Wednesday, November 30, 2016

15 Important Fundraising Questions

Are you meeting your fundraising goals? In order to be successful in raising the money to support your nonprofit work, you need to focus on three things: building your database, developing and maintaining positive relationships with donors - and actually asking people for contributions. Here are some questions you should be thinking about:

1. Is everyone on your staff collecting contact information (email, mailing address, all phone numbers, particular interests) to expand your database on an ongoing basis?
2. Do you have a mailing list form for people to sign up to receive your email and mail available at your front desk and at every event you do?
3. Do you maintain and update information on all your donors in your database, including a detailed giving history?
4. Are brochures and remit envelopes available at your front desk, in your offices, and at all events?
5. Does your website feature an attractive, prominent donate button on every page?
6. Have you actually checked, step-by-step, to see whether your donation page is user-friendly, on home computers and on mobile phones?
7. When people call or stop by your office, is your staff immediately welcoming and helpful (or do they keep their eyes glued to their computer screens) - and do you have a clear policy that one-on-one personal contacts always take precedence over computer work?
8. Do you send out a weekly enewsletter with information about your services, programs, events, clients, and donors?
9. Is there a link to your donation page on your enewsletters?
10. Can a potential donor easily find information on your website (including contact person) about making a gift of stock, and do you have a brokerage account (preferably Schwab) to facilitate this?
11. Do you make a specific effort to be in touch with donors throughout the year (personally, via mail, and email), not just during your fundraising campaigns?
12. Are you making a pitch for donations at every event you sponsor?
13. Are your board and staff (including the Executive Director) trained to make personal asks - and are they actually getting on the phone, arranging meetings, and soliciting donations?
14. Are you asking for donations more than once a year?
15. Are thank you letters sent out promptly - to everyone - and do you also follow up with personal thank you calls to significant donors?

If you've answered no to any of these questions, it's time to go back to the drawing board. I know fundraising isn't easy - it's hard and it's never ending. But the bottom line is that you need to do that hard work and make those asks and get those donations in order to create the community of supporters your organization needs to sustain your programs.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Who's Minding the Money?

Do you really understand your organization's fiscal reports? When I ask the most basic of questions - what is your total annual budget? - most board members haven't a clue. That spreadsheet with lots of numbers on it? I'm betting many of them haven't even looked at it, and if they have, they are not really sure what it all means.

Prudent fiscal management is one of the most important responsibilities for nonprofit boards. Here are some tips on how to help your board step up to the plate:
  • Make fiscal reports understandable. For the numbers people: Your spreadsheets should clearly indicate all income and expense categories, and these should be consistent on both ends. They should include two previous fiscal year final reports, current year projections, year-to-date income and expenses, and a revised current year projection - so folks can easily contrast and compare past, present, and future. For the words people: Provide a narrative report that addresses any significant variances, explains shortfalls and/or surpluses in individual categories and overall, and makes clear which grants or donations are one-time only or restricted. For the visual folks: use charts, graphs, or dashboards (or all three, if necessary). Use colors - red for areas of concern, green for pleasant surprises, and yellow for nothing to write home about.
  • Schedule regular budget reviews. Conduct thorough reviews on a quarterly basis at board meetings, with monthly updates in between. Evaluate cash flow, where your revenue is coming from, any changes in programming, and any unexpected expenses or income.
  • Update your budget projections throughout the year. Change happens; this doesn't need to be a problem if you are tracking it, ready to assess what that means for your organization, and prepared to take necessary action promptly.
  • Aim for a surplus. Yep - just because your organization is nonprofit doesn't mean you can't. In fact, working towards a surplus is a prudent financial goal, because it makes it possible to consider raising salaries or hiring new staff or buying new computers.
  • Plan for the future. Every organization should have a program reserve fund with a minimum of three months (but ideally six months) operating expenses, in case of emergencies or another significant recession. You should also have a capital reserve fund with money set aside for major facility improvements and/or equipment upgrades. And don't just wish for reserves - plan for them. Designate a portion or all of any budget surplus for these funds.
  • Establish financial policies. For every reserve fund, your board needs to have a clearly articulated policy about how these funds can be used, and how decisions are made about that use. And that's not enough - your board needs to know and understand these policies, update them periodically, and enforce them.
Most important of all, encourage everyone to ask questions. Even questions that seem stupid or embarrassing. That's how you do your job; that's how you make sure your nonprofit is on a solid financial footing.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Trump vs. Clinton: Charitable Apples & Oranges

Confused about the Clinton Foundation vs. the Trump Foundation? Both are called foundations, but that doesn't mean they operate the same way. Here's a basic comparison:

Private foundations get most of their money from a single source (individual, family, or corporation) without soliciting funds from the public, though donations can be accepted. They support charitable activities serving the public good, primarily through making grants to other nonprofits. 
Public charities get support from the general public (individual, government, and/or foundation) and provide direct services. 
Both are categorized as tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations under the U.S. tax code - which means they are prohibited from engaging in partisan political activity.

The Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation (BHCCF) is a public charity. BHCCF is unique, with a former president on the board, worldwide fundraising and programming, and a focus on public/private partnerships. Most of the Clintons' personal giving is through BHCCF; they have given more money at a much higher proportion of their worth than Donald Trump.
The Donald J. Trump Foundation (DJTF) is a private foundation. DJTF is also unique; although a family-named foundation, its namesake has not contributed anything since 2008. Trump has publicly promised millions to charity, but has actually contributed less than $10,000 over the past seven years.
  • BHCCF has assets of $354 million and annual expenses of $91,280,000.
  • DJTF has assets of $1 million and annual expenses of $596,500.
  • BHCCF funds Bill's presidential library, has twelve divisions including its health activities abroad as well as the Clinton Global Initiative, promotes sustainable economic growth in Haiti, and has been a leader in providing affordable care for those who are HIV-positive.
  • DJTF gives to groups associated with conservative politics, healthcare, sports, and those that serve Trump's business interests.
  • BHCCF has a website where you can check out their mission, programs, annual reports, and tax returns:
  • DJTF has a one-page site called The Donald J. Trump Foundation for Vets: that simply features a message thanking folks who donated online to support veterans.
  • BHCCF's President is Donna Shalala. Bill and Chelsea are board members, along with seven other people from diverse backgrounds. The foundation has 486 staff members.
  • DJTF is run by Trumps (Donald, his four oldest children, plus one Trump Organization employee). It has no staff.
  • BHCCF definitely blurs the lines between charity, business, politics, and public service. Donors had private meetings with Clinton when she was Secretary of State. Though a quid pro quo has never been proven, the appearance of impropriety is troubling.
  • DJTF gets its financial support from folks with personal and business ties with Trump, making contributions to charities favored by them. DJTF has been used as a vehicle to buy and keep charitable auction items, settle lawsuits on his for-profit businesses, and receive business payments thereby avoiding paying income tax.
Both Clinton and Trump have used their foundations to foster personal and professional relationships. This is neither illegal nor uncommon in the nonprofit world, though it can border on the inappropriate or even unethical. What is illegal is using funds donated for a tax-exempt charitable purpose to buy personal items, pay business debts, or support business interests.

Two charitable foundations: one doing actual good work and the other a vanity project rigged (often illegally) to help Trump's business interests. There's no comparison at all.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Getting Down to the Nitty Gritty: Maintenance Basics

Your physical space is your public face. It is the first thing your stakeholders see when they walk in the door. You need to treat it with respect and care and pride. You need to keep it in good shape for today - and plan for tomorrow. 

Here's where to start:
  • Standard maintenance and cleaning schedule: Determine how often your space needs cleaning, based on usage, and be prepared to schedule extra cleanings after special events. And know that a good cleaning person (or company) is a must. When you find one, treat them with reasonable pay, loving care, and lots of gratitude.
  • Long-term maintenance schedule and budget: Take the time to map out a comprehensive timetable for important maintenance tasks that will need to be taken care of quarterly or yearly or in 25 years. Proactive maintenance can prevent the unexpected and save you money over time.
  • Capital reserve fund: Be strategic in building a reserve fund that will provide money for everything from replacement of computer systems (typically every three years) to a new roof (every 25 years). Establish a specific board-designated fund, and set aside a carefully calculated sum of money each month so you'll be ready when the time comes along.
Your map should designate who, what and when plus cost estimates for maintenance, repairs, and replacement. Be sure to include:
  • Exterior and landscaping: Mowing, tree pruning, weeding, major tree work, irrigation systems, roof replacement, exterior lighting, painting and repair of exterior walls
  • Interior: Window washing, floor refinishing, plumbing, carpet cleaning and replacement, painting and repair of interior walls, electrical systems, indoor lighting
  • Equipment and appliances: Appliances, water heaters, furnaces, stoves, refrigerators, computers, sound and lighting systems, audio-visual equipment
  • Health and safety: fire extinguishers, exit signs, first aid kits
And these are four important tools to keep your maintenance schedule on track:
  • Use a calendar program: Take the time to input your schedule, with email reminders, into whatever calendar program you have. This will be time-consuming the first time around, but I promise it's worth it.
  • Set up computer and paper files: Make sure all information is clearly filed and labeled. Staff changes over time, and files can get lost when you upgrade your computers; you want to be sure any newcomer can actually find this information after a transition.
  • Assess annually: Designate a committee to review and update your maintenance schedule every year.
  • Contractor list: Keep a list of all contractors and companies you use for repairs, ongoing maintenance, and annual inspections including contact person, phone numbers, and email.
It's prudent fiscal management to take care of your nonprofit home - make it an organizational priority.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Five Tips for Board Chairs

