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BoardAssist

BoardAssist

Recent Posts by BoardAssist:

Board Recruiting Best Practices – What do you REALLY want from me?

As a nonprofit ourselves, we know just how hard it is for nonprofit leaders to ask their board to financially participate in the important work their nonprofit is doing. With board members giving so much of their time and energy to their board service, many Executive Directors feel uncomfortable asking board members to financial contribute as well. But this is an important part of any Executive Director’s job. And board members typically understand that better than just about anyone else.


Ten Signs of Financial Trouble for Board Members

Over 90% of BoardAssist placements are serving as leaders on the boards where we place them within 12 months of being placed. What does being a leader mean? Among other things, it means being able to support your nonprofit in fiscal matters by spotting the early signs of trouble before it is too late. This week’s guest blogger, finance pro Paul Konigstein, provides us with a terrific check list for trouble in this week’s terrific guest post. Thanks Paul!

Ten Signs of Financial Trouble for Board Members

My computer programmer friends have a saying: garbage in, garbage out. In other words, if the data entered into your program is no good, the reports won’t be any good either. As a Board member, you are the governance program. The information you receive from staff is the data entered and your actions are the output, or reports. Here are ten signs the information you receive may not be of sufficient quality for you to take proper actions.

1. FINANCIAL INFORMATION IS LATE – The benchmark time to prepare financial reports is one month for the most complicated nonprofits. For example, the Board should expect a report for the period ended September 30 by the end of October. A longer turnaround time is an indication that either the finance function is understaffed, financial processes are inefficient, or finance is not a high leadership priority, or all of these.

2. FINANCIAL INFORMATION IS INCONSISTENT FROM REPORT TO REPORT - I consulted with an organization whose cash flow projections swung dramatically from report to report. One month the cash projection would show months of cash on hand . The next month the same report would indicate an urgent need to borrow. This sort of inconsistency is a sign that the report preparation process is broken, and the Board cannot rely on the financial information it receives from the finance team. In this case, the Board should consider an independent assessment of the reporting process.

3. FINANCIAL REPORTS CANNOT BE UNDERSTOOD – Financial reports should clearly show the financial capacity of the organization and how the organization is doing compared to plan and compared to prior years. If these key performance indicators cannot be seen at a glance, Board reports are too detailed and need to be simplified or summarized.

4. VARIANCES FROM BUDGET CANNOT BE REASONABLY EXPLAINED – There are many reasons why financial performance may differ from plan. Reasons include program expansion or contraction, changes in funding levels, and environmental changes. If the staff cannot provide a logical reason for a significant variance from budget, this is a sign of either accounting errors or misuse of funds.

5. EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR DOES NOT PERMIT BOARD CONTACT WITH OTHER STAFF – Senior staff should have direct lines of communication with their associated committee chair to discuss critical issues in their function. For example, the Development Director should meet regularly with the chair of the Fundraising Committee to discuss goals, performance, and Board reports. Executive Directors who act as a single point of contact with the Board may be preventing critical governance issues from reaching the very individuals charged with governance. However, the type of communication senior staff has with the Board should be clearly defined to avoid overloading Board members.

6. FINANCIAL STAFF NEVER TAKES A VACATION – Who doesn’t like to take a vacation? Only people who are afraid that the wheels will come off the bus while they are away. If the finance department cannot continue to function in the absence of a key staff member, this is a sign of poorly designed financial processes and poor staff training. It may also be a sign that the vacation avoider is afraid something that has been hidden will come into the open while they are away.

7. FINANCIAL STAFF CHOOSES THE AUDITOR – An inherent conflict of interest exists when the Chief Financial Officer or Executive Director chooses the auditor. Human nature makes us all crave positive evaluation of our work. A CFO or ED may be inclined to choose an auditor who is more likely to overlook financial shortcomings. Staff may recommend an auditor, but the Finance or Audit Committee of the Board should direct the selection process.

8. AUDITOR DOES NOT MEET WITH BOARD – For New York nonprofits required to have an annual audit, the Nonprofit Revitalization Act requires that the Board meet with the auditor twice: before the audit to understand the audit goals and activities and again afterward to review the results. For nonprofits anywhere, failure to have these meetings leaves the Board without the knowledge required to exercise its fiduciary duty to safeguard the organization’s assets.

9. BOARD DOES NOT REVIEW IRS FORM 990 – To many, reviewing a government filing is about as enticing as a root canal. Indeed, parts of the form are deathly dull. However, the 990 also contains information critical to Board governance such as whether the organization continues to qualify as a public charity, key employee salary disclosures, and the ratio of administrative to total expenses. In addition, one question on the form asks whether the Board has reviewed the 990 prior to filing. Avoid the embarrassment of a funder asking why the Board wasn’t interested in exercising this fiduciary duty.

10. EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR CHOOSES BOARD MEMBERS – To effectively perform its fiduciary duty, the Board must be independent from the staff. If the Executive Director chooses the Board members, the Board is dependent on the staff. Potential Board members should be identified, recruited, and recommended to the full Board for approval by a nominating or governance committee of the Board. Staff may recommend candidates to the Board, but the Board should control the process.

Paul Konigstein is a Senior Consultant at Accounting Management Solutions, helping nonprofits improve their finance, accounting, and governance. Paul is equally comfortable as an interim Chief Financial Officer or as an adviser for a specific project. Before joining AMS, Paul spent over twenty years as a nonprofit financial executive with arts and culture, education, and international development organizations including Helen Keller International, the New York Hall of Science, and the Metropolitan Opera. Outside the office, Paul is the former Board Treasurer for The Animation Project, which transforms the lives of at risk youth using digital art technology as a therapeutic medium and a workforce development tool. BoardAssist brought Paul and The Animation Project together.

The preceding is a cross-post from our friends at BoardAssist, a New York based nonprofit corporation. The original post can be found here on their new blog. BoardAssist is the leading personalized board recruiting resource available to the tri-state nonprofit community. They offer New Yorkers who want to make a real change in the nonprofit world a wide selection of board options and advice on selecting the right one for them. Nonprofit clients range from start-up organizations to some of the most established names in the nonprofit community, and serve interest areas from arts and education to the environment and poverty relief. Though most BoardAssist clients are New York-based, they serve locally, nationally and internationally. BoardAssist has been responsible for bringing over $55 million into the nonprofit community through our board placements over the last 10 years.


Six Important Tips For Your IRS Form 990

Did you realize that your nonprofit’s IRS Form 990 is available to the general public? This is a big surprise for many nonprofit board members. Armed with this knowledge, a nonprofit misses a terrific opportunity to tell their story as fully as possible if they are not thinking strategically about how information is presented in this important document. For advice on what you can be doing to take advantage of this communications opportunity, as well as your IRS Form 990 generally, we turned to regular BoardAssist guest blogger and finance pro Paul Konigstein. As usual, Paul had all the answers!


Getting Your Money’s Worth From a Nonprofit Consultant

There comes a point in most nonprofits' lives when they need to go outside their organization and hire a consultant to help with one issue or another. Who better to ask for advice on how to do that well than Ellen Simon, the former head of one of Harlem’s most prominent nonprofits and a leading nonprofit consultant now herself. Thanks for the great advice in this week’s guest post, Ellen!


10 Ways Board Members can Help their Nonprofits find the Right Software

The following is a cross-post from Board Assist's September 2nd post. Click here to read the original article.


Five Great Ways to Get Your New Board Members on Board

The following is a cross-post from Board Assist's February 17th blog post. Click here to read the original article.


12 Ways to Liven Up Your Board Meetings – And Your Board

If your board meetings are regarded as an unpleasant obligation, it’s time to bring a fresh perspective: board meetings are an opportunity to exchange ideas, resolve issues and deepen commitment.


Getting Your Board on Board with Social Media: Part II

We are pleased to share the second part of BoardAssist's two part cross-post below. To read Part I of Getting Your Board on Board with Social Media, click here. Getting your board on board with social media may not be easy, but the fight is well worth it!

How to entice your board into the social media waters

Getting your board engaged and on board with social media can prove to be a challenging task at many nonprofits. But your board members want to make a difference and have a real-world impact, right? Otherwise, why are they there.

So we’ve assembled this short list of ways board members can help support your organizational goals via social media.

• It is important to start small with your social media requests and to frame their initial engagement with social media around organizational programs that they understand are important to support. For example, you might want to ask them to do three LinkedIn updates around your upcoming gala or benefit. It’s important to be very specific about the asks and have them understand what the end goals and deadlines are.

• Because their engagement will likely start off involving only specific programs or initiatives, it’s important to write messaging for them that they can easily share with their networks. Providing them with sample posts and engagement language is always a good idea and will increase the likelihood that it gets shared.

• You will want to encourage them to personalize the posts (you can write it out for them) by adding how excited they are about a particular program or event, and their personal thoughts about the content. This type of sharing is most effective because it goes beyond the reposting of organizational information but also includes the most important part: sharing their passion and enthusiasm with their influential network, which can be the hook their colleagues and friends need to learn more, donate, attend an event, or get involved somehow.

