Simone Joyaux, ACFRE recently joined us for a webinar in which she explained some of her favorite standards for board governance — too often ignored and mostly unknown.
In case you missed it, you can watch the full replay here:
Steven: All right, Simone, still with us?
Simone: Yes, I am.
Steven: All right. So why don’t we go ahead and get started. So I will say good afternoon to all of you listening from the East Coast and good morning if you are on the West Coast or somewhere in between. Thanks for joining us for a special Monday edition of our weekly Bloomerang webinars. We are going to be talking about how to make our board stronger and why you’ll be glad that you did. Thanks for being here.
My name is Steven Shattuck and I’m VP of Marketing here at Bloomerang and I will be moderating today’s discussion. Before we begin I just want to let everyone know we are recording this presentation. So if you have to leave early or you want to perhaps want to relive the content or share it with someone on your team, you be able to do that. Just look for an email from me later on today. I’ll be sharing the recording as well as the slides with you a little later on today.
As you’re listening, go ahead and please feel free to send in questions and comments through the chat box there on your webinar screen. I’ll see those and so will our guests. We’re going to save some time at the end for a Q & A session. We’ll try to get to as many questions as we can so do not be shy. We are going to leave time for questions.
And just in case this is your first webinar with us, welcome. In addition to offering great weekly webinars, Bloomerang also offers some donor database software, so if that is something you are interested in or are in the market for, please check out our website. I’d love for you to learn more and even get a video demo without having to talk to a salesperson. Who likes to do that anyway? So check that out if you’re interested.
I’m so excited to introduce out guest. I have a feeling that this is probably going to be one of our biggest webinars of the year. Our guest really needs no introduction but she is Simone Joyaux ACFRE. Simone, how is it going? Thanks for being here.
Simone: It’s going just fine. It’s raining here in Foster, Rhode Island, but that’s okay. Tom, my partner, will be very happy.
Steven: It’s raining here in Indy too. Hopefully, you other people have got some better weather. I’m going to brag on you. You are so awesome. You are a legend. You fill rooms repeatedly at conferences. I just had the pleasure of seeing you present at Planet Philanthropy last week in Florida. People were on the edges of their seats. I can’t for everyone to hear what you have to say about board governance today.
Just in case you don’t know her, Simone is described as one of the most inspirational, thoughtful, and provocative leaders in the nonprofit sector worldwide. She works with all types and sizes of organizations. She primarily focuses on fund development, governance planning, and management. She has written three books, three excellent books. “Keep Your Donors” is one. “Strategic Fund Development” and probably my favorite one “Firing Lousy Board Members.” I just love that title. She regularly serves on boards often as chair. She has even founded two organizations herself.
She currently chairs the board of directors at Planned Parenthood of Southern New England and also chairs the advisory board of the Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy at Plymouth University in the United Kingdom. So I’m going to pipe down because people aren’t here to listen to me. They’re here to listen to you, Simone. So why don’t you kick us off here. Get us started.
Simone: Well, thank you very much, Steven. This is as Steven said and you all know is about standards for good governance. I was actually quite excited when Steven asked me to do this. We are going to specifically be talking about standards. You have both the PowerPoint of course, but what you really want eventually, which Steven has also posted for you, is my governance self-assessment.
One of the questions that has always sort of plagued me over the years is on this continuum of really good to mediocre or as I like to say dysfunctional where is your board? Any number of us will say, “Our board is great,” or “our board is this or that.” How do you know? Who is deciding this? Your board share says your great? Your exec says the board isn’t so good? You as the fundraiser or you as the exec are pretty darned sure it’s not that good or whatever.
Over the years I’ve developed a set of standards. When I say, “I’ve developed a set of standards,” I mean I have spent 40 years working in this sector reading books and looking at other people’s standards and then playing around with them. What we always want to keep remembering is standards mean some sort of outside knowledge. It’s not, “Well, in my opinion,” because really personal opinion doesn’t count. It’s professional knowledge. It’s professional opinion based on lots of experience and expertise.
