Issue 33: December 2016

A nonprofit in trouble -- Goodwill of Omaha -- provides a wake up call for all nonprofit boards. Readers are urged to apply the "front page test" when making decisions. This month we close out the 4-part series on recommended governance practices with an article on compliance practices. National trends in committee structures helps readers evaluate their board's work groups. The Question of the Month is "Who owns a nonprofit?"

Issue 32: November 2016

This month we wrap up the 4-part series on board meetings with an article "After the Board Meeting." And the third article in a 4-part series on recommended governance practices encourages readers to see how their board measures up. The Question of the Month is "What should we do when board members have served the maxium number of terms?"

Issue 31: October 2016

"Lunch and Learn" as a board education method; how to keep board meetings interesting and board members engaged; eight Leading Practices for outstanding boards; and how to manage unsolicited "great ideas" are articles in this month's newsletter. The Question of the Month is "Should we have an advisory board?"

Issue 30: August 2016

Eight Essential Governance Practices leads off this month's newsletter. An article on types of committees and a checklist for board meeting preparation are included. The Question of the Month is "What policies should our board have?"

Isssue 29: July 2016

Featured is an article referencing board portals and other tools for managing board business along with a set of questions to ask when considering the adoption of tools. An article titled "Culture eats strategy for breakfast" explains the role of board culture in board effectiveness. Other articles include a checklist for agendas and resources for executive transitions and succession planning. The Question of the Month is "When should you resign from the board?"

Issue 28: June 2016

Readers are asked to share their experience with using the Internet to manage board business - to be reported in next month's newsletter. Other articles include one on nonprofit  jargon, 10 great questions to ask again and again, background checks for board members, and the need for boards to concern themselves with the organization's sustainability. The Question of the Month is "What topics have been covered in the Question of the Month column?"

Issue 27: April 2016

Taking up where last month's newsletter ended, this issue highlights techniques for reducing or eliminating groupthink and trips to Abilene. Included are tips for developing a "speak up" culture, things that leaders can do to promote independent thinking, and tools that undermine groupthink. The Question of the Month is "Why do we need directors and officers (D&O) liability insurance?"

Issue 26: March 2016

This issue explains two board dysfunctions and how you can recognize them: Group-think and The Abilene Paradox. The April issue will include articles about how to avoid them. The Question of the Month is "Can board members be held personally liable for financial mis-steps of their nonprofit?"

Issue 25: February 2016

Two valuable free resources are featured in this issue: a Nonprofit Quarterly webinar on dashboards and a BoardSource Diversity Toolkit. Other articles include predictions for 2016 and online giving trends. The Question of the Month is "We have a couple of board members who miss a lot of  meetings. What should we do?

Issue 24: January 2016

A recent experience with a board's executive session inspired this issue's focus. This special type of board meeting is often misunderstood and sometimes mis-used. Links to resources for further information are provided. There is also a link to BoardSource's free "Board Action Calendar." The Question of the Month is "Our board does not have term limits. Should we?"

Issue 23: November 2015

Topics in this issue include gift acceptance policies, Robert's Rules vs. consensus decision-making, tips for more productive conference calls, and questions that prospective board members might ask. The Question of the Month is "Does the chair vote?"

Issue 22: September 2015

We conclude the series on strategic planning with articles on how a good strategic plan can transform an organization and five reasons why strategic planning is not a do-it-yourself project. Other articles include the difference among "approve," "adopt," and "accept" for committee reports; how agreement hinders effective decision-making; and the connection between donors and volunteers. The Question of the Month is "What is an executive session?"

Issue 21: August 2015

This month, readers will find information on mission statements, when NOT to engage in strategic planning, free profile space on GuideStar, and an in-depth look at conflict of interest. The Question of the Month is "Meeting after meeting, our board barely meets our quorum requirement (50%). We never have full attendance. What can we do?"

Issue 20: July 2015

With this issue, we begin a series on strategic planning. A majority of nonprofits have a strategic plan, but a majority fall short when it comes to implementation. This newsletter highlights the stumbling blocks to implementation and suggests ways to avoid them. The Question of the Month is "How many years should the strategic plan cover?"

Issue 19: June 2015

This issue concludes the series on responsibilites of nonprofit boards. The feature article explains the board's responsibility for providing oversight. Also included in this issue is a link to an article about board practices to avoid and a link to resrouces for creating dashboards. The Question of the Month column indexes the 17 questions posesd in previous issues.

Issue 18: April 2015

Building a competent board and conducting board assessment is the emphasis in this month's issue. The Question of the Month is "When motions are made, should the number of people voting be recorded in the minutes?" 

Issue 17: March 2015

This issue focuses on the board's responsibilities for relating to the chief executive: select, support, and evaluate. Several links to resources are provided. News items include information about the nonprofit sector's robust growth and a projected hiring spree. The Question of the Month is What does ex officio mean? What about voting?

Issue 16: February 2015

Enhancing the organization's public standing is the focus of this month's newsletter. A link to BoardSource's Stand for Your Mission campaign is provided along with a guide to the IRS lobbying regulations. The Question of the Month is "What is a quorum?"

