What are some quick tips for maintaining an engaged board of directors?

In this video, Jennifer, provides some specific tips on how to keep your board members engaged with your organization throughout their tenure.

Engaging and Evaluating for Board Effectiveness

Nonprofit leaders and board members often ask about ways to maximize and maintain board member engagement. Furthermore, they ask about how to evaluate the board’s ongoing effectiveness. While there are a number of areas that go into developing an engaged and effective board, some of the initial key steps are outlined here.

How Do We Maximize and Maintain Board Engagement?

Build Teamwork to Make the Dream Work

It starts with having the appropriate people in place; without this thoughtfully constructed team of individuals, it becomes impossible to achieve a group that is able to work together cohesively and strategically.

In addition, how many nonprofits have members who have been on the board together for years and have never really gotten to know one another? Imagine how much more effectively a group like this could have guided their organization toward its mission had they been governing as a team rather than as acquaintances coming together for meetings, or to merely fill a seat at the table.

To maintain an effective board, there must be an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect among the members and the agency’s executive leadership team. Board members who enjoy interactions with one another and the organization have a higher level of trust and respect that will likely lead to quality participation and regular meeting attendance.

Ensure Commitment to the Nonprofit’s Direction

One of a nonprofit’s most valuable assets is its board of directors. To create this value, a board must be diverse, dedicated, and eager to assist your agency in fulfilling its mission.

Board members should not only be committed to the agency’s mission, but they should also be willing to support the nonprofit’s needs and understand what is expected of them as an actively involved member.

Clearly Communicate Involvement Expectations

Aligning expectations on both sides ins critical. Leadership needs to clearly understand what each member can and is willing to provide in terms of skills, time, and financial support (this means both direct giving and/or helping to raise funds) and successfully match those to the needs of the nonprofit organization.

The appropriate level of board involvement will depend, in part, on the size of the organization and its stage of development. A newly formed nonprofit or grassroots advocacy group will often require an “all hands on deck” approach, whereas a more advanced organization may focus more on maximizing the board members’ network of contacts and fundraising efforts. In either case, the legal and fiduciary oversight responsibilities of the board of directors must be considered priority.

Hold Effective Meetings

Meetings should be a positive use of the board members’ time. Discussions should allow for open debate and questioning, and time should be spent on strategic goal advancement, while not be mired in minutia or the detailed operations of the organization. For example, if a board is reviewing, debating, and approving agency procedures, they are operating on a micro-management level. The board should remain focused only on policy approval and developing and fulfilling strategic goals. There should also be an agreed-upon decision-making process to keep meetings moving forward, ultimately resulting in more effective meetings.

Plan for and Respond to Challenges

Developing and maintaining an effective and unified board requires consistent effort and a desire from each member to keep the interests of the agency first and foremost. This can become exponentially more challenging when starting out with ineffective or frustrated board members. It is important to be on the lookout for warning signs of disengagement or disenchantment as well as any new power struggles. Plan ahead about how you may prevent and handle some of these challenges.

Nonprofits often struggle with how to appropriately dismiss board members from their responsibilities when this becomes the necessary course of action. However, it can be done with time, thoughtful planning, and action. To plan for these situations, there is an entire process that must be in place to identify and recruit diverse, committed, new members. (contact us for additional information).

How Do We Measure Our Effectiveness?

In today’s competitive philanthropic environment, it is essential to regularly measure the functionality and influence of your nonprofit board and determine practices and strategies that will strengthen its impact. Conducting a thoughtful board assessment is a solid place to begin.

The following questions may help to better inform a board assessment:

  • Does each member of your board feel engaged and involved in the oversight of your organization on a regular basis?
  • Is your board directly involved in setting fundraising goals, and are they actively involved in the fundraising process as required by your nonprofit?
  • What are your board’s three greatest strengths, and how have these contributed to the overall success of your nonprofit?
  • What are your board’s three most significant weaknesses, and how have these held your nonprofit from operating at its optimal level?
  • Does your board culture encourage and welcome open discussion of issues, even when members are not in agreement?
  • Is there a mutual level of respect among all board members?

Developing relationships, establishing expectations, heading off potential challenges, and assessing board effectiveness are just some of the activities that will help foster an engaged, cohesive board of directors who can effectively contribute to fulfilling your nonprofit organization’s mission. For information on any of these questions or other ways to take your board to the next level of engagement and effectiveness, please feel free to contact us.

