How Do You Know That?

After my last post which encouraged board members to ask hard questions, several readers asked what questions? Board members need full information to make good decisions. And that means asking lots and lots of questions – the ones that break out of group think, that uncover hidden issues, and that get to the essence of unseen problems or opportunities.  I started brainstorming questions and came up with a very long list. So, I decided instead to share just a few really key questions. I organized them in five areas: finance, program, funding, staff, and board. But you will see that… Read more

The Story of a Controlling CEO and a Weak Board

Organizations can have great CEOs and weak CEOs and manipulative CEOs. Organizations can have strong boards and weak boards. In today’s post, a former staff person describes an organization with possibly the worst combination — a controlling CEO and a weak board. The story also raises the question of intersectionality. Is it distracting for a woman’s organization to analyze data about women of color, women with disabilities, gay women, rural women, poor women? Does intersectionality diminish the focus on women? This staff person insists – and I agree – that if you don’t address intersectionality, if you don’t dig deeply… Read more

Getting Board Members to Do Things

Board members are volunteers. Organizations select them because they have specific skills or connections or because they represent groups whose input is valued by the organization. Some board members are donors, some are connectors, and some are doers. Many fit into more than one category. But what happens when board members say they want to be more involved but then don’t step forward when asked? In this story, one board chair shares her frustration with board members who never raise their hands. She suggests making assignments and taking care about who you ask to join a board. My advice to… 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