My standards as I say come from all kinds of different places as well as my own observation and consulting work. Just as an aside, one of my favorite documents that I ever read years and years and years ago by Ken Dayton, the former CEO of the Dayton Hudson Corporation in Minneapolis, St. Paul and it is called “Governance is Governance.” You can get this from the Independent Sector which is an organization in DC and it is called as I say “Governance is Governance” and the author is Ken Dayton. D-A-Y-T-O-N. You can order it right from their website.
Another really good source of ongoing conversation about good governance is in the Nonprofit Quarterly. That is www.nonprofitquarterly.org.
I want to start with a couple things first sort of laying some ground work. We’re going to talk about board or board members. Here it is. This is one of those hugely important distinctions that most people do not seem to understand. It’s a distinction of huge importance. The board is a collective. The board is a group. Its job is to do governance. The definition of governance is the process whereby a group of people work together to ensure the health and effectiveness of the corporation.
Now, just as an aside, if you go to my website, there’s a free download library and it has tons of materials like this including the job description of a board and performance expectations of a board member.
We are talking today not about board members. We are talking about the standards for a board. What’s so interesting to me is that all the material I read, the other books that I read, the articles, when I hear people talk they keep using board and board member interchangeably. That’s like a sin of massive proportions. Right?
One thing I always like to say to boards is no single member of the board has any more authority than any other member of the board because the concept is the collective. The work of governance that work of the collective group only happens at board meetings because that’s when you’re together. It’s always kind of fun to tell a board chair you have no more authority than anyone else. You can’t make any decisions because if they’re governance decisions they belong to the group and if they’re management decisions back away buddy. You’re the board chair, not the decider.
My actual governance self-assessment is however many pages long, but the particular standards I chose to look at today for you was composition of the board, selection, recruitment, and evaluation of board members so the decision belongs to the board and then it rolls out to the individual board members. Orientation and development of the board, board monitoring of organizational health after all what do we actually think the board is supposed to be doing. Board CEO relations, which is very interesting, then board operations, board meetings, committees or task forces, evaluation of the board, and philanthropy and fund development.
There are many, many questions in all of these areas in my governance self-assessment and I’ve selected just a few to look at today. The actual survey has “yes, needs improvement,” “no” or “I don’t know” as response choices. There are also several open-ended questions. I want you to reflect for just a moment. So this is talking about standards and this governance self-assessment with the idea that all board members each would fill it out. Then it would be tabulated. Then we would have a picture of how we the board, the collective compares us to the standards.
I also just as an aside always have the executive director and the chief development officer fill out the survey too because they work so closely with the board. I don’t tabulate their responses in with the board because I find oftentimes the staff responses are more knowledgeable and more honest.
So survey responses, yes, our board adheres to the standards or we kind of do, but we need some improvement, or no we just don’t. Now, “I don’t know” I think is just as important a response as the other responses. What’s interesting about it is why would a board member would not know the answer to this. So survey responses. Yes, needs improvement; no, I don’t know. Okay. This presupposes of course that either everyone agrees to the standards or and what oftentimes happens if of course most board members and quite frankly most staff don’t know what good standards are, so part of the joy, the value of conducting a governance self-assessment is it makes us think about the standard. It makes board members then have to ask questions about the standards.
Quite frankly, as far as I’m concerned given the background I already gave you, which I hope you heard, about where I got these standards from, my own 40 years of working in this, from reading books, going to conferences, reading articles, etc. these are the standards. If you don’t want to adhere to one of them, imagine the conversation your board could have about “I don’t like this standard.”
I don’t know is just as interesting a response as “yes,” “needs improvement,” or “no” because the question is why don’t you know the standard. Is it because the staff doesn’t explain adequately? Is it because you don’t go to board meetings etc. etc.? We are now going to start looking at specific standards which are in the entire governance assessment. You have that in the system. Steven loaded that up for people to download.
