According to Building the Governance Partnership, “Board members often don’t know what they don’t know.” As the seat of authority in most nonprofits, it’s critical that board members clearly understand what’s expected of them and how to fulfill those expectations.
At ONEplace, our goal is to make sure we’re focusing our limited time and energy on areas of highest impact. Since embarking on basic board training, we’re finding this to be one of those high impact areas.
Initially, we simply responded to what was requested. This usually included a basic overview of board responsibilities with a little extra time spent on one or two items (e.g., fundraising or being a good ambassador). Having now met with over 30 organizations and conducted 16 onsite training events, we’ve developed a broader-based approach.
Every quarter we offer Board Membership 101. This late afternoon workshop provides board members and prospective board members with an overview of board responsibilities. It also serves as an encouragement to nonprofits to supplement this experience with their own, more specific, training and orientation.
Onsite training events (commonly at a board meeting) tailor the content to the needs of the specific board. These events are also much more participative. Providing your board with a common training experience greatly increases retention and application as reminders pop up at almost every subsequent meeting.
The program rounds out with two additional services. First, we continue to provide a place where board and staff may discuss new concerns and challenges and gather helpful resources. And second, we provide facilitation services to help boards discuss difficult or sensitive issues.
For more information, please contact us: email@example.com or 269-553-7910.
Are you staying on track? Perhaps you’re getting on track. You may even be off track, sidetracked, or more akin to General Halftrack. In any event, it’s good to know where you are and where you are headed.
What’s dodgy about our work is that it often moves in cycles. As one friend of mine will say, “I’m doing what I always do in December.” Just as we cycle in and out of seasons and improve the appointed tasks with each go around, we also can revisit basic management skills and improve them.
This is why ONEplace offers Management Track workshops. These events address skills and processes fundamental to nonprofit management. They also provide opportunities to develop, hone, and refine our skills and offer teams opportunities to learn skills together (which improves application and retention).
Upcoming Management Track workshops include:
Decision Making (12/4) – a decision making process for individuals and teams that focuses on good data and clearly documents process and results
Design, Funding & Constructing Facilities that Fit (1/15) – if you are considering a renovation or building project, this will help you navigate the details
Project Management (1/22) – a time-tested approach to projects that facilitates focused definition, detailed planning, and well-managed implementation
Emergency Action Planning (2/25) – emergencies will happen and this workshop ensures that you know how to plan, prepare, and care for the unexpected
Good leaders continually learn new things as well as refine and deepen that which is already known. They travel a track that doesn’t go in circles; rather, it spirals to ever-deeper understanding.
One of the joys of working at ONEplace is the opportunity to meet and talk with a variety of people: from long-term nonprofit leaders to those incubating start-ups; from seasoned board members to neighborhood advisory councils; from funders sitting on millions of dollars to social entrepreneurs sitting on a single idea. From all these discussions and more, I’ve realized one undeniable fact:
Each person brings a critically important contribution to the discussion.
This is not about asking “Who’s not at the table?” or making sure the discussion includes “representative voices.” This is about recognizing that every discussion is ill-informed because voices will always be missing. It’s also about making the effort to go beyond representative voices and seek out, invite, and create an environment safe enough for each critically important perspective to be raised.
We’re doing this on a few fronts, at ONEplace and in community centers. It takes time – sometimes years – to get acquainted and develop readiness, and then more time to build trust. But, as they say, “In five years it will be 2019 either way, so we might as well start.”
Posing open, honest questions that draw out the diversity of perspectives brings new light to the matter at hand. Just as light from one angle illuminates only part of a structure and casts shadows on other parts, light from many angles removes the shadows and illuminates the whole.
And, when I catch a glimpse of the whole, I realize the specious nature of the phase, “people in need.”
Rather, I desire to participate in the diverse circle which hosts people we need. In this circle, there is no teacher or student, no grantor or grantee, no provider or client. In this circle, each person claims, “There are eyes that see things I don’t see, ears that hear sounds I don’t hear, and hearts that bear burdens I don’t bear.”
Until every light shines, unencumbered, we’re all left in the dark.
The upcoming ONEplace Nonprofit Leadership Academy offers early career nonprofit professionals an intensive leadership development experience – free of charge.