For more information or questions about the contents of this article, please write or call Jennifer Flowers @ Jennifer@AccreditationGuru.com / 212.209.0240.   This post contains original content and was written for Accreditation Guru, Inc. Use of this copy is permitted with credit and reference within the same body of copy to Accreditation Guru, Inc.

Educating Your Board of Directors

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela.

Education forms the foundation from which most everything else is created, making it one of the wisest investments a nonprofit can expend its precious resources on. Taking the time to educate your board of directors is one way you can develop that foundation so they are best prepared to serve your organization and its clients.

Keep in mind that many nonprofits do not formally educate their board members. Often, a nonprofit will assume that if someone is professional or a leader in their industry that they also have the knowledge to be an effective member on the board. Ultimately, this assumption can lead to increased risk and liability for your organization.

If you’re not educating your board members, who is?

Some questions to reflect on when considering topics to educate your new board member (or existing members for that matter):

  • Does each of your board members clearly understand the organization’s mission, vision, services, and programs well enough to make meaningful contributions in a leadership capacity?
  • What do orientation materials for new members include, and how are they used for onboarding new people?
  • Does your organization have an inclusive, formal orientation procedure in place for all incoming board members?
  • How do you train your board members for ongoing success?

Here are some ideas to consider implementing as you think about educating your board:

  • Board members should be diverse enough to bring different skills to the table. That said, you may need to consider educating them on mission-specific areas of your nonprofit. For example, teach them about the foster care and adoption process, or about how your homeless shelter changes the lives of its clients for the better.
  • From day one, help board members understand their roles and responsibilities. Knowing what is expected of them will encourage the confidence they need to be the leaders that your agency – and your clients – are counting on.
  • Customize educational opportunities to fit the needs of your board. Applicable areas of concentration can include fundraising, financial literacy, governance, and strategic planning. More often than not, there are board members who do not understand how to read financial data reports and the elements contained within. Arming them with this knowledge will also give them insight on the importance of their fundraising efforts as well as strategic planning.

The more effectively you educate your board members (especially regarding the agency’s mission), the more they are able to share with others throughout the communities you serve. They can use their newfound knowledge to both inform and strengthen relationships on your organization’s behalf, both now and well into the future.

Next week: Now that you have your board and they’re well prepared, it’s time to ensure they are everything your organization needs. How to engage and evaluate for board effectiveness.

For more information or questions about the contents of this article, please write or call Jennifer Flowers @ Jennifer@AccreditationGuru.com / 212.209.0240.   This post contains original content and was written for Accreditation Guru, Inc. Use of this copy is permitted with credit and reference within the same body of copy to Accreditation Guru, Inc.

Exploring Ways to Find Your Next Board Member

An effective board of directors begins with having the appropriate people in place. Without this thoughtfully constructed team of individuals, it becomes difficult to achieve a group that is able to work together cohesively and strategically.

Nonprofit leaders often find that looking for a nonprofit board member can be a time-consuming and frustrating experience. Using online resources, such as LinkedIn, may be a great place to start that search. This blog will discuss how to plan for, and explore, various resources for finding your next board member.

Before You Search, Analyze Your Current State

To save time and resources, do some analysis of the current state of your Board before launching into a search.  Here are some considerations:

  • Does your board currently have an adequate number of well-functioning board committees and/or other workgroups to support your organization’s operations?
  • What is the expertise, skill set and individual make up of your existing Board for current needs? Could the Board you have now potentially serve your future needs?
  • Do you have a mix of demographics, individual skills and interests, dedication to your agency’s mission, appropriate level of diversity and reflection of the population served by your agency?
  • Does your nonprofit regularly recruit new members? If so, by what process? Is a standardized interview conducted and a set of standard questions asked? How can you use those questions to also inform your search?

Recruitment Tips

Ideally you already have a pool of potential board members who are already passionate about your mission. People who may be interested in a board positions include, but are not limited to:

  • Current volunteers
  • Someone in your donor network
  • Connections of current board members
  • Someone who represents of the demographics of the community served

Individuals may need to be educated on what it means to serve on your board. Take the opportunity to train and mentor people about the reward of being a board member of your organization. Remember, it’s possible that a terrific potential board member has not stepped forward because no one ever asked them.

Board Connection Organizations

If you have exhausted the search for board members among your current pool of connections, it may be appropriate to use a board connection organization and online tools. A focused online search can be a great source for seeking out qualified, appropriate, new nonprofit board of director members for virtually any type of agency.