Think about recruitment of board members and the importance of it. Here is a standard. It’s on page three of the governance assessment, One B as in boy. The recruitment process considers issues of diversity (e.g. gender, generation, sexual orientation, socioeconomics, etc.) when identifying candidates for board membership.
Why is this important? Well, because all of the research says that diversity of life experience directly impacts the effect of a group or institution. This means your board as a group your staff and the governance committee or board development committee or nominating committee, whatever you call it, has to be comfortable talking about gender, generation, sexual orientation, etc. They actually have to be comfortable talking about this.
One of my most favorite experiences was when I served on the board of an organization that I founded that was very conscious of issues of diversity. One time as we were preparing for the next identification of candidates for recruitment we identified the skills we needed on the board and then we talked about the diversity we expected and the summary of our statement was we will only identify candidates that reflect our values and the behaviors we expect, all that sort of thing, and we’re looking for these particular skills and they cannot be white women over 50 because we had too many of those on the board.
This is a very important standard and a very important standard for board members and staff to truly understand. What is the value of diversity? What do we mean by it? Do we consciously and intentionally build a board with this consideration in mind and with this standard in mind?
Here is another one. This goes right along with the prior one around diversity. The board discusses the types of behaviors that contribute to group effectiveness, seeks individuals who behave accordingly, and avoids individuals whose behaviors negatively affect the group.
Imagine, yes, yes, yes, we’ve all identified the skills we need on the board. Those are very clear actually when you consider the job of the board. Again, you will find materials on that in the free download library on my website. However, we also have to talk about behaviors. So again, I was serving on a board where we were talking about behaviors. We expected of all board members things like being a team player, respectful, very candid, and honest, right?
So on this board we were beginning to brain storm candidates who fulfill both the skill needs and the diversity needs right and the behaviors. An individual was suggested as a candidate to interview and another board member very professionally and discretely said that person always wants to be boss in any organization. Then right around the table on this board everyone said we will not consider that individual because we adhere to a standard about group effectiveness and we seek individuals who demonstrate those behaviors and we avoid individuals whose behaviors negatively affect the group. Again, standards about recruitment.
What’s interesting is, to what degree does your board even have a conversation about these kinds of standards and you can use this governance assessment which is on the website for this program and you can use that to talk about the standards.
Okay, now another standard. Does your organization actually evaluate the performance of board members? Now notice. I just moved from the board, the group, to board members. Why would I do that when I specifically said at the beginning that this webinar is about the board as a collective and its good governance standards? Well, that’s because the board defines the performance expectations, the job description, etc. of the board member.
So every single year whether your term is expiring or not every single year the board the board development committee, the governance committee, again whatever you name it, whatever you call it, should evaluate the performance of board members. If your performance according to the performance expectations, sample on my website of performance expectations for all board members, your performance does not meet those performance expectations or standards for the individual board member then we give you feedback. If you don’t improve, then we thank you and you are released.
We do that even if your term has not expired. Because we don’t keep around bad performers because it harms the group. Of course, that is the topic of my very small book called “Firing Lousy Board Members” which you can readily get on Amazon. It goes through talking about what the performance expectations are for the board members, what the role of the board is, and how you have to regularly evaluate performance because the last thing you want is Simone Joyaux to stay on your board after you’ve found out at year one and it’s a three-year term that I’m a lousy board member.
Again, think about this. It’s governance self-assessment where every single board member has to complete the governance self-assessment and the exec and development officer do it too. You tabulate the results of all those board members and then it’s the conversation after the assessment that is so marvelous because the whole board gets the tabulated results. The whole board gets it and of course the board development committee, the governance committee talks about it and talks about what has to be done to improve things. There is a conversation at the board level about what has to be done to improve things and what the standards mean and why they matter because we don’t just invent standard for the fun of it. It’s because they actually matter.
