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.