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Category Archives: President’s letter

Nov 12, 2023
Posted Under: Governance President's letter

Plenty has been written about the importance of finding “the right” communication channels between the whole board and CEO/Executive Director and the board itself. Often, we think of a few paths for this communication: Executive or board evaluation Board meetings Scheduled check-ins between the executive and the board Regular written updates Recently, I wrote an article on executive evaluation, and I encourage you to revisit it if you and your team are struggling in this space. We also have several articles on board meetings that speak to many aspects of the meeting structure, including the role of staff. Two quick points to consider that could maximize communication in the boardroom are: Recognizing that it is a board meeting, not a staff meeting. If you are the executive, ask yourself how… Read more »

Oct 10, 2023
Posted Under: Governance President's letter

We regularly receive calls requesting us to teach parliamentary procedure – often referred to as Robert’s Rules of Order – and regularly we decline. We are not intentionally being obstinate, but there is something about teaching it that feels off for us – like we are not telling the whole story. We believe that focusing too much on the Rules takes away from important aspects of what makes for an effective meeting. Sometimes I remind groups that using Robert’s Rules is a “self-inflicted choice” so they know they can pivot if Robert becomes a burden and not an opportunity for structure. Some nonprofits have noted the use of Robert’s Rules in their bylaws, but most have not. It is simply a way of running a meeting that has “always been… Read more »

Sep 12, 2023
Posted Under: Governance President's letter

Decades into recommending a board matrix to focus on recruiting “the right people at the right time to serve mission” (as we say in the Foraker Nonprofit Sustainability Model), it dawned on me several years ago that when the data on board diversity still had not shifted, perhaps one of the problems is that the tool many groups are using to actually diversify the board is broken. Turns out, the tool itself may be fine, but if the users (you and me) are not implementing it with clear intentions, it will inevitably maintain the status quo in the boardroom. To be fair, that may be exactly what you are after, but again, many groups actually turn to the matrix to purposefully engage diverse individuals in the room based not just… Read more »

Aug 9, 2023
Posted Under: Governance Management President's letter

Our collective workforce woes are real, and we are all searching for what we can do to attract and retain a great workforce. Some of the obvious tools for compensation are outside our reach at the moment, but we do have tools in house right now that we can use to engage and understand our workforce more fully. One of those is meaningful evaluation. There is an art and a science to getting helpful feedback, and if you are the executive director or CEO, you likely know better than most how difficult evaluations are to come by, and meaningful ones are a bit like unicorns. That said, it is not just appropriate to expect some form of helpful feedback, but if you are the executive, it is part of the… Read more »

Jul 10, 2023
Posted Under: President's letter

When you imagine a healthy nonprofit workforce, what attributes are on your list? To me, there is no such thing as perfect, so I hope my top six attributes lean to the healthiest end of the continuum as possible. They apply to any nonprofit regardless of type, budget size, staff composition, location, or mission and include: Fully staffed. Not in the way that barely gets us by, but in a way that truly honors how the work best gets done. By the way, in my 30+ years in the sector, I have rarely seen this – especially when it comes to the administrative functions of our work, which are often the lowest paid and most understaffed even though they make the work – well, work. Livable wage, retirement option, and… Read more »

Jun 2, 2023
Posted Under: Advocacy President's letter       Tags: Alaska Board Match, volunteerism

At Foraker, we often talk about nonprofit sector data as BAD or best available data. Unfortunately, most data aren’t even BAD, but instead are anecdotal based on a small survey or a narrow, unrepresentative sample. Even worse, it is data that grabs you with a “click bait” title and results in trying to sell our sector something. I crave representative data and find myself skipping to the end of every report to see how the data was collected and if Alaska was even included in “national research.” Sadly, it often is not. For these reasons, we are committed to working with Partners to gather the very best data we can from a variety of trusted sources to produce Alaska’s Nonprofit Sector: Generating Economic Impact. It is a big lift, so… Read more »

Apr 10, 2023
Posted Under: Leadership Summit President's letter

A new season is upon us. April brings us many variations of religious holidays – Ramadan, Easter, Passover – reminders of new beginnings and a time to reimagine what is next for ourselves and our communities. I have been doing my own reflection as we work to prepare for the upcoming Leadership Summit happening virtually May 4 and in person May 11 & 12. Our Leadership Summits aren’t ordinary conferences where a group of experts stands at the front of the room to tell you what you should know. Instead, you are at the center of the space – holding and owning, thinking and talking, and reimagining together, from the thoughts being shared, what might come next. The genesis of this year’s Summit is actually found in a newsletter article… Read more »

Mar 10, 2023
Posted Under: President's letter

Relationship reckoning – reorientation – reassessment. These words don’t just reflect trends coming out of the pandemic but also reflect behavior we see every day in our board rooms, staff rooms, volunteer pools, and maybe even in our personal relationships. We are indeed in a state of flux in our connections to one another and in the ways we choose to spend our time. I say this not as an outsider to it all but as a person who is both living it and seeing it across the sector. In my lifetime, the only point of mild comparison to what I see today is what happened after 9/11. Americans made one-time donations to a common cause more than ever before, and then shifted their giving and volunteerism dramatically to areas… Read more »

Feb 9, 2023
Posted Under: Advocacy President's letter

In any given year, or month, or day we face challenges to doing our missions well. These challenges aren’t new, but the tsunami of so many hitting at the same time prevents us from performing at the level our missions require – and that must change. It was with these thoughts in mind that I addressed the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee last month. I briefed legislators on the contributions nonprofits make to the Alaska economy, along with some of the challenges facing the sector and actions they can take to help us meet these challenges. I encourage you to listen to this recording of the committee hearing. Questions after my presentation provide important insights to how the committee members think about the issues facing Alaska. In my testimony I… Read more »

Jan 10, 2023
Posted Under: President's letter

As I look back on 2022 – frankly, I am amazed. Most of the nonprofits I know and the people who work and volunteer at them were running on much less than a full tank when we started the last year. Some of you crossed into 2022 already running on fumes as you faced the relentless string of truths about our existence. Individually and collectively, we confronted business models in disarray as a result of the pandemic – mission-based programming askew based on overdue state and government grants and contracts – staff that for the first time were leaving in record numbers – board members who were rethinking their roles and commitments – and on and on. You lived these truths every day, so I know you have your own… Read more »