All right. [inaudible 00:27:13] is the continuation of that. I thought I just did that one. Let’s see. I put this one here twice. Yep. I apologize, but it’s a good emphasis because far too often and I hear this all the time, “Oh, we can’t release Simone Joyaux because she’s so important or she’s one of our largest donors.” Well, okay. That’s a lousy way to run an organization. Let’s see another one. How come this keeps happening?
Now we are moving away from the board member performance and we’re looking at what the board does. Years ago I read a marvelous article in the Harvard Business Review that was talking about consistency between priorities and resource allocations. One of the things that a board does is it ensures the consistency between priorities and resources allocation. It pays attention, right, the resources for the future and it talks about and explores the sustainability of the organization.
This I think is a very, very important standard. One of the important things to keep in mind is we frequently when talking about boards, the collective, I frequently use the term “ensure” or “assure” or “make sure that” all meaning the same thing. As a group, so here’s the standard, as a group at the board meeting the board through conversation, review of advance material, and voting ensures that there’s a consistency between priorities and resource allocation, ensures that there’s resources for the future, ensures the sustainability of the organization.
I want you to think about this. How does a group do that? Well, the staff sent them information like the financial report, actual compared to budget, right? The staff reminds the board of the strategic plan it adopted and the priorities in that plan. The staff, the finance committee of the board talks about the challenges in raising money or the sustainability of a certain grant or government contract. The board as a group has a conversation and wrestles with these issues.
Now the board as a group facilitated by the board chair and individual board members all those individual board members would be appropriate behaviors and skills ask candid questions. No single individual dominates the conversation. The behaviors are appropriate to group dialog and decision making.
Okay. Let’s look at another standard. The board understands and respects its equal partnership with the CEO and has a process to assess the CEO and does so annually. Notice, board, the board as a group understand and respects its equal partnership with the CEO so the board as a group expects the CEO to participate in board conversation. The board as a group expects to hear recommendations from the CEO.
I’m currently working with an organization where in a conversation with the board chair he told me that he supervises the CEO. Now that’s not really understanding or respecting the equal partnership with the CEO. No single board member including the board chair supervises the CEO. CEO means chief executive. I don’t care what other title you’re using. It’s the chief executive. Right? Nobody supervises the CEO. The board as a group directs the general direction if you of the CEO, but there is no board chair supervising the CEO.
Now again, the CEO is the chief executive of the organization. It doesn’t matter if you call that person managing director, executive director, or anything else they are the chief staff person. Now another area of weakness I see the board has a process to assess the CEO and does so annually.
Notice I didn’t say the board chair has a process. I said the board and you’ll actually find the job description of the chief executive, executive director, whatever title you use in my free download library and you’ll also see an entire process for evaluating the performance of that chief executive. So even when you set up a committee, a little task force, whatever to conduct the performance appraisal and that’s very common so there is a little committee of the board that conducts the performance appraisal according to the process adopted by the board.
So before the task force, the little committee actually meets with the CEO to tell him or her the results of the performance appraisal that little committee or task force that conducted the performance appraisal has to secure the support of the board because the board hires the CEO even though there’s a search committee ultimately the board decides and sets the compensation for the CEO. The board approves the process to assess the CEO’s performance and the board approves the results of that process before it goes back to the CEO.
So there is quite a dance sometimes between the board, a committee, and an individual. These standards are intended, intended to clarify this to be very, very clear. So notice this one which is how I began this webinar. The board understands the corporate governance is the collective act and happens only when the board its individual members are together hence the stringent requirement for attendance preparation and participation.
Let’s go back to let’s see Simone Joyaux is a bad board member and I travel a lot so I can’t always make your board meetings but I always send an email with my opinion. Okay. I wasn’t there having the conversation so I sent in my little opinion via email, but I wasn’t there to participate in the conversation where I might have changed my mind, where the point of the board is to have conversation not to have lobbying about one person’s opinion or another.