Issue 15: January 2015

This issue addresses the board's responsibility to ensure adequate resources. Tips for improving fundraising performance are included. There is an article on the benefits of annual retreats and suggestions for retreat planning. The Question of the Month is "What should you do if you don't agree with the board's decision?"

Issue 14: December 2014

The board's responsibility to ensure effective planning is the focus of this issue. Articles discuss the benefits of strategic planning, its cyclic nature, tips for keeping the plan alive, and prompts to encourage strategic thinking. Links to two thought-provoking items are included: a TED talk on creating a great board and an article on treatment of past board members. The Question of the Month is "What's the difference between an advisory board and a board of directors?"

Issue 13: November 2014

This issue is the first in a series on the responsiblities of nonprofit boards. It focuses on the board's responsiblity to determine the organization's mission. There is also a link to the new BoardSource survey of nonprofit board chairs and executive directors, Leading with Intent, and the second part of the interview with a community foundation leader. The Question of the Month is "Can a nonproft have someone who is not a board member on a board committee?"

Issue 12: October 2014

Happy First Birthday to Boardroom Bearings! This issue links readers to a powerful, visual tool to help boards really understand the impact of various programs and make solid decisions. There is also a link to a free Board Action Calendar, and part one of an interview with a community foundation leader. The Question of the Month is "Can staff take over the board secretary's role?"

Issue 11: September 2014

Back-to-school month calls for a focus on BOARD EDUCATION. Continuous attention to board learning is a defining characteristic of high-performing boards - let yours be one of them. A Stanford Social Innovation Review webinar on Making Mission Matter" is summarized: the seven key characterisitics of nonprofit mission statements. The Question of the Month is "What is the board's responsibility to improve itself?"

Issue 10: August 2014

Planning for CEO succession is a board responsibility that must not be left until the last minute. Face the inevitable and begin planning now. Managing the CEO can be considered THE #1 responsibility of a nonprofit board. The Question of the Month is "When our (well-like) executive director retires or steps down, is it OK to offer him/her a seat on the board?"

Issue 9: July 2014

Remember to CELEBRATE board achievements throughout the year to infuse energy into the board and increase individual commitment. Other articles this month include two links to insightful and quirky articles plus a tip for enlivening board meetings. The Question of the Month is "Should you expect a board member to donate his/her professional services to the organization?"

Issue 8: June 2014

Avoid the doldrums: ROTATE board member assignments to keep things interesting and use term limits to make space for new people. This issue also includes the second part of an interview with Mike Hennessy, President and CEO of the United Way of Will County IL, an infographic on nonprofit salaries and benefits, and a summary of an SSIR webinar on effective governance. The Question of the Month is "Should senior staff attend board meetings?"

Issue 7: April 2014

Board EVALUATION is an aspect of board development that most organizations seem to avoid yet it is one that characterizes high-performing boards. Evaluation includes assessing the board as a whole as well as individual board members. Read this issue for helpful information. Other articles this month include an item on the nonprofit sector employment picture; an update on GuideStar's addition of governance practices to its Exchange profile; and part one of an interview with Mike Hennessy, President and CEO of the United Way of Will County. The Question of the Month is "Should staff serve on the board?"

Issue 6: March 2014

The spotlight is on EDUCATION this month. Board service shouldn't be BORING! A strong program of board education beats the blahs of board service. Other stories include using Linked In to find potential board members and reference to an article on planning for leadership emergencies. The Question of the Month is "How can we improve board meetings?"

Issue 5: February 2014

ENGAGEMENT is the core topic in this issue. Getting and keeping board members engaged with the work of the organization maximizes the investment made to identify, cultivate, recruit, and orient them. Other stories include tips on getting a great board chair and a new charity rating site. The Question of the Month is "What is conflict of interest?" 

Issue 4: January 2014

New board member ORIENTATION is something high performing boards do and do well. Two useful orientation resources are provided in this issue. Additional articles include an explanation of the difference between nominating committee and governance committee and nonprofit trends and predictions for 2014. The Question of the Month is "How big should the board be?"

Issue 3: December 2013

RECRUITING board members is the focus in this issue. Additional articles include links to a new infographic on the power and scope of the nonprofit sector and one to "The Great Debate: Is Fundraising a Board Responsibility?" The Question of the Month is, "What is a consent agenda?"

Issue 2: November 2013

In this issue, the CULTIVATE step of the board building cycle is addressed. Additonal articles are on board training and whistleblower policies. The Question of the Month: "Is it ok for couples or others who share a close personal relationship to serve on your board at the same time?"

Issue 1: October 2013

In this first issue of Boardroom Bearings we introduce the idea that developing a strong and vibrant board is an ongoing process that forms a circle -- a circle that can be entered from where you are at any time of the year. Two main topics are covered:

1) the IDENTIFY step of the board building cycle in which a board profile is developed so that finding new board members is an intentional process that seeks to fill specific needs, and

2) research that shows how diversity leads to innovation and is a competitive advantage in any organization's operating environment.