What’s Goverance Got to Do with It?

Over my twenty years in the nonprofit sector I have held different seats at the governance table.

As a member of an all-volunteer organization, I’ve experienced serving on a board that worked essentially as the staff. As an Executive Director of a nonprofit, I experienced a relationship with the board as my boss. While serving as a board chair, I was the leader of the board. In my professional work as a consultant, I am brought in to support boards in reaching their greatest potential.

What have I learned based on my experience in each of these roles? Your organization is only as healthy as your board.

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When boards and board members are working in coordination with staff, the organization has leveraged the talents, and resources of 10-20 more people…for free!

When boards and board members are not working in coordination with staff, the organization stalls out.

I have seen the latter dysfunctional situation often as both a board member and as a consultant.  In these situations, staff start to work around or ignore the board, viewing the board as “a necessary evil.”  Board members wonder why the Executive isn’t “doing as they say.”

So what are the key elements to an effective board-executive partnership?  Although it was originally written for the corporate sector, the work of David Nadler, Beverly Behan and Mark Nadler, published by the Harvard Business Review on Building Better Boards, is a timeless resource for building engaged boards.

Key Elements of an Engaged Board

1. The Mind-Set: Board-building is an ongoing activity, continuous improvement means annual self-assessments.

2. The Role: The board needs to be an engaged partner with the chief executive and playing the correct role for each situation. Is it a fiduciary role, strategic role or generative role? This resource explores the role of Governance as Leadership.

3. The Work: Identify the areas where the board can add the greatest value and focus attention here.

4. The People: The right people are not merely based on technical expertise but other competencies related to programs, external environment, quality of input and style of interaction.

5. The Agenda: Agendas dictate the work of the board. “show and tells” kill board meetings and crowd out time for serious and important discussions. Boards need to find ways to engage with the organization outside of official meetings so “show and tells” during meetings can be limited.

6. The Information:  Boards can be left in the dark by either too much information to digest or information malnutrition. I have seen board tomes of 300 pages! Don’t only be a “recipient” of information but seek it out.  Board members should be encouraged to collect and share information that they have identified externally.

7. The Culture: Robert’s Rules of Order are great obstacles to an engaged board. Use them sparingly.  Engaged board cultures are characterized by candor, willingness to challenge thinking (respectfully), camaraderie, and teamwork.

Where is your board in getting it right?  Take a look at some of the other great resources on nonprofit governance or contact me to discuss next steps in building an engaged board.

Resources:
BoardSource
Blue Avocado
Nonprofit Quarterly

How to Design Opportunities for the 21st Century Volunteer

Volunteerism in the U.S. has changed significantly over the last 50 years.  In 2012, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics determined that 64.5 million people volunteered in the previous year.   In previous research conducted in 2008, the largest change in the hours spent volunteering was in the 20-24 year old age group.  In the most recent report in 2012, the people aged 35-44 were most likely to volunteer.

For volunteer programs to be successful moving forward, they must be designed to appeal to these demographics. What does that mean? Between juggling full-time work and starting a family, younger volunteers need fun and flexibility.

Volunteer opportunities need to be broken down into small pieces. “Episodic volunteering” is a term used to provide smaller, more manageable commitments.  Microvolunteering is even less time commitment. This allows individuals to offer minutes of their time to help organizations.   Sparked has developed a internet based platform that allows individuals and organizations to solve problems online in real-time all over the world.

So how do you design a volunteer program for the 21st Century volunteer?

1. Break it down: Provide short-term opportunities.

2. Ask yourself: How can we use the internet?

3. Find that Perfect Match: Align the interest of the volunteer, the organization and the client being served.

4. Make it fun!

Do you want learn more about effective volunteer engagement? Watch this presentation I recently gave at the University of Wisconsin, Communiversity Series, in Madison.

Or explore these other resources:

Volunteer Management: Mobilizing All the Resources in the Community (McCurley & Lynch, 2011)
The Volunteerism Bibliography
Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action
Corporation for National Service
Virtual Volunteering Project
Association of Leaders in Volunteer Engagement

Is Your Organization Built to Last?