I will tell you back to the bad board chair who thinks she or he is the boss and the executive committee “I’m on a worldwide mission to destroy them all” thinks that the executive committee is the boss and it doesn’t matter if I’m a big donor if I attend board meetings or not because here I shared me opinion. All of that, all of those little scenarios I just recited violate the concept which is a collective activity.
Isn’t that an interesting standard to talk about with the board? Imagine the conversation where we say, “Well, we wanted Bob Smith or Simone Joyaux on our board because they are so big in the community and they’re so important but of course they won’t attend board meetings.” Well, I’m sorry. That’s a violation of good governance.
I’ve talked a little bit about this one before. I’ve said it before. Board officers including the board share understand that they have no more authority than any other board member and they behave accordingly. In my book “Firing Lousy Board Members” I talk a lot about Massachusetts Key [SP] who told me that he’s always right and then he makes sure all the other board members line up behind him and follow his direction. I said that can’t be true because governance is the collective activity and the board decides what is right for the organization and he said, “No, I do and they will adhere to it.” Isn’t that going to be an interesting standard to talk about?
Let’s see. What’s another one? Policies define the scope of authority and limitations in various areas. There is a man name John Carver who has written a book about “Boards that Make a Difference.” He writes about policy governance. He’s not the only person who has ever written about or conceived about policy governance. One of my favorite things in his work is his concept of limitations.
Instead of just saying that the role of the board is to ensure the health and effectiveness of the corporation, which is all very nice, but then there would be a limitation that says and the board does that without intruding in management. Or performance expectations of the individual board member where is says all board members will give a gift to best of personal ability, all board members will attend board meetings, the limitation then becomes that board members as individuals don’t do governance.
Again, this is a standard. As your board members and you are conducting the governance assessment they’re saying wow we don’t have some of these things or we do have them, but maybe we should look and see if there are better examples. Now remember every one of these standards comes from my sample governance self-assessment which is on the ready talk Bloomerang website wherever Steven posted it and it’s a PDF document. You can also go to my website and download that PDF document.
Okay. Let’s see. This is one of my favorites. The board and its members clearly distinguish between the unanimity of voting and unanimity of voice. What is the difference between those two things? Go back again and recite governance is a collective activity. That means once we vote, let’s say we are a 12 member board and seven people voted yes and five people voted no. These are the seven prevailed and the other five who voted no now even though they voted no, not fine, the decision is what the seven voted for. Those five who voted no won’t talk about it again unless there is new information and they will support the decision made.
That is the concept of unity of voice. We vote and then whether we are in the prevailing quote or losing unquote side we support the decision made. Once we’re gone aboard it was very clear two of us were going to vote no and the other nine were going to vote yes. One of the nine said, “Why don’t you two just vote yes and then it will be unanimous?” The two of us said no way. We are not voting yes so there can be unanimity. Unanimity is not the desired outcome. For heaven’s sake, if we are talking about important things, there isn’t going to be unanimity.
Okay. Let’s see. There are more and more samples here so let’s just bounce to a couple different ones because I want to stop in a few minutes so that you can ask questions. So let’s look at this one. The board engages in substantive strategic conversation rather than focusing on reports. I look at board meeting agendas all the time and there are a bunch of reports. Everybody on your board probably can read. We don’t need to have any reports at board meetings. Read it in advance.
The thing that belongs on board meeting agendas is if we have to make a decision about one of the items where there’s a report, then that’s what we talk about. We do not have committee reports on every board meeting agenda when we could have read them and there was nothing to talk about. That is a waste of time and it is why board members get really tired and bored at board meetings.
Notice also however if we’re going to have a robust conversation which is the purpose of a board, that collective group of wise people sitting there, then we needed to receive the information in advance and that included the fact that you explained the meaning of the information not just here’s the data.
All right. Now, let’s do one more then I’m going to break, Steven. Oh, you know I’m on a worldwide mission to destroy all executive committees, but the standard of good governance is that you actually talk about it and the board decided. It does not matter what your bylaws say. You can change the bylaw if it says that you have an executive committee.
