Are You Providing Your Board with Mission Moments?

During the 2015 Young Nonprofit Professionals Network National Conference in Little Rock, there were a few great presentations focused around getting the most out of your board, which particularly highlighted intentional relationship management as the core of nonprofit board work.

One point that stood out to me during these sessions was how some boards create “mission moments” — opportunities for their members to reconnect with the mission and critical work of their organizations.

A few examples of ways to do this are:

  • a performing arts organization that holds one of its meetings each year on the stage;
  • inviting beneficiaries of the work to share their stories with the board during a meeting; and
  • having a board member share why he/she is committed to this work.

I believe that mission moments can be a great way to deepen commitment and provide insight. We’ve certainly had some success with this in my current organization and I hope to do more of it as our board grows.

Have you used mission moments with your board? Please share any experiences in the comments.

Who’s Minding Your Board Culture?

After two years on the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network National Board, one (of many) things that I have learned is the importance of paying consistent attention to a board’s culture.

A few ways that we have intentionally focused on our board culture are:

  • highlighting one specific element of our culture during each monthly meeting
  • making cultural fit a key element of our annual board recruitment efforts
  • creating opportunities for members to socialize outside of our formal in-person meetings

This calendar year, we have been setting aside a few minutes in each regular meeting to highlight one element of our culture that has contributed to our cohesion and long-term success. This simple act has helped reinforce what is important to our newest board members and ensure a smooth transition for them onto the board, while also reminding longer-tenured board members of their commitment.

Leading up to and during our annual board recruitment process, we are very clear about the importance of adding new members who will complement the board’s culture, while also bringing the expertise and perspectives that we need to advance YNPN’s mission.

However, I feel that the most important element of our culture has been the time spent together informally, which has allowed us to engage on a much more personal level and to act more effectively when working together as a board.

These elements of the YNPN National Board’s culture are the result of the thoughtful work of our Board Development Committee, which has primary responsibility for maintaining a productive culture, recruiting and onboarding new members, transitioning members off of the board, and much more.

Does your board have a Board Development or Governance Committee? If so, is it engaged in supporting a positive board culture? If not, how have you encouraged this among your board in other ways?

Quick Tip: Telling Your Nonprofit’s Story in the 990 Report


Last week, Association of Fundraising Professionals International CEO Andrew Watt participated in the New York City Chapter’s Annual Membership Meeting and had a lot of great things to say.  One of the smart and particularly easy ideas that he suggested was to ensure that the organizational description in your annual 990 report really tells your story, as many individual, corporate and foundation prospects & donors access these documents to learn a bit more about your group.

Commonly, since the organization’s Finance Office compiles the 990 report, the Development staff is not included in drafting the narrative text.  Even though my colleagues and I do assist our Finance Office with the 990 preparation, I am giving this section a special look in our most recent report and will have some edits to suggest going forward.

Do you and/or your colleagues collaborate with your Finance Office on the preparation of your organization’s 990?  Have you reviewed the organizational narrative?


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Are you retaining your (fundraising) staff?

This recent post on the 101fundraising crowdblog got me thinking about conversations I have had since starting my current position.  In most conversations about the particularly high turnover among fundraising staff, the focus is on the plentiful opportunities in the field, the tendency among many to leapfrog from one organization to another in one to two years and the innate pressures of having to raise money (especially in an economy like this one).  It is especially important that non-profit organizations focus on retaining their development staff members, as the role of institutional memory is critical to the long-term maintenance of donor relationships.  However, one point that rarely comes up is the responsibility that each non-profit has to retain its staff.  As I have been very pleased to gush to anyone who will listen, I-House has particularly impressed me with how staff appreciation is ingrained into the organizational culture (especially in comparison to where I have worked in the past).

A few I-House examples that other organizations could consider replicating:

-Mid-year and annual performance reviews
-A staff development line in each departmental budget to support professional development activities
-Quarterly stipends for perfect attendance
-Grocery store gift cards for the winter holidays
-Recognition of milestone staff anniversaries (people are known to work here for many years — my boss just hit the 25-year mark)
-The Dining Room (a special one for my fellow foodies out there or those who just don’t want to leave the building everyday to get lunch)

Of course, I understand that many non-profits cannot implement all of these initiatives easily or quickly, but I want to get professionals in our sector thinking about ways to be more intentional about staff retention.

Non-profit organizations should not feel like all staff appreciation activities are high-cost or that a simple “thank you for your hard work” cuts it all the time.  Young non-profit professionals like myself especially thrive on regular feedback and will work ourselves silly for our cause (as will most other non-profit professionals); regular acknowledgment and sincere appreciation help “grease the tracks” and keep staff members going when multiple projects are due or a big event is coming up.  While this is a decent start, I hope that you will encourage our organizations to become more intentional about staff retention.

How is your organization explicitly or implicitly encouraging you to stay there?  Did a former employer do anything that encouraged you to stay longer or to leave sooner?

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