Keep Funding and Over-Communicate During Transitions

I recently received a call from the Executive Director of an organization that I have supported since it was founded. I have been a consistent major donor and love the organization’s mission. The ED called to tell me he is leaving the organization. I asked him a bunch of questions – about why he was leaving and what he was going to do next. After I felt assured that he was not being pushed out and that there was not an issue with the organization, I wished him good luck and asked him to keep in touch. He then said,… Read more

The Journey to a Diverse Board

Every board I have served on has wanted to be more diverse – more diverse in many ways: by race and culture, by age and gender, by geography. Yet most boards don’t do a good job at achieving the diversity they strive for. In this post, one ED shares his journey to a truly diverse board. His primary lessons – take your time, build trust, listen, be humble. Diversity is important – having many voices at the table changes not only the conversation but also decisions made and actions taken. Creating a diverse board sends a powerful signal to staff,… Read more

Expert Advice on Conflict of Interest

In my last post, I shared a story of a school — they tried to figure out how to hire and then supervise the son of the head of school who was best qualified for a position. They had great intentions but there were too many conflicts and they ended up with a well-intended mess. Understanding conflict of interest and managing it appropriately is extremely important for boards. Not doing so can lead to legal risks. In today’s post, I interview Lorri Anne Dunsmore. Lorri Anne is an attorney with Perkins Coie, specializing in tax exempt organizations. She defines conflict,… Read more

Well-Intended Mess

In this post, I share a story about how a well-intended effort to work around a conflict of interest created an awkward and unsustainable situation. The perception of nepotism undermined the credibility of a new hire. How One Workaround Leads to Another Workaround This story is about a small, well-established private school. Over the years, we had several instances where relatives of staff or faculty started working there as well.  This included the son of the Head of the School who reported to his parent. The Head and his son were both lovely people, but they were tone deaf to… Read more

No One Should Be Indispensable

In my last two posts, I shared stories about a founder who stayed around too long and another founder who made a positive and gracious exit. In this post, I share a story about the founder of an all-volunteer organization who wanted to move on but could not because they were not set up for leadership transition. There are two lessons from this story. The first is to make sure you don’t rely too much on one individual – either as ED or as Board Chair. As a board member, you have responsibility for the well-being of the organization. If… Read more