All right. Now here, the board regularly assesses its own performance and makes improvements as needed. That is the point of these standards and that’s the point of the governance self-assessment. Okay. All right. So I’m going to skip to the next couple slides and I know Steven has been telling you where these materials are. So let’s have some questions. I’ve been seeing some out of the corner of my eye, but I intentionally don’t read them, because they distract me. I know you ask them.
Steven: I don’t blame you. We have some good ones here. I would encourage everyone who maybe was sitting on their hands to send them over. We have about 15 minutes. Thanks for that I should say first before we get into that. Great information. I really encourage to take that self-assessment. You can find that on her website and also on the email I sent out with the webinar confirmation, really good activity to do.
So let’s go here. I’m just going to try and grab some questions here that were jumping out at me here. Susan had an interesting one. Who is the CEO when it is a nonprofit board and all of the board members are also the workers for the organization? It seems like they don’t have a formal CEO and the board kind of runs things too. Is that something you run into a lot, Simone?
Simone: Yeah. Let me just distinguish several things. If Susan, you are saying there is no paid staff, this is a totally volunteer run organization then that means that the group of people that are on the board have to do governance and then they have to take off the governance hat and do management and be staff people. What is vitally important is to separate the two functions. They are not interchangeable.
Every single one of the governance standards in my governance self-assessment apply to the board when it is doing governance. It is not uncommon that the board chair in a totally volunteer organization would then ostensibly the executive director. I want to stress and this is for everyone on this call who may use board members to help carry out management activities too then you have to adjourn the board meeting then go into a management meeting and talk about what we have to do as staff people doing management.
All this presupposes that you understand the distinction between governance and management. It is a vitally important distinction. You actually have to take off the hat of being a board member doing governance and put on the hat of being a volunteer doing management. You’ll see some of this explained in my free download library, but it’s a very important distinction.
Steven: Yep, makes sense. I’ve got one here from Dawn. I think Dawn asked this one when you were talking about surveying board members and asking them questions. Dawn says we only have six board members. Won’t it be obvious as to who answers the questions a specific way and I think she may be worried about the board the members knowing who answered which way when they all look at the results. Any answers for her Dawn there?
Simone: Yes, the first question is why is the board so small? That is not a good number for a board. The questions that an organization needs to ask itself when it’s considering the size of the board are things like one, what are the kinds of skills necessary on the board to do governance? If you look at the job description of the board, the role of the board on my website you’ll see things like we have ensure fiscal sustainability, so we need to have some people on the board who understand money. We need to have various networks on the board. We need to know enough about human resources so maybe somebody who is an expert in HR in order conduct performance appraisals.
Six people on a board doesn’t give you the skills that you need. Next, what happens when one or two people are absent? Somebody could be on vacation or very ill. They can’t come to the board meeting. So now we’ve got someone absent from the board. We’ve got five people on the board and majority . . . Five people on the board and then the quorum is three and the majority vote is two. That few people are making legal, moral, and ethical decisions in governance? I’m not comfortable with that at all.
Next, what kind of diversity do we need on our board in order to be the best we can be doing governance? Well, we need to deal with, and I said this, gender, generation, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, six people isn’t enough for that either. This concept of a six member board when I answer all of those questions for myself, I’m saying the average board size should be between 15 and 21. Even 15 can be a little bit small. Because again, what kind of robust conversation can you have when there are a couple people missing so now there’s 13 and majority rules makes it 7. To me, it’s not robust enough.
Steven: Let’s see as we go as we go down the list here. Rory has a question here. Rory is saying, “Hey, Simone, great presentation. In Canada a news articles exposed unpaid pledges from board members at the Royal Ontario Museum.” She says she has worked at organizations with a board member who was difficult when it came to making pledge payments. How do you advise fundraisers navigate the power dynamics of that kind of situation? You know, dealing with difficulty when it comes to making their actual pledge payments?
