The Little Book of Boards – Review

The Little Book of Boards: A Board Member’s Handbook for Small (and Very Small) Nonprofits

By Erik Haneberg

A client recently introduced me to this wonderful book on board work for small organizations, which describes most of the organizations I work with. It’s a well-written overview of how boards can work best and how to avoid the pitfalls that many of us fall into. There aren’t a lot of good resources for small organizations out there and this book really fills the gap. It’s also easy to read.

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Succeeding as an Acting Executive Director

Being promoted to acting executive director can be an honor but comes with its fair share of stress. You are suddenly taking on a new set of high-level responsibilities while still trying to maintain your existing work. There’s a huge advantage to the organization to temporarily fill a position internally. It is a fairly fast and simple process, but there are significant challenges to overcome.

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Getting Meetings Started Off Right

Lack of board engagement is a frequent complaint I hear from executive directors. They feel like they never hear from their boards and when they do, it is negative. There are lots of reasons for this. Sometimes the board isn’t asked to do anything interesting or thought-provoking so they lose interest in the work. Other times they aren’t sure what their role as a board is, or what their role as an individual board member is. To help have better board meetings, I’ve suggested two books: Boards on Fire and The Art of Gathering.

In this article, I want to specifically address how to start a meeting so that everyone will stay engaged. A great beginning will make for a great meeting. I highly recommend taking the extra time to engage your board members at the start with one of these questions.

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Conducting a Great ED Interview

Interviewing someone for an executive director position is not as easy as hiring for any other position in a nonprofit (or business for that matter). Making a good hire is critically important to the organization. It’s frustrating when I see board members rush through the process or assume it is easy to do.

I’ve shared a number of resources previously including How to Make a Good Hire, the Advantages of Using an Executive Search Firm, and the Value of Using an Interim Executive Director.

Here I provide some sample questions you can use in initial screening interviews and second-round interviews.

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Departure-Defined Succession Planning

A wide range of terms are used in succession planning and the type of plan you create varies depending on your current stage in the process. I covered the basic types of planning necessary for all organizations in my article on succession planning. In this article, I will provide an overview for those organizations that have a long-time executive director who is planning far in advance for a transition.

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Organizing Your Board with a Calendar

Image by Andreas Lischka from Pixabay

It’s easy to get to the end of a year on your nonprofit board and realize that you haven’t taken care of essential tasks for your organization. An easy way to keep tabs on all of the tasks of a board of directors is to create a board calendar that you refer to as you develop each board meeting agenda. This will systematize your work and make it much simpler to check off the tasks.

Here is a starting list for your board calendar of tasks and events to include. The document itself should be reviewed and updated annually.

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Writing a Board Succession Policy

As organizations begin to plan for succession for the executive director and other key staff, they often realize that the board needs a succession plan as well.

I remember all too well the board meeting when our chair breezed late and announced this was her last board meeting. She’d changed positions at her company and could no longer serve. None of us expected this news. She’d been a fantastic board chair for the past couple of years. She was involved, brought great ideas, and cared about the mission. Everyone else looked around at each other, with no one willing to step up. Our vice-chair had stated from the beginning that he was unable to put in the time to be the chair. We had no one ready to step up.

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What Interim Executive Directors Do [video]

What Interim Executive Directors Do – recorded August 12, 2020

Interim executive directors play an important role in a nonprofit leadership transition. But what do they actually do? Why are they valuable? How can you become one?

Watch here.

Recruiting Board Members [Video]

Board Recruitment Webinar – recorded May 20, 2020

In this video, I cover many ways you can recruit and retain great board members. There’s a ton of ideas on where to look for members that you might not have considered, but it is just important to make sure your recruits have a great experience. We talk about nominations, interviews, onboarding, and more.

Watch here.

Is Board Service Right For You?

Joining a nonprofit board is often represented as the ultimate way to serve an organization, but it isn’t always the best option for everyone. Here are some considerations:

Do you prefer working in teams or alone?
All good boards function as strong teams of people who get things done together. This involves plenty of meetings and robust discussion. Do you enjoy meetings or are you sick and tired of them? I have a friend who has no interest in going to any more meetings in his life. He just wants to get work done. He is a fantastic volunteer on work days at a nonprofit with me, and always willing to share insightful comments while we work. Everyone benefits in this situation.

Is your skill set something that lends itself to working alone?
Would you prefer to help organizations out by focusing on upgrading their technology, for example? You might want to volunteer to work with staff in that specific area, not by attending meetings to discuss the strategic direction of the organization.

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