Virtually all of you reading this post are either on a nonprofit board, work with a nonprofit board or are responsible for a nonprofit board. I have certainly been all three over the last thirty years as key technology provider, board chair, charity founder and board member.

Question MarkI think the article written by Warren Berger for Fast Company should be required reading for all of the roles mentioned above! True, the article was written for commercial companies. However, think how much better any nonprofit board or leadership team would be if they could honestly and completely answer the following five questions Warren so adroitly poses:

  1. WHY ARE WE HERE IN THE FIRST PLACE?
  2. WHAT DOES THE WORLD NEED MOST WE ARE UNIQUELY ABLE TO PROVIDE?
  3. WHAT ARE WE WILLING TO SACRIFICE?
  4. WHAT MATTERS MORE THAN MONEY?
  5. ARE WE ALL ON THIS MISSION TOGETHER?

Please just imagine how marvelous the next board meeting – or better yet – board retreat would be if these were fully discussed! I truly doubt if you would ever need to worry about 100% participation in giving by the board if these questions were discussed and AGREED upon.

My goodness, each question could be a board meeting of its own. I am betting that if you take a vote, which so often happens at board meetings with the typical unanimous outcome, every single board member would prefer the enlightening and strategic debate each question would bring over another round of staff/financial reports. I would also submit attendance would never be a problem if members knew these types of strategic questions were being discussed and acted upon.

Here is my favorite section of Warren’s article:

“Most companies, of course, articulate their missions by way of formal ‘statements.’ But often they’re banal pronouncements (We save people money so they can live better. –WalMart) or debatable assertions (Yahoo! is the premier digital media company) that don’t offer much help in trying to gauge whether a company is actually living up to a larger goal or purpose. Questions, on the other hand, can provide a reality check on whether or not a business is staying true to what it stands for and aims to achieve.”

Please try one or two of the five questions above at a future board or leadership meeting for your nonprofit and see what ensues. If anyone who does this will email me what happens, I promise to share the two to three best stories (names changed of course) in a future blog post. May your next meeting be the best one ever!

img via dbrekke

Jay Love

Jay Love

Co-Founder & Chief Relationship Officer at Bloomerang
A 30+ veteran of the nonprofit software industry, Jay Love co-founded Bloomerang in 2012. Prior to Bloomerang, he was the CEO and Co-Founder of eTapestry for 11 years, which at the time was the leading SaaS technology company serving the charity sector. Jay and his team grew the company to more than 10,000 nonprofit clients, charting a decade of record growth. Prior to starting eTapestry, Jay served 14 years as President and CEO of Master Software Corporation. MSC provided a widely used family of database products for the non-profit sector called Fund-Master. He currently serves on the board of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University and is the past AFP Ethics Committee Chairman. Jay is also the author of Stay Together: How to Encourage a Lifetime of Donor Loyalty.