ONEplace, Kalamazoo County’s management support center for nonprofit organizations, opened in 2009 and has offered the Academy since 2012. The Academy provides emerging community leaders an in-depth exploration of leadership within a nonprofit context. Due to the generous support of area foundations and the Kalamazoo Public Library, all ONEplace services are free.
During the Academy, a variety of experts and practitioners guide the participants through subject matter critical to nonprofit leadership. Participants also engage personal development activities vital to being a leader.
In addition, each participant works with a mentor for the duration of the Academy. The mentor (usually a current executive director) and participant explore topics raised in class and other related issues.
As a result, participants discover their own leadership qualities and challenges through assessments, group discussion, and various participative exercises, and develop a plan for future steps toward leadership.
This competitive program includes nine full-day sessions held monthly from February through November. Prospective participants are encouraged to attend ONEplace Leadership Series and Management Track workshops offered throughout the year to prepare for and supplement this intensive Academy.
More at kpl.gov/ONEplace/ONLA
Many nonprofit staff supervise others, manage programs, or both. Acquiring and honing management skills form a continuous process and a cornerstone of organizational effectiveness.
Our ONEplace Essentials program addresses your and your staff’s basic management skill development needs. Every month, we’ll offer at least one Management Track workshop focused on skills critical to your success.
For example, we recently held a video series on event management (July), a workshop on team building (Aug), and our Supervision Series (Sep/Oct). In the coming months, we’ll offer workshops on communication skills (Oct), problem solving (Nov), decision making (Dec), project management (Jan), and more.
Spending valuable time on professional development is essential to your career growth and your organization’s development. By scheduling our Management Track workshops further in advance, you can better plan and coordinate your professional development activities and get dates on your calendar.
Plus, we encourage Management Track workshops as preparation for (and follow-up to) a Leadership Academy experience.
Our goal is to develop Essentials into a menu of workshops that you can count on each year. Of course, we’ll adjust, tweak, and alter based upon your good feedback. Thanks!
[list of Management Track workshops]
You see our “This Week” email every Monday listing the next three weeks’ worth of events at ONEplace. Do you ever wonder how these events get selected…or how you can influence the selections? Let’s peek behind the curtain for a brief moment.
For several months, we’ve been selecting workshops based upon evaluation feedback, issues from direct assistance meetings, and research studies. We then ensure a balanced offering addressing leadership, management, fundraising, and communications.
Last spring, we decided to add a strategic element as well. We developed a generic calendar of nonprofit activity that plots approximately when certain activities take place in an organization’s life. For example, year-end fundraising campaigns in Nov-Dec, annual reports three months following the year’s end, annual review of communications in the spring, etc. We implemented this approach July 1 with a four-webinar series on event planning (in anticipation of fall fundraising events). Series attendance exceeded workshop averages by 20%.
As we implement this further, you’ll notice that we will announce some events months in advance. This will give you an opportunity to better plan your professional development and hold those spaces on your calendar.
Lastly, selected workshops will be ear-marked as ONEplace Leadership Series events. These events will address key leadership issues and will be suggested as preparatory work for those considering the ONEplace Nonprofit Leadership Academy. Topics such as Supervision, Mission/Vision, Strategic Communications, Emergency Preparedness and others will be offered.
Your evaluation feedback, survey responses, and comments offer extraordinary assistance in keeping ONEplace programming targeted to your needs. Thank you!
If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard the phrase, “stretched too thin,” I’d be neck-deep in nickels. Nonprofit or not, many staff feel the strain of too much to do and not enough time to do it. One executive director recently phrased the question this way:
How do we prioritize our work and then be willing to live with it?
Setting priorities, in part, means choosing what’s not going to get done. Everything can’t be a priority. Most things can’t be a priority. Only the few, essential, mission-critical things are priorities. The rest…well…I can hear it now.
“52 of my 57 tasks ARE mission-critical! It all MUST be done and done soon!”
Assuming the criteria of what is and is not mission-critical is sound, you’re left with two choices: delegate or delete. Both involve letting go.
