Rejuvenating Boards

December 2015

Board and Staff Leadership

Some call it writer’s block. Others –laziness! For whatever reason,
I had stopped writing my monthly newsletter. People have been asking me if I had taken them off the mailing list. They missed my monthly insights into how to make their agency better. Well, I am still doing quite well with my consulting practice. I have several clients: one is involved with autism, another fostering Muslim-Jewish relations, a third working with gangs, and one providing arts education for “invisible kids” in foster homes. All of my clients are doing well. Then I met two people who helped me realize that what I was writing was so important in helping many nonprofits retool and build their capacity, and will help me rebuild my web page and post my blogs.

I always used my consulting experiences to come up with the issues I address in my blogs. I constantly face issues of C.E.O.s unable to get their Board of Directors to follow-up on what they promised to do. How can they motivate their Board members? I go to their Board meetings and committees and find that the Boards don’t really own the decisions they make. They make the decisions, and expect their overworked staff to make it happen. That’s not what execs need. When Board’s decide something needs to get done, they own that decision, and can’t dump it on staff. They are responsible to make it happen.

Then there is the perpetual problem of raising money. I have been very successful in helping my clients, even at the depths of the recession, to raise more. People are generous; they just aren’t motivated to give by those why need their help. Fundraising has to viewed at in a whole new way. We must get into sustainable annual giving.

So many Founding Directors quickly find they can’t carry on alone, but they have not built their Board. They were so busy providing services that they forgot to build an infrastructure to help sustain the agency. By the time they turn for help, they’re exhausted and don’t have the resources to continue. My job is to rejuvenate them and to help them build the Board they need.

Sometimes I think it’s the intangibles that may be even more important than the coaching advice. I come in with a “can-do” attitude. I focus on the agency’s successes, and often re-frame these in a way that rejuvenates their enthusiasm and energy. I see positive developments, new grants or partners, often having little to do with what I advised, but more to do with their renewed energy and excitement. Sometimes being a cheer-leader is as important than being a coach.

These are just some of the issues I deal with almost all my clients. I will begin again addressing these issues in my blogs. I have a brand new web site, lots of ideas I want to share with you, so let’s start again. Our first focus will be fund-raising, the realities and myths.
Please look at my new web-site,, for dozens of articles on Board and staff leadership, fund-raising and strategic planning.

Happy Holiday season.

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