An engaged, committed board chair who works (and plays) well with staff and board members can be instrumental in nurturing an active, thriving, happy, and healthy nonprofit. Here's what a good board chair can do:
  • Set the tone: Lead the way by doing your homework and coming prepared for meetings. Use meeting time wisely with a focus on mission, governance, fiscal oversight, and policy.
  • Run good meetings: Be sure to establish clear meeting guidelines and stick to them - including civility, punctuality, and respect for everyone's opinions. Stick to the agenda, but leave some time for jokes and personal connection. And one of your most important jobs is to assure that everyone seated at the table has a chance to be heard. You can do this by going around the table; making sure to check in with those who haven't spoken; and/or gently but firmly restraining your most loquacious contributors.
  • Set an example: If you want respectful dialogue, be sure you yourself are always respectful, no matter how difficult conversations become. If you want your board to participate actively in fundraising, you need to lead the way by making a significant donation, identifying and soliciting major donors, and participating actively at all major organizational events.
  • Make your board the best it can be: Establish a thorough orientation process so all new board members know what their job actually entails.Be sure board members read - and truly understand your fiscal reports. Because board composition changes, often from year to year, you can't just do this once - you need to take time annually to review board roles and responsibilities. Above all, gently remind (i.e. nag) board members to follow-through on their commitments. And when a board member doesn't show up or isn't a good fit, gently but firmly suggest it's time for them to move on.
  • Work collaboratively with your Executive Director: Meet and talk regularly with your ED, discussing issues and brainstorming solutions. But note that your job is to support and work with the ED, not micro-manage programs. Most importantly, develop a constructive process to evaluate the ED annually, with a focus on ways you can continue to work together to support your good work.
Over the 37 years I was an ED, I worked with many board chairs, with a wide diversity of personal style and experience and impact. One of them helped me navigate a successful capital campaign, with fundraising on a scale I had never done before. Another was instrumental in getting the board to approve reasonable salaries and benefits for staff. And another created a procedure for annual performance reviews that helped me both learn to be better ED and celebrated my successes. All of them became lifelong friends

Good leadership: good for your organization, good for your soul.

Friday, June 3, 2016

More Nonprofit Scandals (& Lessons)

More weirdly fascinating nonprofit scandals for you to ponder - and some lessons to learn from them:

Red Cross 2001
Folks who donated to the Red Cross after the 9/11 terrorist attacks were told all of their contributed dollars would go to help victims and their families. Yet the organization set aside more than half for operating expenses and reserves, a long-standing but never publicly stated practice. And fourteen years later in Haiti, the Red Cross repeatedly declined to say how its money was spent, despite previous pledges of transparency.
The result: Donors were outraged, the Red Cross was forced to make a public apology and redirect funds, and the charity's image was severely damaged.

Second Mile 2011
Former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky founded the Second Mile charity for children. He was indicted for sexual abuse with victims he got to know through his work there; the abuse continued for 15 years. Despite public accusations dating from 2002, the board allowed Sandusky to remain involved through 2011, paying him consultant fees of $57,000 annually. The board's initial public statements in response to the grand-jury report failed to announce any steps to protect the children served, instead insisting on its limited knowledge of the allegations.
The result: Second Mile's CEO was forced to resign in 2011. In 2012, Sandusky was convicted of 20 counts of child abuse and sentenced to 30-50 years (basically life in prison for the 68-year-old). And finally in January 2016, the charity filed for dissolution and ceased operations.

Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation (Komen) 2012
This saga centered around Komen's decision to cut its support for Planned Parenthood's breast screening exams for low-income folks, supposedly due to a new rule prohibiting funding for any group under government investigation. Yet news reports established that other groups being investigated were not defunded. In fact, the decision was drive by anti-abortion stances from board and staff members.
The result: Three days later, following massive outcry (largely on social media), Komen reversed its decision. That fiscal year, the organization lost $77 million in donations and its founder Nancy Brinker was forced to step down as CEO.

Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco (FAMSF) 2015
Well-known S.F. socialite, philanthropist, and FAMSF Board President Dede Wilsey donated $10 million in 2005 to support the de Young's new building. In 2015, she made a $450,000 payment to a museum staffer (according to her, a disability severance payment authorized by city law and FAMSF bylaws). This unorthodox use of museum funds was made without approval from the board or finance committee, and was revealed in a whistleblower suit by the former chief financial officer.
The result: The Attorney General's office has announced a tentative settlement in which anonymous donors would reimburse the $450,000. Four members of the board - one of whom was asked to contribute to the payoff - quit in opposition to Wilsey's leadership.

The recurring themes: influential leaders running wild; untruthful claims about fundraising and decision-making; figurehead boards in denial; clumsy disclaimers and coverups.

The lessons: Don't automatically defer to leaders with the loudest voices or the biggest circle of wealthy friends. Don't make decisions based on expediency or politics. Immediately acknowledge your errors, apologize, and present a plan to move forward. Know that ignoring a problem doesn't make it go away. Above all, make sure both board and staff understand their job is to act ethically in promoting your nonprofit mission.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Nonprofit Scandals, Nonprofit Lessons

I am fascinated with stories about nonprofits gone wrong. So many to choose from, all of them fascinating as well as educational - so this is the first of two blog posts featuring the best of the worst:

United Way 1992
William Aramony built the United Way into a cornerstone of philanthropy from 1970 to 1992. And then he spent six years in federal prison after being convicted on 23 counts of felony charges including conspiracy, fraud, and filing false tax returns. His gross misuse of this venerable institution's funds included luxury condos, lavish travel, and payments to his mistress.
The result: You know all those forms and policies that are now required of nonprofits? They were the direct result of this scandal that precipitated much greater legal scrutiny of nonprofit management and compensation.

Feed the Children (FC) 2009
You might have seen Larry Jones appearing in FC's ubiquitous television infomercials featuring malnourished kids. Here's what happened during Jones' nearly three decades at FC: staff members were nailed for helping themselves to donated goods, the financial director forged the signature of an accounting firm on financial statements, a $40 million contract was award to a company that employed Jones' son, the charity's phones were wiretapped, and  a big stash of pornography was discovered in Jones' office. When the board finally decided to fire him, he filed a wrongful termination suit. Then the board countersued.
The result: At great expense to FC, all suits were finally settled in 2011, and Jones is gone.

Central Asian Institute (CAI) 2009
Greg Mortenson, founder of CAI (1996) and author Three Cups of Tea, was the hero of the philanthropic and literary communities. And then in 2009, reports emerged that the nonprofit was funding Mortenson's book promotion events without receiving any of the substantial revenue from sales or speaking fees. A 60 Minutes survey revealed that half of the 30 schools CAI boasted of building were either empty, built by someone else, or not receiving any support from CAI. 
The result: A 2012 decision restructured the organization, requiring Mortenson to pay back $1 million and be removed from the board. His reputation was severely damaged, though he remained a salaried employee until he retired in November 2015.

National Children's Leukemia Foundation (NCLF) 2015
Avi Shor founded NCLF in 1991 after his son died of leukemia, serving as president for over 20 years. NCLF raised millions of dollars - but the programs being touted never existed. The cancer research center, the bone marrow registry, the umbilical cord blood bank, the patent application for a cancer cure - all of these were elaborate make-believe. Shor continued to run NCLF even after his 1999 conviction of bank fraud, securing himself a 10-year position with a $130,000 salary, lifetime pension and lifetime medical insurance.
The result: Shor's ten lives ended in 2015 when NCLF was finally closed by the Attorney General.

All of these stories have recurring themes: greed and entitlement; prominent, influential leaders running wild; a shocking lack of transparency about programs and finances; boards without a clue.

The lessons: Get your policies and programs in order. Read and understand those financial statements. Evaluate your board and your staff meticulously. Pay attention. Don't automatically defer to leaders, even if they are founders and donors. And never be afraid to ask questions. Make sure your organization isn't chosen for my next list of top scandals.  

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Ask the Nonprofit Doc

This month, I'm launching a new periodic feature on my blog: an opportunity for you, my readers out there in the nonprofit world, to pose questions about gnarly issues you are facing.

You can ask me anything about any topic, ranging from board development to fundraising to messaging to time management to dealing with difficult people (with one disclaimer: I'm not a tech geek). And I'll do my best to answer you.

