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While board and staff balance is critical to sustainability, assessing this relationship is difficult. However, resources do exist. First, and most important, is the existence of a committee dedicated to increasing the board’s capacity. Such a committee – usually called the board development committee or governance committee – typically generates a job description for board members. The committee’s responsibility is to ensure that the right people are identified and recruited to be on the board.

The board development committee should orient new board members to the organization, recommend periodic training on effective nonprofit governance, and ensure that all members are engaged at appropriate levels. The committee should also spearhead an annual board assessment to determine if the board is, in fact, committed to ongoing improvement.

The ultimate value of a board development committee is to get the right people in the room and encourage and facilitate the balance between board and staff. Assessing this committee’s processes and its effectiveness may help to determine if that balance is real and sustainable.

What tools do you use to measure your board and staff balance?


Dennis McMillian is President of The Foraker Group, a capacity building organization based in Alaska, and the author of Focus on Sustainability: A Nonprofit’s Journey.

Posted in Training.    

We have a full schedule of classes and webinars in November. Visit our class calendar to see what is available and then register for a class that will fit your needs.

GoToMeeting teleconferences and video conferences must be paid in advance of the class. If we don't have at least seven people registered for a class three working days before it's to be held, we have to cancel it.

If you have questions, you may contact us by email,, or by phone at (907) 743-1200.

There are many resources about the roles and responsibilities of board chairs. In a study published in 2007, The Best and Worst of Board Chairs, researchers Yvonne Harrison and Vic Murray found that “trustworthiness, intelligence and good listening skills are the highest-rated qualities for board chairs, while being dictatorial, critical and motivated by self-interest are the lowest-rated qualities.”

Harrison and Murray concluded that the best way to ensure effective board leadership is to develop a thorough job description, establish a clear system of succession to the chair, and conduct annual evaluations.

Another study sponsored by CompassPoint Nonprofit Services and the Meyer Foundation called Daring to Lead 2011: A National Study of Nonprofit Executive Leadership found that only 20 percent of the three thousand nonprofit executives surveyed were satisfied with their board’s performance. That statistic is not a surprise. Similar results were noted in earlier Daring to Lead studies.

The lesson is clear. A positive relationship between the board and its CEO that includes adequate time devoted by both the executive and the board is not an accident. Focusing on this relationship must be at the top of the list for organizational leaders.

Give us some examples of your relationship with your board.  


Dennis McMillian is President of The Foraker Group, a capacity building organization based in Alaska, and the author of Focus on Sustainability: A Nonprofit’s Journey.  

Do you want some tips for promoting your involvement with Pick.Click.Give.? The following classes cover a range of promotional activities. Sign up now for any or all the sessions. They're free -- but you do need to register. If you have questions, call PCG Program Manager Heather Beaty at 907-249-6616 or email her at

To register, just click on the title of the class that interests you. 

"How Does Pick.Click.Give. Work?" – Wednesday, Oct. 30, 11:00 am

Is your nonprofit new to Pick.Click.Give.? Or are you new to your position as the lead on Pick.Click.Give. for your organization? This webinar will cover the basics of how Pick.Click.Give. works and what you can be doing now to make the most of this opportunity.

Presented by: Heather Beaty, Pick.Click.Give.

“Sharing Your Pick.Click.Give. Story through Video” – Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2:00 pm

Using video to tell your story is easier than it’s ever been. Learn how to expertly craft a video – one with impact and vision. The class will focus on the work that you do before you break out the camera and on the tools and techniques you can use to produce your video.

Presented by: Travis Gilmour, Alaska Public Media

“Launching the 2014 Campaign Theme” – Thursday, Nov. 21, 11:00 am

Each year Pick.Click.Give. produces media promotions to highlight the campaign and encourage people to get involved. Learn about the theme for this year and how you can apply it to your promotion.

Presented by: Jelly Helm, Studio Jelly

“Where Does Public Relations Fit into Your Pick.Click.Give. Strategies?” – Wednesday, Dec. 4, 1:30 pm

Learn about “integrated” public relations, which includes your media, community outreach, and presentations. These tools are often overlooked, but can reap great rewards at a low cost.

Presented by: Ingrid Klinkhart, MSI Communications

“Is Your Social Media Ready to Go?” – Monday, Dec. 9, 11:00 am

Pick up some tips and ask questions about best uses of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and all the others to tell your Pick.Click.Give story. Whether you are a regular user of social media, or just getting started, this session will have something for you.

Presented by: Aliza Sherman, MediaEgg

“Bringing Your Board, Staff, and Volunteers into Pick.Click.Give” – Tuesday, Jan. 7, 3:00 pm

Human resources are just as important as the financial ones when it comes to promoting your involvement in PCG. Learn how to make best use of the people who care about your mission and want to spread the word for you.

Presented by: Laurie Wolf, The Foraker Group

We appreciate the people who contributed to Foraker through Pick.Click.Give. this year. Thank you for your support of our work to strengthen Alaska nonprofits.

We are pleased that PCG continues to grow each year. This year Alaskans gave 42,000 gifts totaling more than $2.4 million. This is an excellent way to develop a culture of philanthropy in our state. Thanks to everyone who gave. 

Foraker PCG donors are listed on our Vision Circle Partners webpage.

