Category Archives: Board Relations

25 things awesome board members do

beyond-1157000_960_720Hi everyone. A colleague asked me to write about what board members can do to be helpful to staff. Nonprofit board members are critical to the success of organizations. We rely on y’all for so many important things and are deeply grateful for all the time, skills, connections, and resources you give, especially considering that the majority of board members are volunteers.

However, boards are also the direct cause of 39% of brain aneurysms in the sector, according to statistics that I made up. So I asked the NWB Facebook community to help develop a list of what awesome board members do. This is not a list of board roles and responsibilities, which you can google, or find at BoardSource, but actual, down-to-earth, sometimes seemingly minor stuff. One colleague writes this of one of her board members:

When your fundraiser is on the same night as an ice storm, he personally salts the sidewalks and parking lot. Then when all the salt runs out he goes to the gas station down the road and buys more salt to finish the job. He also demands car keys from me and coworker at the end of the night to defrost and scrape our car windows. And somehow in the midst of all that he also pays several hundreds of dollars on an auction item and poses for tons of pictures with the kids. #oneofthebest Continue reading

“Raise Fees 50%” and other nonprofit scary stories for Halloween

halloween-959006_640Hi everyone, Halloween is coming up this week. It’s one of my favorite holidays, along with Wombat Day, which is October 22nd (mark that on your calendar), so thank you to readers who sent in an entry to NWB’s Second Annual Scary Nonprofit Story contest. I asked/threatened two colleagues (Rachel Schachter of Temple Beth Am and Liahann Bannerman of United Way of King County) to review them with me, and we all had a great time. We judged the stories based on three elements: Humor, Creativity, and Scariness. It was difficult selecting the three winners, since the judges all had different definitions of what is scary in the nonprofit sector. If you didn’t “win,” please don’t be discouraged; the rankings are arbitrary, and we may have chugged a lot of pumpkin-spice-flavored ale while reading entries (and by “we,” I may just mean “I.”)

Here are the stories. Do not read them by yourself in the darkness. Continue reading

“Green Eggs and Strategic Plans” and other nonprofit children’s books

teddy-bear-792191_640Hi everyone, I am happy to announce that my wife and I are expecting another baby, due in March. I know, you’d think we would have learned our lesson the first time. I am excited and, honestly, a little terrified. Having a newborn and a toddler at the same time, that must be as challenging as, I don’t know, planning two annual fundraising events simultaneously.

Anyway, in honor of this soon-to-arrive baby, I wrote more children’s books about nonprofits. I want to build up a nice collection of books about nonprofits, so I can read them to the kids so they can understand what Daddy does and why one of his eyes twitches so much. And maybe they might start thinking early about pursuing careers in our sector. I mean, I’m not going to pressure them or anything, but a little encouragement can’t hurt. Continue reading

“Where the Sustainable Things Are” and other nonprofit children’s books

sendak1Trying to be a good father, I read to my two-year-old son every day. And also feed him daily. Since he turns two this Friday, I thought I would write him some more children’s stories. I want to give him a leg-up early just in case he wants to pursue a career in our field. Here are the texts for four new books. Of course, these are just drafts; they’ll be much better once I find an illustrator. Check them out and let me know what you think. I hope these books will become classics that parents who work in nonprofit will read to their kids each night.

The 990 Dance

Stomp your feet,cow
wring your hands,
everybody ready for the 990 dance.
Bow to the bookkeeper,
bow to your board.
Bow to the accounting firm just outsourced
With an “eek!” and a “yikes!” and a “sigh sigh sigh…”
Discover your overhead is way too “high.”
Analyze your revenues,
analyze your spending
Do whatever the accountant is recommending
Hide your frustration,
sharpen your senses
Allocate some admin as program expenses
With a “blegh” and an “argh” and an “ack ack ack”
The filing is done, but next year it’ll be back Continue reading

“Dancing with Program Officers” and 5 other nonprofit-themed reality TV shows we need

audience-868074_960_720So many of the challenges the nonprofit sector faces exist because of our poor portrayal in the media. This is why I think we should lobby for more shows that highlight the exciting and complex work all of us in the field are doing. A while ago I wrote about “Nonprofit and Afraid,” a show where people who have little experience with nonprofits are put to work at a nonprofit for six weeks. Here are some other ideas I’ve thought of, and sneak previews of what they might look like:

Dancing with Program Officers:

12 nonprofit staff are paired with 12 program officers of local foundations to learn various funding dances, including the “Should I call them first or should I just send in the LOI?” and “Who should pay for lunch?”

Emcee: On the floor now are Alan and Marjorie. Alan, the DD of Think of the Children, has been having trouble rehearsing for the Site Visit Dance, a nerve-wracking number with feints and swirls. Marjorie, his partner and program officer at the Swifter Foundation, has been supportive in her coaching. Let’s see how they fare tonight:

Alan: Thanks for coming down to see our program in action, Margaret. I’m sorry, I mean Marjorie…

Marjorie: No problem, people get that wrong all the time. I should just change it, ha ha.

Emcee: An understandable stumble, given his nerves, and a graceful recovery, but our panel of judges does not look happy.

Alan: This year, we served 390 kids, 85% free-and-reduced-lunch, through four programs…

Marjorie: That’s wonderful. What are some of the results you’ve seen?

Emcee: The Site Visit Dance is a tricky dance, since it combines both technicality and heart. Alan is relying too much on technique. He needs to bring more heart, more stories. Let’s hope he doesn’t flub this one like he did last week in the “Clarifying Questions on the Proposal Budget” dance. Continue reading