I'm going to start with two questions that came up last month when I did a presentation about board roles and responsibilities for the West Marin Fund, the community foundation serving western Marin County.

1) How do you get rid of unwanted board members? The answer depends on why you want them off the board.
  • Do they never show up? Make sure you have a policy governing board attendance - typically three no-shows and you're out.
  • Do they dominate board discussions? Develop rules of conduct for board meetings that emphasize courtesy, civil discourse, and full participation by everyone. Make sure all board members read and agree to the rules, and make sure the Board President is clearly empowered to enforce them.
  • Have they been there too long? Are they set in their ways and not open to change? Check to see if you have term limits in your by-laws, and stick to them. Or - initiate a discussion about the need for new energy and more diversity on the board. Couple that with the establishment of an emeritus Advisory Board so they can remain engaged and feel that their service is being honored.
  • For the future, establish a board recruitment process with specific vetting procedures. This includes allowing board members to veto someone if for any reason they cannot work with them. And be sure to solicit feedback in regard to any previous board experience. You don't want to inherit somebody else's board member from hell, no matter how skilled or smart they might be. 
2) Is there a tried and true method for finding someone (anyone) to take over as Board President? Short answer (sadly): no. In my experience most organizations have trouble getting someone to commit to being President. But here are a few tips and tools:
  • Write up job descriptions for all of your board officers. Be mindful of creating a sustainable workload for the President, with lots of support from staff and board members. Make sure the one for Vice President clearly states that he/she is being groomed to be the next President.  And -- be sure your officers actually read and sign on these descriptions.
  • As part of your recruitment process, keep an eye out for people who have leadership potential.
  • If you are an Executive Director, make it a priority to develop strong bonds and positive working relationships with all of your board members. Folks will be more likely to become an officer if they know they like working with you.
  • No matter how good your current President is, do not let them stay on and on and on. After awhile, your other board members are just going to assume it will never end. But eventually it will, and then you're really going to have a hard time moving forward.
More questions? Email them to me at I look forward to hearing from you!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

How's Your Board Doing?

The first step to an effective nonprofit Board of Directors is to clearly define and communicate the board's roles and responsibilities. And the next step? You need to put in place a process for doing an annual assessment of the board's work.

A board assessment - much like an employee performance review - is a terrific opportunity to engage board members in a frank discussion about what's working and what needs improvement. Here are some questions you should be asking:
  • Mission and programs: Do your board members know your mission statement by heart? Does your mission statement accurately reflect your current organizational goals? Are your programs consistent with your mission?
  • Board composition: Do you have a full board? Does your board reflect your constituency? Is your board diverse - in regard to gender, demographics, expertise, community connections, age? Do you have policies in place about board recruitment and attendance?
  • Board orientation and training: Is there are a board job description in place? Do you have an orientation procedure and packet of key documents for new board members? Are board trainings and retreats scheduled that are appropriate and constructive?
  • Structure and meetings: Is the size of the board appropriate for providing the resources needed to govern your organization? Are your board meetings constructive? Are they fun? Do they start and end on time? Do your committees actually meet regularly and do the work that needs doing? Is there a good working relationship between the board the Executive Director?
  • Governance and finances: Do you have a Policy and Procedures Manual? Do you review and update it annually? Do board members regularly review financial statements? Do they really truly understand the numbers they are looking at?
  • Community Relations & Outreach: Do your board members serve effectively as advocates in promoting your work? Is your messaging throughout all forms of media - from printed brochures to your website to social media - consistent with your mission?
  • Fundraising: Has everyone on the board made a significant (for them) annual contribution? Do board members actively participate in making connections, soliciting contributions, developing and implementing annual fundraising plans, and participating in important annual events?
You should use your annual assessment to motivate, energize and revitalize the board. Honestly address shortcomings - but don't forge to celebrate achievements. Be sure to take time to define priorities and goals.

And your final step? Take the information and feedback you've gotten and develop a detailed one-year action plan that defines what needs to be done, how you're going to do it, who is responsible, and when it's going to be accomplished.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Milestones in Nonprofit Fundraising: Fascinating Facts

For your pleasure and amusement, here’s a very brief history of nonprofit fundraising from colonial times to the present:

1644: Harvard University kicks things off. Four New England colonies instituted “College Corne,” asking families to contribute a peck of wheat to support Harvard. For over 10 years, these contributions funded the entire teaching staff.

1847: The first documented response to a crisis. Americans donated generously to help Ireland during the devastating potato blight. 

