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Who’s Really in Charge of Board Performance?

Ask people in the nonprofit world who is to blame for poor board performance, and you won’t get agreement. Some people say it’s the board’s fault. Others say it’s the CEO’s.

Rarely do these conflicting ideas get argued in public. But at the annual meeting of BoardSource, I had the opportunity to debate the point in front of an audience. Two-person teams argued opposing points of view on that and other controversial topics. At the conclusion of our comments, the audience voted.

I was teamed with …

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Nonprofit Trustees Urged to Get Involved in Public Policy

Holly Hall, an editor at The Chronicle, is contributing guest posts based on her reporting from the annual meeting of BoardSource, an organization that seeks to help trustees to do their jobs better. The conference took place in Atlanta.

Trustees have many reasons to lobby against cuts in government support to charities and the people they support.

While the altruistic reasons usually get all the attention, one national nonprofit leader is blunt about the direct hit board members themselves w…

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What Trustees Should Know About Collaboration Options

Holly Hall, an editor at The Chronicle, is contributing guest posts based on her reporting from the annual meeting of BoardSource, an organization that seeks to help trustees to do their jobs better. The conference took place last week in Atlanta.

As charities face money woes and increases in requests for help, some groups have decided to merge with other organizations. But mergers aren’t the only way to reduce overhead and grow more efficient, said Jean Butzen, an Evanston, Ill., consultant.

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Lessons in Working With Trustees

Holly Hall, an editor at The Chronicle, is contributing guest posts based on her reporting from the annual meeting of BoardSource, an organization that seeks to help trustees to do their jobs better. The conference took place last week in Atlanta.

Why do we need you?

That’s what anybody recruiting a board member should address before making a pitch. But nearly nobody does.

Most people neglect to say which skills matter and instead assure potential board members that the job won’t be much work. …

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Five Ways Foundations Can Strengthen Nonprofit Boards

In two recent posts, I asked if foundations should be doing more to strengthen boards and whether we expect too much from boards. More than 50 readers provided thoughtful comments, with a range of perspectives, that are well worth reading.

Much to my surprise, most readers who commented thought foundations should indeed do more to strengthen boards. A third suggested more grants to support board development. A handful requested more foundation-sponsored training for boards, and one practical so…

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Executive Directors Should Invest More Time on Their Boards

The more effort nonprofit leaders put into supporting their boards, the happier they are with the board’s performance—but few leaders spend enough hours working with trustees to make a difference.

That insight comes from a report called The Board Paradox, by CompassPoint and the Meyer Foundation, where I work. It’s the last in a series of three briefs that report on a national study of more than 3,000 nonprofit executive directors.

The briefs present survey results that were not included in the …

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Do We Expect Too Much From Boards?

Nonprofit board members did not get very high marks from their executive directors in the recently released “Daring to Lead 2011” report.

The report, produced by the Meyer Foundation and CompassPoint, is based on a national survey of more than 3,000 executive directors of small to midsize nonprofit organizations. (I’m a vice president at Meyer and a co-author of the report.)

Although “Daring to Lead 2011″ was intended as a study of executive directors, it is often difficult to separate the issue…

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Should Foundations Do More to Strengthen Boards?

When I started this blog last fall, an old friend who had been out of touch for a few years e-mailed me to share his thoughts about what needs to change before we will see widespread improvement in the effectiveness of nonprofit boards.

My friend is a very savvy retired chief executive with decades of experience working with boards, so I respect his opinion, which is that boards are never going to improve significantly unless, in his words, “foundations demand it.”

I’m skeptical.

Foundations are…

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There’s No Penalty for Having Reserves

This is the final in a series of four posts on the subject of nonprofit operating reserves. Earlier posts flagged reserves as a topic that deserves more attention, explained what reserves are and why they matter, and discussed how organizations build reserves.

This post addresses two additional roadblocks to building adequate reserves: the perception among executive directors and board members that nonprofit organizations cannot operate at a surplus (or “profit”) simply because they are nonprofi…

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How Nonprofits Build Operating Reserves

My two most recent posts flagged operating reserves as an important issue that is often neglected by nonprofit boards and gave an explanation of what they are and why they matter.

Since 2009, when the Meyer Foundation supported an Urban Institute study of the operating reserves of nonprofits in Washington, I’ve spoken about the topic of operating reserves at numerous conferences and other gatherings. I usually try to make most of the same points and arguments covered in the two earlier blog post…