Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Needing, creating time to think

I've written often about the critical importance - and the surprising challenge - of not only giving nonprofit boards the space to think and focus on vision and mission but expecting them to make this work their top governance priority.

This week, my friend, Hildy Gottlieb, offers up a series of posts addressing that topic with her usual eloquence. She opens with a Tuesday post, "No Time to Think," and follows up this morning with a powerful counterpoint, "Giving Boards Time to Think."

I encourage you to read, absorb, and respond to Hildy's wisdom at her blog (and, most important, forward to your board member friends). I also hope that you will return to this space to talk about how we can foster this essential work in our local boards. I am particularly interested in hearing about the obstacles you've faced in engaging your board in this work, the successes you've had, and the potential you can see if this became a focus of governance.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Reaching out, drawing in: Boards as boundary spanners

Reaching across personal and professional networks to share our organization's vision and mission is one of the most critical - and most often ignored - responsibilities of a nonprofit board member.

This boundary-spanning role is one of the most unique contributions that individual members and the board as a whole can make. They have credibility in their respective circles of influence that paid staff simply cannot replicate.

I discuss this two-way process (listening is the other side of the equation) in a podcast I'd like to share with readers of this blog. It's uploaded to my Posterous account, which handles audio files more elegantly. Click on the link below to access that entry and listen to the session.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Why I'm committed to 'mumbo jumbo'

Since returning from the Community-Driven Institute consultant immersion course in January, I've noticed two things: my vocabulary and vision have shifted significantly, and reactions to my new view of the world have been of the "what planet has she landed on now?" variety.

I'm frustrated by that, but I get what's driving those reactions. I understand how the narrow, incomplete definitions of governance have historically led us to believe that this fluffy vision and mission "stuff" is a big old waste of busy, action-oriented board members' precious time. I also know that it's still a giant leap from here to there: too many hard-working board members still lack access to even commonly-heralded "governance musts," like the "10 Basic Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards," which I consider to be vastly incomplete and utterly uninspiring. Boards don't know what governance really involves.

But my emerging vision of a different future for community benefit organizations - and Wyoming - is resolute. We cannot fulfill our individual organization and community-level potential if we do not make what too many of us consider to be fluffy the focus of everything. So long as our visions extend only until the next budget report or the next granting cycle, we will never move beyond a day-to-day kind of existence. We don't change anything in that mode. While I must meet organizations and their boards wherever they are at the moment, I am completely clear on the path lying before us: it's in the "mumbo jumbo," the vision of a better future and the mission that defines organizations' specific contributions to that end.

My friend, Hildy Gottlieb, not only has a deeply innovative way of changing the frame from which we all operate, she has an uncanny knack for articulating what's at stake and why it matters in vivid, "charge-your-batteries" ways. She also has incredible timing. This morning's post, "Joyful, Spirit-Filled, Vision-Focused Touchy-Feely Mumbo Jumbo," is exactly the boost I need right now. I encourage you to read it, share it with your fellow board members, reflect on it, and explore ways to embrace the "mumbo jumbo" in your governance.

For those Wyoming organizations and the boards that govern them, who want to embrace that "touchy-feely" stuff and create real change, I am there for you. In my own practice, in fulfilling my own vision of the future, I will strive for nothing less.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Strategic Thinking - Benefits

Terrie Temkin describes perfectly the importance of strategic thinking in governance: its value in focusing the board's work, its contributions to member engagement, and how all of that clarifies the board/CEO relationship. Powerful.

Strategic Thinking -Vision and value

Absolutely fantastic video of Terrie Temkin describing the power of focus on vision and values. For those of us who spend so much time obsessing over mission, she offers a convicting reality check about why that's not enough.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

White paper: Nonprofits as communities of practice

Readers of this blog may remember a series of posts that I did over Christmas break, sharing the key ideas from my dissertation and connecting them to the literature of communities of practice.

I turned that series into a white paper intended to provide a practitioner-friendly overview. Here is a copy of that document, for reading online or download. I welcome any chance to expand upon the ideas, respond to questions, and otherwise talk about this framework for thinking about nonprofit boards.