1891: Here come the bells. A Salvation Army captain put out a large pot at a San Francisco ferry landing, launching the tradition of Christmas kettles that spread all over the country and continues to this day.

1901: Cookbooks for causes. The first fund-raising cookbook was The Way to a Man’s Heart. It was a fundraising tool for the Jewish Settlement House in Milwaukee. The initial printing in 1901 sold out, and the book ultimately sold more than 2 million copies. 

1902: The origins of the thrift store. The first Goodwill store was started when founder Reverend Edgar Helms started collecting used household goods and clothing from wealthy families, hired poor people to make repairs, and resold the items to raise money for the organization. 

1918: First major national fundraising campaign. The war generated tremendous national unity. The Red Cross tapped this for the benefit of its international work, raising more than $400 million dollars during World War One.

1950: The Salvation Army launches the first direct mail appeal. The Commander in Los Angeles posed this question: "Could we mail to a million households in Southern California this Christmas?" They scoured every directory in wealthy areas, mailed a million pieces, and raised more money than anyone thought possible. 

1952: Congress establishes the discounted postal rate for nonprofits. This new rate made direct mail more economical and launched a fundraising method that floods your mailboxes to this day. 

1963: The U.S. Postal Service creates zip codes. Zip codes made it possible for fundraisers to target mail and select names based on census tracts. In tandem with computer databases, this made direct mail fundraising much more effective.

1970: Fundraising turns to heart-wrenching stories of people in need. Here’s one tagline: "All she wants for Christmas is a red coat with gold buttons." Not only did that appeal secure hundreds of thousands of dollars, but the Salvation Army was inundated with red coats.

2014: The Ice Bucket Challenge goes viral. This social media campaign centering around dumping a bucket of ice water on someone's head promoted awareness of the disease Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerorsis (ALS) - and raised $115 million for research.

From pecks of wheat to cookbooks to ice buckets – what a long crazy journey it’s been, and continues to be.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Just Showing Up Isn’t Enough: Defining Your Board’s Job

Your Board of Directors is the heart and soul of your nonprofit organization – carrying the responsibility for prudent fiscal management, overseeing programs that fulfill your mission, and defining organizational focus. But board members cannot do their job if they don’t know their roles and responsibilities.  

So here are some basics of the job:
  • Mission: The board is responsible for defining the organization’s mission and what it strives to accomplish. This mission serves as a guide to organizational and program planning, board and staff decision-making, volunteer initiatives, fundraising and outreach, and setting priorities for the future.
  • Community representation: Your board should represent your community and your clients as you make decisions, and ensure that the membership of the board and its committees is appropriately balanced.
  • Public outreach: Board members serve as the organization’s ambassadors and advocates, along with overseeing an effective public relations program.
  • Program Management: The board’s fundamental role is to assure that current and proposed programs are consistent with the mission and of high quality. This also includes developing and approving governance policies in regard to program.
  • Fundraising: An organization can only be effective if it has funds to meet its purposes. Board members should set fundraising goals, help develop effective fundraising plans, make annual gifts, provide connections to potential donors and other financial resources, and participate actively in annual fundraising events and campaigns.
  • Planning: The board works in partnership with staff to evaluate strategies and plan for the future. The planning process enables the board and staff to translate the mission of the organization into feasible, measureable goals and objectives.
  • Legal Compliance: This includes monitoring and updating personnel policies, your policy and procedures manual, and health and safety plan; adherence to local, state, and federal laws (including tax reporting, personnel, health, safety, labor); and adherence to provisions of your bylaws and articles of incorporation.
  • Financial Management: This encompasses monitoring and understanding the budget, ensuring cash-management controls are in place, overseeing investments and insurance, ensuring that revenues are stable, and encouraging cultivation of resources that are sustainable for the long term. 
  • Executive Director Supervision: Every board should do an annual performance review in order to support the Executive Director, strengthen the relationship between board and staff, and plan for the future. The board also makes final decisions when hiring or firing the chief executive..
  • Board Recruitment:  All boards have a responsibility to identify needs in terms of member experience, skills, influence, diversity, and demographics, as well as taking an active role in recruiting new members. Your board is also responsible for properly orienting new board members and periodically assessing board effectiveness.

One of the biggest mistakes nonprofits make is luring people onto a Board by saying all they have to do is show up for a meeting once a month. Problem is, if that’s what you tell them, that’s usually all you’re going to get. If you want more, you need to ask for more. You need to be upfront, honest, and clear about what the job really entails.