen times).

While the job still may feel far outside of our individual capacity, we do have help defining exactly what the treasurer does and why. One of the better summaries was posted recently at Nonprofit Law Blog, a particularly good resource for understanding in plain English the legal challenges that nonprofits and their boards face.

Click here to access the latest post, titled "Duties of the Treasurer of a Nonprofit Corporation.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Making your message matter

The Chronicle of Philanthropy hosted a chat yesterday on another topic that should be of importance to our community nonprofits, Making Your Message Matter.

While the day-to-day implementation for most of our nonprofits ultimately lies in the hands of our capable staff, board members must always keep in mind both the larger need for the organization to make its case as effectively as possible to its key stakeholder groups (including policymakers) and our own role as community ambassadors, particularly within our individual circles of influence.

I'd encourage you to visit this chat and use it as an opportunity to foster discussion about your organization's outreach efforts. I'd also encourage you to use it as a jumping off point for discussion about your board's role in that effort.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Acknowledging the past, creating the future

In November 2007, after the last gavel of the international Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA) conference fell, I joined a busload of colleagues on a tour of Atlanta’s civil rights landmarks.

I knew it would be a brush with history that I had experienced from afar as a child. What I underestimated was the personal impact that that experience would have on me that afternoon.

I was a child of the ‘60s, not quite 10 years old in the spring and summer of 1968. I was a working-class white girl from Cheyenne, Wyoming, far from the true struggles that so many had endured over the decades preceding and the violent conflict that had grown and taken the lives of two giants – Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr.
I do not pretend to know the personal sacrifice of those great men and so many others who have fought for rights that I have taken for granted over the years. But in those days so long ago, the seeds were planted for a concern of social justice that helped to shape my view of the world, my personal values, and the choices that led me here. Even with more than a quarter-century of adult service in the nonprofit sector, I feel I am only beginning to connect how living in those times shaped who I am and how that led me to the work that I love. That fall afternoon in Atlanta helped to fill in some of the gaps of understanding.
The tour bus pulled up in front of the MLK Center, just up the street from Ebenezer Baptist Church. Of all of the stops we would make that day, walking up to that door was the most powerful experience I had had in a very long time. I cannot begin to describe – or even comprehend – the impact that brief encounter with history had on me. But it did.

As we walked the streets of the neighborhood, a different kind of power washed over me: the power of collective action. Through sheer will, hard work, and a vision of what was possible, community organizers had helped to return the area from a broken-down shell to a vibrant space where families and friends could live and work together. That neighborhood is a visual reminder of the potential that can be fulfilled when people gather for a common purpose.

I took away two messages that day: the historic significance of the events signified there, and the triumph of the spirit for a common good. I will never experience personally the kind of sacrifices represented on those streets, but walking them affirmed for me what I know to be true and what has driven my adult service and activism in the past 25+ years: great things are possible when we all work together.

On this Martin Luther King Day/National Day of Service, I celebrate those who choose to serve as nonprofit leaders – specifically, as members of nonprofit boards. You provide the vision of a better future, through your organizational missions, and the leadership to bring life to that vision. So much focus leading up to today has been on working in the trenches and on the front lines in service to others. It goes without saying that I honor that critical work. But I also want to celebrate the unique contributions that our board leaders make to creating the better future that we all desire.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Sabanes-0xley and nonprofits: What's the real link?

Our friend, Jan Masaoka, at Blue Avocado has published an article that should be of interest to our local boards -- and nonprofit boards nationally -- that I want to share with readers here.

The post, "Sarbanes-Oxley and Nonprofits: Bogeyman in the Boardroom?," sorts through common misconceptions about the act as it applies to the sector. It clarifies which aspects of the law really applies to nonprofits and offers a reading on the bottom line that may help clarify and alleviate some fears that you and your fellow board members may have about these accountability issues. She also recommends practices that are not required by S-B, but are simply smart moves for governing bodies.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Governing in crisis

The stream of articles, blog posts and "how to" tools that address the economic crisis impacts on the sector grows daily, but comparatively few that I have encountered so far focus specifically on the role of the board in that process.

