Nonprofit Board Talk

From the article - “In our recent Philanthropy Journal poll about recruiting board members, respondents indicated that they frequently face challenges in recruiting competent volunteers to their board. The economic downturn the country has been dealing with for more than five years has made it even more challenging for more than a third of the respondents to recruit competent board members. At a time when nonprofits need skilled and dedicated volunteers to help make the strategic decisions necessary to navigate difficult financial times such leaders appear to our survey respondents to be in short supply.” read more

Does Your Nonprofit Retool?

"Only those who constantly retool themselves stand a chance of staying employed in the years ahead." - Tom Peters

     I love this quote from Tom Peters.  It is true for individuals but I think it is also true for organizations as well.  Is your nonprofit retooling?  In a fast changing world, it is important to “retool" if you want to survive and be relevant in your mission.

     Everyone talks about using social media.  A great “retool" for any nonprofit.  Is your nonprofit board using eGovernance tools to help with board and committee meetings?  Have you looked at cloud computing to lower techology costs, expand capacity or improve productivity?  What about crowd funding as a new source for donations and program funding?  Are you using meetups to help with outreach and volunteer recruiting?  Your nonprofit must improve, adapt and retool … or lose ground to other nonprofits that do.

Thanks for reading the Nonprofit Board Talk Blog!

Follow me on Twitter @NPBoardTalk

Brent Jackson

Nonprofit Board Discussion – What is Cloud Computing?

It’s difficult to have a true discussion on cloud computing if most of the people in the room don’t know what it is.  It’s a buzz phase so everyone has heard of it but how many board members really know what it means?  I’m a person with an IT background so I’m usually asked to explain what cloud computing is.  I can see faces change as I explain it and understanding hits.

Most nonprofit boards will face this question at some point.  Here’s a short version of the explanation I give to this question.  I hope it helps when your board has the discussion.  The explanation is simple.  The best way to understand cloud computing is to compare it to the other forms of computing available to most nonprofits:

“Local” Computing – You are computing locally if all your programs (or software) and data is stored on your PC’s (or laptop’s) hard drive.  If you have a flash drive or external hard drive, you are still computing “locally”.

Server Computing (or Client/Server Computing) – Your nonprofit owns or leases a server.  When you connect to the office network, you can open files stored on that server.  In this case, the programs (Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, etc.) are installed on your PC but you store the files (or data) on the server.  This is very common with databases.

Enterprise Computing – In this case, both the software and the data is stored on your office server.  All the user has to do is type a web address.  You don’t have to make sure the software in installed first.  (There are exceptions to this but that’s another blog post.)

The key here is your nonprofit owns or leases the server.  The server is in your office or downstairs in the basement or at the data center.  You can see it, hug it, or take a picture of it.  You have a staff person or contractor that has to maintain it.  From time-to-time, you have to fix it or replace it.  The good part is, you have a server that gives you extended computing power.  The bad part is, you have a costly server that requires specialized skills to maintain.

Cloud Computing (or Cloud Services) – Do you want the extended computing power without the costly server?  Cloud computing can do it!  There are companies with data centers full of servers.  You can “rent” or “share” space on those servers.  You can get access to the software on those servers.  Just sign up as a customer and type in a web address.  Google Docs, Microsoft 360, Yahoo Mail, Evernote, Box.net and SalesForce.com are all cloud services.  When you log into your account to get your data, you have no idea where that server is located.  That’s cloud computing!

This is a VERY simple explanation of cloud computing.  Experts spend hours talking about the types of service, levels of service, software options and vendors available in the cloud world?  This explanation is only to begin the discussion.  You need advice and support from experts as you move into the cloud.  Good luck on the journey!

Thanks for reading the Nonprofit Board Talk Blog!  Follow on Twitter @NPBoardTalk

Brent Jackson

From the post - “Board recruitment is broken — and I’m not the only one who thinks so. In recent surveys conducted by the Taproot Foundation and BoardSource, nonprofit leaders reported frustration in securing the right talent and, specifically, with knowing where to look for it.”  Read more.

From the post - “With the increasing demands of billable hours and outside commitments, it is tougher and tougher for young lawyers to find time to join nonprofit organizations as board members and take on board leadership positions. However, nonprofit corporations are searching for new and enthusiastic board members to bring energy and knowledge to their organizations.

As you develop your practice, you will come into contact with individuals who are members of nonprofit organizations’ boards or officers of nonprofit organizations. As discussed below, there are many great reasons to join nonprofit boards and several issues that you should address before deciding whether to join a particular nonprofit board.”  Read more.

The Costs of Board Service: Time, Money and Energy

          Are you thinking about starting a new project, joining a new club or learning a new hobby?  The first question you should ask yourself is how much time, money, and energy will this cost?  The same question applies to serving on a nonprofit board.  Make sure you have a good idea of the costs of serving before you say yes.

          How much time?  How often does the board meet (monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, etc.) and how long are the meetings?  Are the meetings during the workday, after hours or on the weekend?  Will you have to serve on one or more committees?  If so, how often do the committees meet?  How much time does the average board member spend reviewing reports or documents between meetings?  Do the nonprofit have non-board activities you are expected to help with or attend?  You want to make sure there is a good balance between the board’s time needs and your availability.

          How much money?  Will you be required to make an annual financial donation?  If so, is there a required minimum donation?  Can you afford it?  Will you have to buy tickets to anything (an annual gala, conferences, concerts, shows or games, etc.)? Are there other expenses?  Do you have to contribute to a soup kitchen, food drive, shelter supply closet, or team uniforms?

          I served on a board once that served a lite meal at each board meeting.  The committees took turns providing the food.  I shared in the cost of the food if it was my committee’s turn.  Bottom line - try to get a realistic idea of the costs of serving on the board you are thinking of joining.  I have seen good people forced to resign from a board due to the financial burden.

          How much energy?  This is the hardest one of all!  Most people don’t think about energy cost.  Have you heard the saying, “A meeting of the minds but the minds didn’t show.”  Well each of us has a finite amount of mental energy to spend each day.  Board service requires a lot of mental energy!  It’s important to show up to meetings with a clear, well-rested mind.  A nonprofit board needs people to do more than show up and keep the chair warm.  It’s ok to say no to board service if you have a crazy or stressful life.  You can always serve later when things are under control.

          Why did I write this?  I love nonprofit board service!  I would recommend it to anyone looking to learn, grow, serve or make a difference.  However, I have seen people join boards and it not work out.  In every case, the relationship failed due to a misunderstanding of time, money or energy commitments.  I don’t want it to happen to you.

Thanks for reading Nonprofit Board Talk!  Follow on Twitter @NPBoardTalk

Brent Jackson