Delegation means being willing to let go of control and trusting someone else to put their stamp on the result. However, there may be more options here than you first imagine. We may delegate to someone within our organization or work collaboratively with another organization. We may hire out certain tasks. We may be able to divide a task and only attend to the critical aspect of it. What other options can you think of?
Deleting critical tasks may mean facing the fact that capacity is truly being exceeded and then letting go of that which makes the task critical (e.g., paring programs or services). This is an extreme measure to be sure.
These are not easy decisions. The important ones rarely are. Yet, we must maintain the capacity to deliver on our commitments, and recognize that every “yes” that takes us beyond our capacity diminishes the quality of our programs and the integrity of our organization.
If you find yourself wresting on this particular mat, please contact ONEplace. We’ll work with you to sort things out.
Like many of you, ONEplace operates on a fiscal year, and our new year begins July 1. This coming Monday is New Year’s Eve – Woo-hoo!
We have no New Year’s Resolutions, however we can announce some new and developing capacity building efforts.
Our ONEplace Peer Learning program launched with a recent survey of interest. With 80 of you interested in participating, we’re looking forward to many rich, insightful discussions in the months ahead.
Before the summer’s out, we’ll also be unveiling ONEplace Essentials, a core selection of workshops in each of five key areas: management, leadership, governance, fundraising, and communications. These workshops will be scheduled months in advance so you can hold the dates and better plan your professional development activities.
Details of the next ONEplace Nonprofit Leadership Academy will be announced in September. Feedback from the previous three classes and discussions with leaders of similar programs in other communities are helping to refine our Academy each year.
Finally, we will continue to encourage you to connect with your nonprofit colleagues through our Kalamazoo Nonprofit Connection on LinkedIn and in LIVE quarterly gatherings (next is August 20). These networking opportunities expand your resource pool and often connect you to the solutions you need.
So ring in the New Year by taking time to consider your professional development needs and those of your staff and board. We’re happy to work with you to prepare your plan.
We consistently hear from you (including our recent survey results) that you value discussion and interaction with your peers. This makes sense. As we work together on new information, we challenge each other’s assumptions, uncover specific insights, and learn from one another.
A recent study supports your feedback. Last year, the Johnson Center for Philanthropy did a study for Wilberforce University on effective capacity building strategies. This exhaustive study examined literature from 2008-2013, surveyed 236 foundations, and included 20 interviews. One key result of this study was that peer learning surfaced as the most effective capacity building approach.
Over the past several months, ONEplace has been piloting peer learning groups. In addition, we’ve interviewed persons who have benefitted from other peer learning groups. Now it’s time to move this effort to its next phase.
Soon we will issue an invitation for our ONEplace Peer Learning program. Participants will be gathered in small groups. Here are some details:
- Groups will be approximately 8 persons
- Peer groups will be defined by common position held and similar level of experience
- Time commitment will be up to each group (suggestion is at least six monthly meetings)
- All groups will be facilitated by ONEplace
We look forward to this new venture, and we look forward to your participating and helping it to grow into an effective way to learn, connect, and grow in your career.
- You want your board to be more engaged…how do we get them to focus?
- You’ve been on a board for years…is this really what we should be doing?
- You’re elected to a nonprofit’s board…now what?
- You’re considering serving on a nonprofit board…what am I getting myself into?
This past year, ONEplace increased its assistance and training with nonprofit boards. One of the insights from working with almost 20 boards is that there often is confusion as to what is and is not the board’s role. We find this is true for experienced board members as well as newer members.
This is not surprising. As the world around us changes, the governance challenges shift as well. Concerns with funding, long-term planning, and public perception lead us into a labyrinth of ideas as well as stories of past successes and failures. As one person put it, “It’s easy to get lost in the weeds.”
To address this fundamental concern, ONEplace will offer a Board Membership 101 workshop three times over the next year. During this 90-minute workshop, participants will:
- Learn the ten basic responsibilities of a board
- Examine proven practices in meeting these responsibilities
- Explore how these interface with your board
- Discover the benefits of serving on a board
The next Board Membership 101 is scheduled for Tuesday, June 24 at 4 pm. Others are slated for October and April. Consider having two or more of your board members attend the upcoming workshop to see how this event may integrate with your onboarding and continuous improvement processes.