One exception is this piece, published by Philanthropy Journal. While the obvious focus is on fiduciary responsibility in these challenging economic times, I was glad to see the author take a bigger picture view with two recommendations, particularly with the last: "Build the Right Board."

Now, more than ever, it is critical to have a diverse and deep range of perspectives; to have the expertise that we need to help make the challenging decisions; and -- most of all -- to have a board of individuals utterly committed to, and passionate about, the mission that calls us to the table.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Outlook 2009

Earlier this week, the Chronicle of Philanthropy hosted an online chat focusing on the potential impacts of the nation's current economic challenges on nonprofits.

The transcript of the session, titled "Outlook for 2009: What the Recession will Mean for Your Organization," is available online and recommended reading for nonprofit board members.

What parts of that discussion resonate for you? Raise the biggest concerns for your own organization? What national challenges do you feel are not currently applicable for Laramie or Wyoming? What is your organization doing to address existing and potential issues based in the economy?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Engaging, expanding your base

I logged in today planning to write on another topic, but my RSS feed offered a more compelling starting point.

Blogger Nancy Schwartz asks an important question in this post: "Is your organization ready to put an engaged base to work?" Drawing upon brand new research from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, she raises a topic that came up in my "Introduction to Nonprofits" class last semester -- namely, how do nonprofits engage new groups of people energized by the November election and expecting to assume a more active role in their communities?

It, of course, remains to be seen whether those warm feelings and good intentions will translate into actual community involvement (and, specifically, involvement in our nonprofits). But the opportunity exists, and the time for nonprofits to find ways to welcome new individuals and groups in mutually beneficial ways is now.

The Pew findings emphasize online involvement, which I believe is a great untapped resource in so many of our communities. But I'd like to expand the question to involvement of all types, particularly when it comes to advocating on public policy issues that impact your organizations and communities.

One interesting potential challenge could be finding innovative ways to engage willing supporters who are new to volunteerism and who may not immediately gravitate toward our traditional paths of involvement. (The Pew study certainly points to the need to at least consider taking a more active approach to exploring online options.) This is a question not only for this immediate challenge, but for the future of our organizations. The need -- and the opportunity -- are upon us. Creative thinking about how we engage *all* of our volunteers has never been more important.

How is your organization working to attract the interest and involvement of these newly engaged citizens? What are your initial challenges in that effort? How are you identifying these new potential volunteers and supporters? In what ways can/will you engage them, to meet their motivations and your service needs?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Nonprofit New Year's Resolutions

Is your board looking for a fresh start to the new year and the new adventures (and challenges) that lie ahead for your nonprofit?

The latest post from the blog, Seeking Grant Money Today, offers a few recommendations for "nonprofit New Year's resolutions" that may spark some creative thinking about high-impact actions every board and staff should have on their collective horizons. Click here to access the post.

Then please consider returning here to share your thoughts about where your board will focus its attention in the early months of 2009, whether or not those starting points match this list. Where can you make the most of your time and energy to benefit your nonprofit -- and our community?

Friday, January 2, 2009

Planning a rural NP resource

Today, I have a request. I'm seeking feedback from nonprofit practitioners to help guide development of an online resource that students in my "Nonprofit Management & Leadership" class will create this spring.

We'll work together as a class, and in small groups, to develop content on critical nonprofit management topics. Our emphasis will be on the special challenges and opportunities that rural nonprofits face. Our goal will be to create a user-friendly resource that includes student-created content and links to existing resources that they evaluate as helpful to our target audience.

Now, here's where I need your help. I have identified a handful of topics that the class may be asked to address (number of topics covered this semester will be determined by final enrollment). I am asking for your feedback via response to an online poll that I have created. Click HERE to go to the poll. Voting is easy: simply click on any topic that you would like to see us address. You can vote multiple times; feel free to suggest more than one topic.