Why are nonprofit CEOs resigning in record numbers? In their research for Leadership Lost: A Study on Executive Director Tenure and Experience, Timothy Wolfred and Jan Masaoka concluded that board dysfunction or lack of board support are either the “first or second reason” why CEOs are leaving organizations. They contend that four key issues may be at the root of this conflict between boards and their CEOs.

  • The organization’s mission
  • The organization’s values
  • Agreement on how success should be measured
  • Agreement on who should do what – the board or the staff

Agreement on these points goes a long way toward developing a harmonious and productive relationship. A sustainable organization will have a competent CEO, along with a skilled board that actively complements, challenges, and supports the CEO. The board should not micromanage, but it also should not accept verbal assurances from the CEO without backup. It must have adequate meetings, for both the full board and its committees, to ensure that everyone’s responsibilities are fulfilled.

Besides having a capable leader in the CEO position, balance with the board can only be maintained with a competent board chair. Many chairs move into their role because no one else wants the position. That’s hardly a strong endorsement for an organization’s volunteer leader. Board chairs need many of the same qualities as the CEO – vision, commitment, innovative thinking, and problem-solving ability. Most important, the chair needs to be focused on the success of the organization in the same way as the CEO.


Dennis McMillian is President of The Foraker Group, a nonprofit capacity building organization based in Alaska, and the author of Focus on Sustainability: A Nonprofit’s Journey.

We've been pleased with the number of people who find Focus on Sustainability: A Nonprofit's Journey helpful for their organizations. Recently, Patty Ginsburg shared her thoughts on the book on the Rasmuson blog. You can read her review here.

If you want to order a copy, you will find it on We welcome any comments you want to share with us.

Posted in Pick Click Give.    

Pick.Click.Give. is shooting a video in Anchorage next week featuring real Alaskans. By real, we mean we are not using actors. The only qualifications are that you must love Alaska and be available to talk briefly about that in Anchorage (location TBD) on 10/25, 10/26, or 10/27.

If you're willing to be part of this project, please email a picture (one from your phone will do) and the dates you are available to:

Thanks so much for considering this request. Please feel free to forward this casting call to any Alaskans you think may be interested and available.

If you have questions, contact Heather Beaty, Pick.Click.Give. Program Manager, 907-249-6616.

What makes a strong nonprofit leader? Good leaders possess many characteristics. A willingness and ability to share power is essential. Too often boards mistake strong, charismatic leaders for competent CEOs. While a CEO may be knowledgeable about the organization, proficient in financial management, a good manager, and a good community leader, that person must also be able to work as a partner with the board and successfully share power to truly be a successful nonprofit leader.

Often, boards will acquiesce to a dominate CEO and assume all is well because this strong leaders says so. This is a major mistake, as the United Way of America learned in the early 1990s.

Bill Aramony, the organization’s former CEO had at one time been a significant nonprofit leader. He built coalitions. He solved problems. He had a vision that helped the sector become more professional. At United Way he attracted a very strong and influential board. Yet the board was not disciplined in managing its relationship with its CEO and when Aramony had an ethical lapse, the situation jeopardized funding for many thousands of worthy organizations around the country.

Even though the board members and the CEO were proven leaders, all failed in their responsibilities to the organization and the sector. The impact of an inadequate partnership between board and staff was profound and it took many years for the United Way of America to regain the trust that had been sorely damaged by this unfortunate incident.

Do you have any examples of a strong CEO and board that have failed in their responsibilities to a nonprofit? Or on the other hand, an organization that has a strong CEO and board that has been successful? 


Dennis McMillian is President of The Foraker Group, a nonprofit capacity building organization based in Alaska, and the author of Focus on Sustainability: A Nonprofit’s Journey.

While most nonprofits are founded by volunteers and can be maintained by volunteers for years, I’ve concluded that eventually, if a nonprofit is to survive the transition away from its founder, the board must hire staff to maintain momentum. The first staff to be hired is typically the CEO, and it is the only staff person the board hires.

At The Foraker Group we have witnessed many situations where organizations that have been in business for decades fall apart. One of the common characteristics is the departure of the founder with no professional staff to continue momentum. The founder’s zeal may have masked the nonprofit’s capacity.

When determining if an organization’s staff consists of the right people, this question must be asked: Is the organization being supported because of its mission or its leader? If it’s just the leader, what’s going to happen when that person is gone? What work is being done behind the scenes to continue beyond the leader’s charismatic personality? When a nonprofit has a mission that meets a critical community need, then its leaders must ensure that it lasts past their tenure.

Even the most enthusiastic group of volunteers is challenged to keep an organization healthy over time. Boards have natural attrition, and board members can suffer burnout trying to take care of all the details necessary to run an organization. Staffing is not the secret to avoiding board burnout, but a good staff allows the board to focus on governance, which is their work, without getting mired in daily operations.

Without staff, continuity and consistency are lost. A staff maintains the institutional knowledge and structure of the organization. An organization without a staff most likely has no permanent office. Important documents may drift from one board member to another – getting lost along the way.

When an organization hires professional staff, the challenge then comes in developing and maintaining a balanced partnership between what the staff and board do. There must be clear boundaries. Although this isn’t easy and can take time and practice to accomplish, it is well worth the effort.


Dennis McMillian is President of The Foraker Group, a nonprofit capacity building organization based in Alaska, and the author of Focus on Sustainability: A Nonprofit’s Journey.

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