Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Overheard: March 16 edition

I'm on the road (or, rather, in the air), after presenting two rounds of a new workshop for board presidents (the likely topic of my next post) for the American Bar Association's Bar Leadership Institute, but I managed to capture a few memorable posts to share as this week's favorite links.

At last! 100% board giving! (Pamela Grow)

One of the more fascinating - and disturbing - revelations in Pam's post is the finding from her 2012 Small Shop Fundraising Survey, that 55 percent of respondents cannot report 100-percent financial support from their boards. With more funders paying attention to tangible evidence of board commitment, this represents a serious problem. Pam offers us an additional gift at the end of the post: two sample appeal letters targeting our board members.

Lessons for your board from Linchpin's Lizard Brain (Mazarine Treyz)

While my general preference is to focus more on sharing positive offerings, sometimes the humorously negative gets the point across in effective ways. This post feels like that kind of offering. You'll chuckle - or flinch - because you'll probably recognize most to all of the dysfunctional behaviors from your boardroom experiences. Few of them may actually be "new" or shocking to you, but a little strategic awareness may help us think twice the next time we see our boards (or ourselves) heading down one a less than productive path.

Nonprofit board term limits - pros and cons (Gayle Gifford)

Ah, the perennial board mechanics question: should we set term limits for members? My bias is toward the "yes" side of the discussion, for many of the reasons cited in this post. But I also understand the factors that lead others to say term limits aren't always a great idea, especially when it comes to loss of institutional history. Gayle does a great job of outlining the primary arguments on both sides, increasing the potential for your board to make the right, informed decision. A bonus for me was her late-post caution about how we handle a common compromise: re-electing vets after they have taken time off. I recognized what she describes instantly, though I can't say the prospect has been foremost in my thinking about the topic.

Focused on meaning (Judy Levine)

I was thrilled to see someone address the meaning-making component of governance, since it is such a rare and wonderful thing. Helping boards to see the meaning behind the data, to understand why what you are sharing and what they are discussing matter, is "the board at its highest and best use." Really, that needs no additional commentary.

How can we fix our broken approach to boards? (Rick Moyers)

This one speaks more to my "inner board geek" than my "share something useful" instincts, but I want to offer it anyway. Many thoughtful people, in many organizations with a vested interest in strong nonprofit governance, brainstorm, analyze and debate the merits of different board models. Is there one 'best' one? Moyers shares a couple of approaches that have been touted as being, if not perfect, certainly closer to that ideal than anything else (including the configurations typical of most boards). Ultimately, though, he ends up setting them aside and pointing out a central challenge to those who seek a better way to govern: there's no consensus about what's wrong with the way most of us are doing it. I offer this link as an invitation to your board to introduce the question, "What would our ideal mode of governing look like," and to keep it ever-present in your ongoing efforts to build your collective leadership capacity. You may not find that ideal that so many seek, but you likely will be more attuned to your strengths, limitations and opportunities to improve your practice.

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