Simone: Right. So Rory has actually raised a couple very interesting points. First of all, the issue of power. One of the things the board should actually talk about is power dynamics. We have power dynamics oftentimes around gender, race, and socioeconomic status. There can automatically be a power dynamic around “I’m the board chair Rory development officer. How dare you talk to me about my pledge payment?”
So first of all, that has to be talked about transparently. Next board members should be solicited by the chair and vice chair as far as I’m concerned. I am currently, Steven as you noted, the chair of the board of Planned Parenthood of Southern New England in the U.S. which is Rhode Island and Connecticut. It’s a $30 million health care institution. There are, I don’t know, eight staff in fundraising alone. The vice chair and I divide up the board members and solicit them. Yes, staff then send out the pledge reminders, etc., but a little bit before the end of the fiscal year I am contacted by the staff and they are to tell me so and so hasn’t pledged or paid yet and then I make that contact.
When board members don’t pay their pledges, that’s one of the performance things that the board development committee looks at in any institution. You know, absent too much of the time, doesn’t pay their pledges, those are conversations for the governance committee, the board development committee, and the chair. The staff do not have to . . . you know, after you do a few judicious follow ups. Not a staff problem.
Simone: Now just quickly in response to Tracey Hutchinson Wallis. Fifteen, as the decisions take too darn long? No, they don’t. Fifteen board members? They don’t take too darn long. Good heavens. Not at all. A good chair is a facilitator. That is what a board chair is. They’re a facilitator. They make sure we’re not talking about certain things because those are staff decisions. They have nothing to do with the board. If we all read our background material and then talked about the key points and not every single person has to comment because if I was only going to repeat Tracy, Anna Lee, and Rory’s comment, why would I do that? The board chair says as the facilitator “no, no, no, I only want new comments right now. I don’t want you to repeat someone else’s comments.” The size of the board does not prohibit making decisions or making decisions that take too long. No way.
Steven: That’s how it’s managed. Yeah. That makes sense. Here is a good one from John. John asks do you have any suggestions for reenergizing a fundamentally good board that may have become tired or burnt out so you can get those back on track. Any suggestions? You want to keep these people. You think they’re good and they need a little kick in the rear end perhaps?
Simone: One thing is you want to bring in new people regularly so every year somebody new a couple new people have to be coming on the board because that helps. Number two there’s nothing like a governance self-assessment to shock the hell out of people. So I would say, “where this is a great board blah, blah, blah, yada, yada, yada, to the board I make sure the board chair, the board development committee, and the CEO all agree we need to move into evaluating the performance of the board. The governance self-assessment is a perfect tool for that. They can evaluate their own performance.
Steven: Yeah, and speaking of that, the question from Jennifer and considering you have written a book called “Firing Lousy Board Members.” Jennifer is asking, I don’t think you are going to like the first part of this. When there are no term limits for board member officers, how you handle . . . I know. I know. There’s the answer first part to your answer, Jennifer. If you don’t have term limits, how do you handle releasing a board member specifically one whose behavior negatively affects the group? How do you actually fire people?
Simone: Okay, so number one term limits are essential, but it doesn’t substitute for a lousy board member that needs to be fired regardless of term limits or not. You have to make sure you have done everything else first before you can fire any board member just like you have to make sure you have done everything first before you can fire a staff person. Is there a job description for the role of the board? Are there performance expectations for individual board members which are the same expectations for everyone regardless of socioeconomic status or anything else? Has the board talked about behaviors that are both good and bad?
You can’t fire until you have done a bunch of this stuff first. Which is all outlined both in the book “Firing Lousy Board Members” in great detail, but it’s also outlined in a free article on my website called “Firing Lousy Board Members.” Then you have a conversation with them and when I say “you” and again this is all outlined in the book it’s not you the staff person it’s the board development committee, the governance committee has the conversation with the board member about performance issues and talks to them very carefully about golly gosh you’re just swell but and gets them to recognize the performance deficiencies and commit to fixing them or saying it’s not the right time to be on the board.