For one, LinkedIn’s service, LinkedIn Board Member Connect, aims to help streamline this recruitment process. Board Member Connect helps nonprofit leaders leverage their own networks and their board members’ networks to find the right skilled professionals to join their boards.

One of the benefits of Board Member Connect is the advanced search feature that allows you to target specific qualities while searching for your ideal candidate. For example, you can search for someone with legal experience, who works in the housing industry and is located in Greater New York City. There is also a “nonprofit interests” search feature that allows you to filter by professionals who have indicated their interest in board service.

To participate, you must be a registered U.S. nonprofit organization. With regard to cost, nonprofits are able to post board opportunities on LinkedIn for less than $50 per posting. BoardSource members can post an opportunity for free at their Board Recruitment Center. Impact Opportunity and BoardnetUSA are two additional, nationwide sites where you can post open board positions. You may also contact your local United Way or local community foundation for additional recruitment resources.

Once you have a solid list of places for outreach as well as people to connect with – the process may prove to be both less time-consuming and frustrating.

Good luck on your search!

Next week: You’ve found the best board for your organization, now what? How educating both new and existing members can positively affect your organization.

For more information or questions about the contents of this article, please write or call Jennifer Flowers @ Jennifer@AccreditationGuru.com / 212.209.0240.   This post contains original content and was written for Accreditation Guru, Inc. Use of this copy is permitted with credit and reference within the same body of copy to Accreditation Guru, Inc.

Ideas to motivate staff beyond money.

 

In this video we discuss the importance of finding out what personally motivates your employees as part of the mix of how you might encourage them beyond solely monetary benefits.

Nonprofit Audit Committee Benefits: Why your nonprofit should have one

Nonprofit Audit Committee Benefits Summary

  • Best practice to have a nonprofit audit committee to provide accountability for organization’s independent audit
    • finance committee is responsible for monitoring the organization’s financial status
    • audit committee is given authority for overseeing the organization’s external audit process.
  • To ensure that the audit process is objective, an audit committee should be an “independent” body, meaning that no one on this committee is also employed by the nonprofit
    • Directly responsible for the selection, retention and oversight of the independent auditor
    • Having an audit committee lends to the transparency of the organization to the outside world via reporting on the IRS Form 990; all 990 tax returns for charitable orgs are publicly posted online.

Want to learn more? Read our article “Why Your Nonprofit Needs an Audit Committee.”

The Alliance’s New “Operations Support Services”

As a partner of the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, Accreditation Guru is excited to share with you their new and game-changing “Operations Support Services” offering for the nonprofit sector. This offering is intended to help leaders address provision of operations support services related to human resources, finance, administrative operations, and more. This is available to ALL nonprofits in the United States, not just Alliance member organizations.

Across the country, daily tasks, ranging from detailed budget reports to regular donor stewardship, siphon limited energy and resources that could be better directed toward program implementation. Because dollars available for overhead functions are particularly scarce, nonprofits should look for smart ways to maximize these resources. For organizations that cannot cost-effectively sustain internal capacity and expertise in administrative functions, the gap will continually widen and plague their abilities to focus and execute on their missions.

The Alliance is dedicated to helping community-based organizations (CBOs) bolster their approach to risk management, improve the effectiveness of fund usage, and understand the benefit of shared services—all of which allow for an increased focus on mission and people served. The “Operations Support Services” offering was created to help fulfill the five identified “North Star” initiatives in the landmark report, “A National Imperative: Joining Forces to Strengthen Human Services in America,” by the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities and the American Public Human Services Association.

By partnering with the Alliance, CBOs can outsource various financial and administrative duties for which internal capacity and resources may be limited. As part of this new venture, the Alliance also is offering competitive and robust benefits packages, enhanced retirement planning services, and comprehensive EAP and work-life services to their employees at a reasonable cost, regardless of their size. In addition, the Alliance’s unemployment tax program combats hidden expenses, avoids claims volatility, and enables better management of cash flow and claim tracking.