Opening the conversation about social media to your board

1. Start with your social media plan and ensure that your CEO is clear on what you want and what you’ll be asking board members to do. Your CEO is the board’s default sounding board, so it’s important that s/he be clear and know what initiatives you’re proposing to them and how they can help.

2. Before a board meeting, have a conversation with the board member you feel will be your greatest ambassador to the rest of the board. This person could be either the head of your board’s communications committee or, if there is none, just a person who you know is already a good messenger or advocate. Talk to this board member about your plans for board participation and ask them for feedback. This way you can anticipate concerns and questions early, and then you already have a de facto board advisor, which boards like since they generally appreciate being consulted with.

3. At the board meeting, ask the board ambassador to sit with you and support you during the presentation, perhaps leading a part of the discussion that centers on how board members can take initiative. These types of conversations can have greater sticking power and impact when coming from a board peer instead of a staff person. Also, board members can apply peer pressure in a way that communications staff cannot.

4. Discuss a first set of initiatives (perhaps for the upcoming quarter) and explain to them how and when you will be reaching out to them for support. Explain to them the benefits of their outreach and how you all plan to learn and benefit from these experiences.

5. Follow up and send a thank you email. Then promptly follow up with something they can add support to. Use your board ambassador to send out a message and showcase their “share” with the other board members. Gentle peer pressure can be a useful tool.

6. Let them know that you’ll be following up periodically to see how the outreach has been working. Explore ways they can evolve their outreach that matches their comfort level and advances your communications and social media goals.

Social media outlets for board members to focus on

LinkedIn. LinkedIn is one of the most promising social media outlets for use by board members. You’ll find that most board members have a LinkedIn account, with some board members using it with more frequency than others. Either way, it’s an outlet that most are familiar with and it has a great ability to immediately reach their network.

Facebook. Facebook can be a great personal tool since you’ll find many board members using Facebook to connect with colleagues, friends and family. Many nonprofit leaders also use Facebook in their professional capacity. So encourage them to post via Facebook as a way to connect their networks of friends and colleagues to your organization. It’s important to be selective on which items you ask them to post, but encourage them to personalize, personalize, personalize. They’ll get a higher degree of engagement and responsiveness.

Twitter. Twitter is a great tool to connect with other organizations, potential partners, journalists, thought leaders, and influencers. It will be helpful to find out which of your board members can retweet for you and tag other thought leaders or influencers in their networks who would benefit from the post.

Blogging. A great goal around blogging is to encourage board members to write at least one blog post per year. The post could be tied to initiatives you are trying to support or could be a way to generate new supporters. The title of the post could simply be along
the lines of, “Why I got involved in XYZ organization and why you should, too.” It’s a powerful way for you and them to recruit new supporters and even take that first step in helping them outline ways they can start a conversation with potential new board members or donors.

• Email marketing Do your board members already do outreach to their networks via your fundraising team? If they do, they should be including your organization’s social networks at the bottom of their emails.

The preceding is a cross-post from our friends at BoardAssist, a New York based nonprofit corporation. The original post can be found here on their new blog. BoardAssist is the leading personalized board recruiting resource available to the tri-state nonprofit community. They offer New Yorkers who want to make a real change in the nonprofit world a wide selection of board options and advice on selecting the right one for them. Nonprofit clients range from start-up organizations to some of the most established names in the nonprofit community, and serve interest areas from arts and education to the environment and poverty relief. Though most BoardAssist clients are New York-based, they serve locally, nationally and internationally. BoardAssist has been responsible for bringing over $55 million into the nonprofit community through our board placements over the last 10 years.

Caroline Avakian, author of preceding article and Socialbrite’s managing partner, is a nonprofit social media strategist in the New York City area with a focus on strategic communications, social PR, blogging and training. Caroline has worked with both international and US-based organizations, helping them lead the conversation on the issues that drive their cause.


Getting Your Board on Board with Social Media: Part I (of II)

Getting your board on board with social media is a challenge many nonprofits face as social media becomes a more important part of everyday nonprofit life. Rather than fight social media, embrace it! Social media is here to stay, and can become your nonprofit’s best friend, if you let it. For advice on how to get your board excited about social media, we turned to one of the top nonprofit social media pros out there: Socialbrite partner Caroline Avakian. We hope you find Caroline’s guest post on social media as useful as we did.


5 Tips for a Happier and More Effective Board

Have your board members become BORED? Many nonprofits that come to BoardAssist for support are indeed in need of an energy infusion. Adding an agent of change to your board is a great way to liven things up, but for some nonprofits, that may not be enough. In this guest post, fundraising guru Gail Perry graciously shares her terrific advice on how to jumpstart your board.


  Your Nonprofit Profile on GuideStar has a new Demographics section.