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So far Wishnick has created 29 entries.

The Goldilocks Approach to Meeting Minutes

Why Minutes Are Worth Doing Well

The first time I was chair of a nonprofit board, I realized how important the role of the secretary was, as well as the value of good minutes. As board chair, it was necessary – crucial – to be in the moment, fully engaged with what was happening during the board meeting. The minutes were essential to being able to do that and know what had transpired. Because that board, that year, had the good fortune of having a smart and highly capable secretary who took the job seriously, the minutes were thorough and balanced. Reading them after a meeting allowed me re-live the board meeting and reflect on it. I was able to keep track of actions taken and follow-up work I needed to do or prompt others to do. The minutes pointed out the essential activities of the organization and what the board was doing. The information I gleaned from each month’s minutes became my to-do list and work plan. The minutes focused me by highlighting the things that may have escaped me as I stayed attuned to being in the moment at the meeting.

Onboarding a New Nonprofit CEO – Tools and Activities

You have just hired a new senior executive. Congratulations! Now what?

When the search activities conclude, the transition continues and a well-planned onboarding process is critical. In the best scenario, a transition task force (which might be the search committee) will have contact with the new executive in the period from offer acceptance to first day on the job. Having a plan for this “in-between” time will make onboarding go more smoothly. It will also permit the transition task force to discuss onboarding with the new executive to learn what she/he would like included.

Onboarding a new nonprofit executive may seem daunting. Depending on the size and complexity of an organization, it may be. A nonprofit organization should always have a plan for orienting new staff. For a senior position, it would likely need to be enhanced to match the magnitude of the role. Thinking through the high-level expectations for the new executive leads to a sharp focus on the goals for onboarding and thus, the related tools and activities that are part of it.

Onboarding a New Nonprofit CEO

Welcome to Your (New) World!

It’s 7:00 p.m. on Saturday night. The doorbell rings. You open the door and greet your dinner guests. You say, “So glad to see you! The coat closet is over there (pointing). Make yourselves at home. Just go in the kitchen, I think there’s some wine and some food. You’re smart, I know you’ll figure it out and cook up something. I’m going to run upstairs and take a shower. Back soon.”

It’s difficult to imagine inviting guests over with such little forethought. What would Miss Manners say about this inhospitable “hello”?

Why Aren’t You Talking to Each Other?

Nonprofit chief executives and their board members do not simply wake up one morning with the following revelations:

  • The demographics of the area they serve have changed;
  • Funding for a signature program is at risk; or
  • High staff turnover is a dangerous threat to service delivery.

Yet, nonprofit leaders confront these realities often. When I read a story or hear about a nonprofit in extremis, I wonder if the leadership has been asleep at the wheel. Did no one see the signs? Why did they not point these things out to each other? What were they (or were they not) talking about at board meetings?

Executive Transition: How to Determine Who Your Next Leader Should Be

As the adage goes, the only constant in life is change. When a transition occurs at the top of any organization, it needs to be managed with good judgment and planning for the future success of the organization and all its stakeholders. In a nonprofit, it is the board’s role to handle this process.

Why Conduct a Needs Assessment?

Indeed, the stakes are high for a nonprofit board of directors charged with the responsibility of managing an executive leadership transition. Among the many questions that loom are:

  • What is the scope of the chief executive’s job?
  • What are the necessary skills the next chief executive must possess in order to lead the organization to its next level?
  • What are the personal qualities the next executive must possess in order to be a culture and values fit with the organization and a leader for the staff?
  • How do we prepare for a smooth transition for the new executive?
  • How do we lay the groundwork for staff support for the new chief executive?

Why Job Descriptions Are the Keystone of Your Volunteer Program

Volunteers are strategic assets for nonprofits. Some of my clients rely greatly on volunteers to fulfill their missions. In addition to board members and committee members, there are event organizers, fundraisers, service providers, tutors and mentors, crisis/helpline responders, people who shelve books or who staff the waiting rooms of a hospital to let you know your loved one is out of surgery. The list goes on.

To treat your volunteers with the respect they deserve, first think strategically about the different roles they play within your organization. Next, create proper job descriptions.

New Year Surprises: Are You Ready to Manage Staff Transitions?

A new year often inspires life changes, big or small. Among these are the decision to pursue a new job or career. Because employees at all levels contribute to the fulfillment of your mission, nonprofit leaders need to be tuned into staffing transitions throughout the organization. How a nonprofit executive copes with staff transitions both draws from and contributes to the organizational culture. If handled well, a staff transition can boost an organization’s well-being and capacity, but if handled poorly, morale and service continuity can suffer.

Resolve: The Will to Lead

It was not necessarily my intention to mine any further the situation put forth in my August 2016 blog post, Executive Transition: Cautionary Tale #1 – Settling for Less. I had a completely different topic in mind for the December blog post. However, it turns out that the last lines of the August post are haunting me now.

Thanksgiving Edition: Sharing the Bounty

At this time of year, I’m especially grateful to my clients, colleagues, and friends for the privilege of working and growing together. I’d like to share a few things that I’ve learned along the way – from you!

One of the great things about working with nonprofit leaders is the opportunity to learn new practices that are working for their organizations. These learnings are worth sharing with others across the nonprofit sector. Yet when nonprofit leaders gather with colleagues, it is usually with others in their field. It is not necessarily routine, for example, for a leader of a social service agency to meet with one from an arts organization. In my work with nonprofits of all kinds – arts, education, human services, community development, housing, and foundations – I often find myself as a conduit for this cross-pollination.

Capacity Building Readiness Assessments – A Meaningful Diagnostic

Recently, I attended a condominium board meeting to find out what was going on in our building. The condominium board had hired a consulting firm to assess the common areas in the building to identify ways to maximize space. One of the initial findings was that the bicycle room was not efficiently organized. With some minor changes the bikes could be stored in a smaller footprint, thus freeing up additional storage space in the room, perhaps for stroller storage. And this was only the beginning of new possibilities!

Over the years, I have conducted many assessments for nonprofit organizations. In every instance, the findings have been, in one way or another, revealing. This post discusses the value of capacity building readiness assessments.