The Alliance has established many strategic partnerships to facilitate provision of operations support services that can be customized for any size nonprofit:

  • Flexible accounting and bookkeeping assistance delivered directly by Alliance staff
  • Comprehensive, competitively priced group health insurance packages offered via industry
    leaders that cover thousands of companies and hundreds of thousands of lives
  • Employee assistance and work-life services from FEI Behavioral Health, the Alliance’s
    social enterprise
  • The ability to provide a wide range of retirement plans and planning services to employees,
    with the added value of no administrative fees
  • A cost-effective alternative to the state unemployment tax system
  • Access to group purchasing savings programs

“Along with our expertise in human resources, finance, and administrative operations, it is our intent to enhance and expand our support services to help leaders address needs related to fundraising and development; marketing, public relations, and communications; and information technology,” explains Lenore Schell, Alliance senior vice president of strategic business innovation.
For more information, visit the Alliance’s website.

Why Your Organization Needs Hired & Non-Owned Auto Insurance

Hired & non-owned auto insurance is a highly misunderstood coverage and as a result, often gets put at the bottom of the insurance coverage priority list. Hired and non-owned auto insurance provides coverage for bodily injury and property damage losses caused by vehicles you don’t own, vehicles you lease, hire, rent, and/or borrow, but are used for business operations.
For this discussion, we are going to focus on coverage for vehicles not owned by your organization but used for your operations. Typically, these vehicles are personally owned by employees and volunteers—in other words, non-owned auto.

Organizations that don’t own company vehicles, may automatically think they don’t need auto insurance. Nothing could be further from the truth! If you have employees or volunteers that drive their own vehicles on behalf of your organization, for any reason, then you can become responsible for auto claims. Situations, where your organization may be responsible for damages, can include (but is not limited to):

• Using their own vehicle to go to meetings
• Using their own vehicle to go to the bank, the post office, or other errands
• Using their own vehicle to provide the services offered by your organization

If there’s an accident in any of these circumstances, then your organization can be held responsible and sued for damages. Auto liability claims can have a significant impact on your bottom line. Hired and non-owned auto liability coverage can help absorb potential financial losses and protect your business.

What is Hired & Non-Owned Auto Insurance?

Hired & Non-Owned Auto Liability Coverage is for vehicles owned by employees or volunteers and covers injuries to other people and damage to other people’s property. This is coverage in addition to the coverage an employee or volunteer may already have on their vehicle. It does not cover damage to the vehicles owned by your employees or volunteers, only liability.

In the event your organization is in any way responsible for an accident, a driver’s own auto insurance will be responsible for any claims. However, if the claims are more than the liability coverage limits that the individual has on their personal auto policy, then your non-owned auto insurance could kick in to pay the remainder of the claim. In other words, the employee or volunteer auto insurance triggers first.

Example

The Executive Director of an organization was driving to the bank in their own vehicle to drop off some paperwork for a business loan. She was in a hurry and sped through a yellow light. A car turned in front of her and she hit the driver’s side of the oncoming vehicle. This collision resulted in considerable damage to both vehicles and severe injuries to the other driver.

The injured driver sued the Executive Director and the organization for the damage to his vehicle and his injuries. Because the Executive Director was driving for business, the organization would be responsible for the damages caused by the accident. The total claim was $450,000 including the associated legal fees.

The payments were as follows:

• The Executive Director’s personal auto policy paid up to her limit of $300,000
• The organizations non-owned auto policy paid the remaining $150,000
• The annual premium cost of the non-owned auto Insurance was $350

Auto claims are by far the most frequent type of claim we see, and auto claims involving injury can be quite large. All organizations have some type of driving associated with their mission and general operations. If an organization is deemed in any way responsible for an auto accident, even a small claim can quickly eat up the organization’s reserves and as we’ve seen, a small expenditure for the coverage more than compensates for the potential risks.

Make sure that you include non-owned auto insurance as part of your organization’s risk management arsenal.

~TJ Armstrong, Business Development Manager, Hawley & Associates, LLC

2017 Blog Recap

Did you miss any of our Accreditation Guru blog posts during the past year? We published nearly 25 informative articles on topics ranging from accreditation preparation to nonprofit management to issues affecting the behavioral healthcare field. Below we have highlighted some of our most popular posts from 2017 that may be worth a second look for your organization as you beginning planning for the New Year. Thank you for being loyal followers in 2017. We look forward to providing you with more informative posts in 2018! Here’s to the happiest of New Years!

Accreditation

Nonprofit Management and Boards of Directors

Behavioral Healthcare

AG’s own Corporate Social Responsibility

And don’t forget our popular series “Accreditation in Action,” which highlights organizations across the country and how they benefit from being nationally accredited.

Happy reading!