Recently I partnered with Forward Community Investments in hosting a webinar on organizational capacity building and strategy development.  In this time of constant change, nonprofit organizations need to think about building capacity to remain relevant in the field in which they operate.

800px-Cairo,_Gizeh,_Pyramids_of_Kephren_and_Khufu,_Egypt,_Oct_2004What are the key steps to building your organization to last?

1. Assess current organizational capacity.

Capacity refers to intentional, coordinated and mission-driven efforts aimed at strengthening the management and governance of nonprofits to improve performance and impact.

2. Start at the top.

Focus on your organization’s mission and vision.

3. Know Thyself.

Analyze your organization’s business model; focus on geography, customers, programs, and funding.

4. Know the market.

Your organization doesn’t exist in a vacuum.  Map out where you operate and who you compete with.  What trends will impact your organization?

5. Build on your strengths.

What differentiates your organization from others in your market? What makes you unique? Build on that.

6. Make decision-making explicit.

Identify criteria for testing strategic options. Create a structure for discussion with board and staff.

7. Develop strategies to answer the biggest questions.

What are the most important questions facing your organization right now?  Draft strategies that answer each question.

8. Develop implementation plan.

You’ve defined the big questions facing your organization and created strategies to address those questions.  The last step is bringing strategy to life.  Document how you will implement the strategies that will build an organization to last.

Check out the webinar.  Or if you want to chat about building your organization to last, Contact me today to get started!

Calling All Change Makers

Vista Global Coaching & Consulting, LLC (VGCC) partners with organizations and individuals to make meaningful change in the world. Whether you are navigating change on a personal, professional or organizational level, VGCC services will guide you to your vision.

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With over 20 years of experience, Certified Coach and Consultant Mary Stelletello will help you reach your goals. Contact Mary today to learn how Vista Global Coaching & Consulting is right for you.

How I Developed the Vista Global Vision (and How to Get Started on Yours)

When I started my business I wanted to identify a company name that I could use in both English and Spanish so it would be understandable when I worked in Latin America.  I wanted to identify a name that conveyed opportunity and expansivenss.

Sky PhotoAfter pages of scribbling different words and word combinations, Vista Global emerged. A “global view” and vision of making a difference in the world.   It emerged like the sun rising. I love the cycle of the sun, rising to welcome a new day and setting to reflect the beauty of the day that has ended.  Vista Global conveys that sense of possibility.

As a certified coach with The Coaches Training Institute, I believe that values are the foundation of our success professionally and personally.  Research conducted by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner for The Leadership Challenge confirms that when we live and work in alignment with our values we have higher performance, more energy and frankly life is just a lot more fun!

Can you identify your top 5 values?  Are you living and working in alignment with your values? If you have never thought about your values and what is important to you, here are a few quick tips to get you started on this path toward your greatest potential:

5 Tips for Identifying your Values:

1. Values are who you are. Not who you would like to be, not who you think you should be but who you are in your life right now.

2. Values serve as your compass pointing out what it means to be true to yourself. They are guiding principles of how you live your life.

3. Values are the “non-negotiables” must-haves in your life to be fulfilled (beyond the requirements of food, shelter, etc.).  If a value is not being honored, you feel disrupted, off balance, or a sense of things not being “right”.

4. Values are demonstrated in “peak moments” when you are completely in the zone of happiness and fulfillment.  What are you doing at that moment? Where are you? Who are you with?

5. Values are uniquely yours and once you have greater clarity of your values you are on your way to living and working in ways that offer your best self to the world!

My top 5 values are communication, collaboration, justice, authenticity, and fun.  What are your values?

Launching the Vista Global Blog

Coaching and Consulting for a better world…

I am thrilled to enter the blogosphere to share what I have learned over the past 25 years in the nonprofit sector as a CEO, Program Officer, Consultant and Coach.  I look forward to learning from you as well, as we venture toward that horizon of making a difference in the world.