Tag Archives: nonprofit boards

Three Ways to Improve Board-Staff Communication

nonprofit board, nonprofit communication, chair – CEO relationship, board meetings, SaadandShawEngaged and effective nonprofit board members are the dream of board chairs and executives. “Ah, if only our board members were more engaged….” is a common refrain. “I can’t keep fighting my board,” is another. Board members also have concerns, “I don’t know why we have board meetings: the executive makes the decisions, and expects us to rubber stamp them.”

One perspective reflects a desire for board members to attend meetings regularly, to come prepared, to work with other board members between meetings, and to provide guidance and oversight that reflects a deep understanding of the organization or institution’s work. The second reflects a frustration, usually on the part of an executive, that board members are not in alignment with the executive’s vision and strategies. The third speaks to board members confusion and disengagement.

There is one tactic that can assist with these three challenges: open, honest, in-person communication. Scheduling and thoughtfully preparing for conversations prior to a board meeting can change what happens at the meeting. It sounds simple, but it takes time, requires preparation, and needs to be applied consistently.  The following are three suggestions for how to employ this tactic.

First, if you are a board chair make sure you know the vision of your executive. What is she seeking to accomplish? How does she want to accomplish it? What will be the impact? What will it cost? What does she need from the board for the organization or institution to bring her vision to life? Take time to learn her leadership and communication styles. Meet with her regularly and strategize how to best engage the full board and committees in advancing her vision. Work with her to create the board agenda, ensuring the concerns of both board members and the executive are included.

Second, if you are an executive take the time to meet regularly with your board chair, to share your strategic thinking, to ask for counsel, and to provide updates on operations. Form a partnership that acknowledges and respects your board chair’s leadership, vision, expertise and position. Asking for guidance and creating a shared agenda can help surface best thinking and create a strong partnership.

Third, both the executive and the board chair should take time to meet individually with board members prior to each board meeting. This is especially important if the board meets quarterly, or less often. Each of you need to personally share updates, gain insights and involvement from individual board members. Take the time to share organizational updates and challenges, successes, strategies and potential challenges. Listen to each board member’s concerns, interests and ideas. Act on those you can.

It takes time to have these meetings. It also yields results. A nonprofit’s board is one of its most valuable resources. Take the time to strengthen your relationships.

Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.


Are You Ready to Retire?

Retirement, plan for retirement, nonprofit management, retirement, recruitment, nonprofit boards With an estimated ten percent of the workforce employed in the nonprofit sector, retirement benefits can be a factor that impacts individual employees as well as the nonprofits they work for. For example, do older employees delay retirement because they don’t have enough money to fund their retirement? Does this impact the ability of a nonprofit to promote talent from within, or to attract new talent from outside the organization? Do younger and mid-career employees evaluate employment opportunities based on retirement benefits?

Earlier this year the TIAA-CREF Institute and Independent Sector issued a report on a joint study they conducted on retirement and the nonprofit sector, a topic of interest to both. The TIAA-CREF Institute helps advance the ways individuals and institutions plan for financial security and organizational effectiveness, and Independent Sector is a nonprofit, nonpartisan network of approximately 600 nonprofits, foundations and corporate philanthropy programs.

Key findings of the study included the following:  45% of nonprofit employees are not confident about their ability to retire from their employment; almost one-half of nonprofit employees are not satisfied with their ability to prepare financially for retirement; and more than 40% do not feel that they are accumulating sufficient financial resources to ensure their long-term financial security. Over three-quarters reported access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan or plans; almost one-third have access to a defined benefit pension plan, and more than two-thirds to a defined contribution plan, such as a 403(b) plan. While 76% are currently saving for retirement, less than 20% of these savers are extremely or very confident that they are saving the right amount.

What is hidden within these numbers is the difference – if there is one – between those who work for large nonprofits such as hospitals, colleges and universities, and those who work for small to mid-sized nonprofits. Could it be that these employees may find that they won’t have enough to fund their retirement, and may in time have to depend on nonprofits for assistance?

Related to this, here are a few more findings: one third of sector employees have received retirement planning advice within the past three years; two-thirds have not tried to determine how much money they will need to accumulate so that they can live comfortably in retirement; and among savers who are confident that they are saving the right amount, one-third have not attempted such a calculation.

These issues are by no means the sole concern of nonprofits. But, given that many nonprofits are mission-driven, it is important to consider how this sector can address issues that face their employees. This is something for board members to consider and discuss. For example, when reviewing and approving budgets, is there a discussion about employee benefits including retirement?

What actions can your nonprofit take to help employees prepare for retirement?

Picture credit: The Chronicle of Philanthropy

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.