Steven: Right. Well, we’ve only got a couple minutes left and I want to leave those word for you to tell people where they can find more of this great info, but one quick question from Annalise and maybe we’ll leave it that. She’s saying my board thinks that they give their time so therefore it’s not their responsibility to give cash. Is that unusual? I think I know what your answer is going to be.
Simone: Yeah. It’s totally unacceptable. The reason it’s unacceptable is because you can’t ask anyone else to give money if you don’t give money yourself. So fine you’re going to come and ask me for a gift and I’m going to say what do you give? What’s your average board gift? Well, our board members volunteer their time. They don’t give money. The telephone company doesn’t accept volunteer time to pay bills, by the way, so keep that in mind.
So this is easily solved loosely speaking by first adopting performance expectations for board members which means you have to have a gutsy person on the governance committee who will say, “Let’s cut the crap people. We can’t ask anyone else for money if our executive director doesn’t give, if our fundraisers don’t give, and if our board members all don’t give.” You can change the performance expectations. Most organizations don’t even have performance expectations.
The other thing though which I find to be a significant problem is I don’t know as a board member what your expectation of me is when it comes to giving. So I can’t give as much as Bill and Melinda and I don’t even have to say Gates because everybody around the world fantasizes about Bill and Melinda Gates. So I don’t know since I’m . . . let’s pretend I’m in my case let’s pretend I’m the CEO of a really big company so that’s really cool and so I have a big salary, but Steven is a single father of six children and he works not at Bloomerang. He works in the kitchen of the Indianapolis Public School System. So all he can do is give 25 bucks.
So part of this is about unreasonable expectations we have about gift size. So it’s never I’ll give money or I’ll serve on the board. It’s always you have to give a gift. You have to attend board meetings. Give a gift to the best of personal ability financially every single year. Attend board meetings regularly, Missing 50% isn’t regularly. Help raise money as in nurture relationships, make thank you calls, some board members will help solicit, etc., etc. It’s all of that.
Steven: Well, gosh this great. I feel like we could fill another hour of this, but we do want to cut it off there especially if people haven’t had lunch yet. Simone, how can people find out more about your free resources, your books? I’ve got this on the screen, but maybe you can give yourself a little bit of a plug here.
Simone: Fine. Okay. So my website is primarily intended as a free library for the sector worldwide. On it you can subscribe to an e-news. On it is an archive of my weekly blog which you can also subscribe to. Both the blog and the newsletter are full of tips, resources to read, etc. The free download library on my website also includes podcasts with handouts that I’ve done and the library itself has got fundraising, boards, and governances, strategic planning, etc., with dozens of tools there that you can download and use.
Steven: I know we didn’t get to all of the questions. Would you be willing to take some questions via email if folks want to ask away?
Simone: Yes, I will.
Steven: You are so nice.
Simone: As long they’ve looked at some of the stuff on the website.
Steven: Yeah. That’s great information. There’s nothing like it in the sector at all so take advantage of that. There are lots of goodies on there. Do that self-assessment. It’s a really good exercise I think.
Steven: Well, we’ll call it there. I just wanted to let everyone know that there are lots of free resources on our website as well. You can check that out. We do these webinars every week. We are not going to be here this Thursday since the webinar was today. Ten days from now we are back on the Thursday schedule. We are going to talk about planned giving so if that is a topic that interests you, check that out. It’s a free webinar. You can register for that and there’s lots of other webinars on the calendar as well. You many find something else you are interested in. Check that out and thanks for joining us for an hour of your day. I know how busy all of you are and Simone, I really appreciate you being here as well. Thanks so much.
Simone: Well, thank you for inviting me and feel free to send me questions in your email.
Steven: Cool. Thanks for doing that and we’ll hopefully talk to you during in the next session. Have a great week and we’ll talk to you again soon. Bye now.
Simone: Okay. Bye.
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