Board Cafe

Short enough to read over a cup of coffee, Board Café has everything you need and want to know to help you give and get the most out of board service.

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Board Cafe: Meaningful Acts of Appreciation for Boards and Staff - 7 Do's and 2 Don't's

"We [board members] do this huge amount of work, and we're volunteers, but the staff never seems to have any response but criticism for us not doing more!"

"I'm the executive director, and the board just seems to focus on what we haven't accomplished, instead of giving me credit for all the things I have accomplished!"

How many times have we heard (or thought) something similar? Despite admonishments to "give positive feedback," it often seems that efforts between board and staff of appreciation feel trivial at best, and even hypocritical or enraging at worst. What are some ways to express authentic appreciation that are meaningful to the recipient, and send the right message about values? Seven quick ideas:

Abolish Board Committees?

A fresh and radical idea: consider eliminating all (or most) of your board committees. Too many boards are bogged down by committees that are inactive or maybe even semi-fictitious. And board members can feel compelled to be on three or four committees each!

Reasons to have - and reasons not to have - an attorney on the board

"We should have an attorney on the board." It's conventional wisdom we've all heard. We expect that an attorney would bring legal expertise (so we wouldn't have to pay a lawyer) and that she'll have a skill set, personality, and community stature that would benefit our organization. Attorney Mark J.Goldstein of Milwaukee shares some thoughts . . .

Not all attorneys are wise, expert, facilitative, financially generous and well regarded. (You knew that!) With more than one million lawyers and 196 law schools in the United States, it may be hard to find the Abraham Lincoln's and Atticus Finch's of the profession. As a result, and because a board's success depends upon its gestalt as much as the traits of its individual members,boards should think a bit about the contributions an attorney might make:

Advantages of having an attorney on the board

1. Professionalism, conscientiousness, attention to detail. Notwithstanding all the lawyer jokes, attorneys are learned professionals. They are typically detail-oriented, conscientious, and risk-averse. Many are citizens and activists committed to doing the right thing (admittedly a fluid concept). Such an attorney is an asset to any board.

2. Legal knowledge and skills. Attorneys are trained in law school to take in legal and factual information, to analyze that information, and to make recommendations based upon fact, law, financial risk, and other factors. There are many instances where--short of serving as the organization's attorney--this point of view can be very helpful.

Disadvantages of having an attorney on the board

1. The wrong specialty. The constantly increasing rules and regulations mean that the law is far more specialized than ever before. How helpful will an intellectual property attorney be with respect to nonprofit lobbying rules? What might a real estate attorney contribute to a discussion on...

What Do I Say to a Donor or Funder?

Let's say you're at a reception, a conference, or a holiday party and across the room you see someone who has made a donation or a grant to the organization on whose board you serve. What do you say?

First, thank the donor: "Glad to meet you. I want to thank you for all the support you've given our organization. It means a lot to us."

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