On October 13 JT Clayton hosted a seminar at US Bank attended by 25 people. Feedback from attendees has been that the content of the session is of value to their non-profit organizations as they seek to meet the challenges of 2017 and beyond. We had an excellent turnout for the meeting including several board chairs, executive directors, and other leaders from non-profit organizations. After brief introductions, the whole group was split into 4 smaller working teams. Each team reviewed the same case, however only answering one of the four questions. The groups had great discussions about how the Food Pantry in the case study could proceed with expanding into a new program especially related to nurturing the board along in the process. After the teams met for 20 minutes, we reconvened for a large group discussion. In this facilitated session people were able to share experiences and potential solutions as it would apply to the Food Pantry and/or for relevant usage at their own organization. JT Clayton facilitated this discussion to grow generative thinking skills and help people find pertinent guidelines to apply in 2017 at their own non-profit organization. In closing we shared a brief overview of board imperatives for high performing boards. At the conclusion the group was energized and excited to go back to share ideas with others. One attendee remarked that the session “sparked relevant conversation as all organizations face challenges of program growth. Using small groups to explore the topic yielded excellent ideas along with succinct guidance on how to advance decisions through staff and board processes.”
Meeting Topic – Developing a High Performing Board for your Non-Profit Organization
The main focus of our Oct 16 session was on the process of board engagement and self-assessment. Via an interactive process we discussed the best practices of how organizations engage board members and assess their performance. Our objective was to allow attendees to gain a better understanding of how to perform at Best Practice Levels.
Thesis – High Performing Executive Directors collaborate with their board of directors in building an effective board
An example of what we discussed
How to engage the board
We explored the four questions below in small groups.
1. How do you define an engaged board member?
· Makes the organization a priority by:
o Showing up at meetings, serves on committees
o Takes an active role in meetings – comes prepared, asks questions
o Ambassador for the organization – in the community and fundraising
· Professional background of board members is utilized with mutual consent
· Can articulate the mission
· Makes the nonprofit a priority in their life and their giving
· Board chair drives engagement – by making clear what engagement looks like – i.e. what is expected of each board member.
2. How do committees fit into engagement?
· Start new board members on program committee (if possible) so they learn the mission, how it is executed, how clients benefit, etc.
· Make sure you understand board member interests so you may make thoughtful committee assignments
· Have board members present information from their committee at a board meeting
· Make sure board members are gaining fulfillment from their committee work
· Identify best practices to emulate in comparison to desired state and other boards
· Governance or Board Service committees play an encouraging role to help board members understand expectations and where to apply their skills.
3. What is done to build passion among the board?
· Communicate success stories of the organization at board meetings
· Conduct a mission moment at most board meetings
· Follow an annual agenda so board members get into a rhythm and understand when certain topics will be addressed in more depth
· Hold meetings inside the organization when possible
· Keep board members involved in a variety of activities
4. What can be learned from retiring or resigning board members?
· Retiring/resigning board members will share ideas for improvement
· Must ask them for feedback in a respectful and systematic way (often a responsibility of the board services committee)
· They will share what is right and what is not right with the current board – protocols, meeting etiquette, decision making style, board leadership strength, etc.
For more details contact Joel or Tom via:
Excellent panel discussion addressing topics related to creating, starting, and running new non-profit organizations. The panel represents the continuum along which a non-profit can be built. A strong founding executive director champions the mission followed by a community leader to form a board of directors followed by a process oriented management style to provide structure as an organization grows in size and scope.
Karen Kalish spoke passionately about helping overcome educational inequities. Through examples with 4 she created organizations the audience learned how to navigate a process and seek help to surmount obstacles that were beyond her capacity. Connections into the community are critical to success and Karen uses her communications skills to form these ties. With Cultural Leadership she was able to build a community of Jewish and African-American community volunteers to drive formation and build a program for high school students.
Tom Collins talked of the combined need to support the passion of a founding executive director with a board that leads collaboration into the community. At KidSmart, Tom helped assemble a team to support a passionate founding director via his ties built over many years in banking and as a community volunteer.
Wayne Crull shared with us the importance of developing a system to handle a process. In his homespun fashion he shared the story of how one non-profit added real estate management to its overall foundation investment strategy. Wayne shared with us how his calling to social service coupled with a strong business acumen drives his commitment to providing services that make a difference in child welfare in the state of Missouri.
Join us at our next seminar to network with St. Louis non-profit leaders learning best practice skills in governance as board members and executive directors.
A recent article in the League of Symphony Orchestras magazine highlights those institutions which continue to be high performing, despite fundraising and subscription challenges.
One common denominator between the orchestras is that each has an annual review process for every board member which is conducted by the Board Chair. The process involves both a self-assessment, and a private meeting where both parties have a candid discussion about the member's contributions, strengths, and desire for future leadership. The evaluation also allows for a graceful exit for those board members who cannot maintain the level of commitment rquired by the Orchestra.
Has anyone else tried this?
Readers in the St. Louis area are well aware of the controversy surrounding the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) and its sale of the radio station KFUO-FM, 99.1, commonly known as "Classic 99."
The LCMS has owned the station for over 50 years and has programmed it as an Arts and classical music station. The station has regularly scheduled programs which include a weekly hour about the St. Louis Symphony, live music broadcasts and interviews with touring musicians, artists and actors. Since the St. Louis area major NPR station went to all news and talk, Classic 99 is the only station playing classical music and covering the arts scene in the area.
LCMS made news in September 2010 when it announced it was selling the station to a small AM Radio organization which broadcasts modern Christian music. Immediately, many cultural leaders and the management of the St. Louis Symphony went public bemoaning the planned sale. One group in particular, the Friends of KFUO-FM, a volunteer fundraising group, launched a media campaign to challenge the sale claiming, among other things, that the LCMS refused to negotiate with them on purchasing the station. Arts organizations complained about the absence of promotion opportunities for their events. And those listeners who wanted a different choice from easy listening pop music argued vehemently about dearth of music choices on the FM dial.
In this series of postings, we will examine the proposed sale as a case study in nonprofit governance. We will look at the decision making process, the role of the board, and the role, if any, of the community or the state of Missouri, into the decision.