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Category Archives: President’s letter

May 9, 2024
Posted Under: Fundraising President's letter

The classic vicious cycle in nonprofit operations is the need to raise more money to hire more people but needing people to raise more money.  It is an easy scarcity trap to fall into regardless of your organizational size, topic, or geography.  Scarcity thinking dominates nonprofit and fundraising culture. It drives us to believe there is not enough time, money, energy, or people, leading us to the inevitable conclusion that we are competing with one another. Countless nonprofit boards and staff believe this false narrative and because it is so pervasive it is easy to find evidence to be right.  And yet, we must resist the scarcity trap if we are going to be truly successful. The alternative is an abundance mindset, one that asks you to think about what… Read more »

Apr 9, 2024
Posted Under: Leadership Development President's letter

Springtime in Alaska is the time that tests our convictions the most – the time when you can still ski, snowshoe, and snowmachine, and there are more moments to walk or ride on pavement, gravel, and hard ground – a time of hope and a bit of pleading for slightly more sunshine and slightly less gray as the daylight invites us to do more and hibernate less. This is truly the time of year that reminds me that I get to hold a lot of emotions, energy, and ideas all at once. It is also the time of year that my mindset matters. Our work in the nonprofit sector also looks and feels like the weather – the highs and lows are palpable and most days ridiculous to juggle. The… Read more »

Mar 11, 2024
Posted Under: Leadership Development President's letter

When does the fun part start? More than any other question I received over a few days with a recent cohort of executive directors, this was the question that grabbed everyone’s attention. Everyone wanted to know. Everyone needed to know. I could see it in all the faces on my screen – I could feel it in the urgency of their voices. I knew that question all too well as I have asked it so many times in my career. And because I had found my answers enough times, I was in a position at that moment (and all the other times I have heard this question) to hold some space for the answers to unfold. I say unfold because it is a journey for each person to find both… Read more »

Feb 9, 2024
Posted Under: Advocacy President's letter

Last month we rolled out our public policy priorities for 2024. This month I want to share more about this work and call your attention to some specific actions we need from each of you. Back in 2009, Foraker formally became the state nonprofit association and part of a group of 42 peer organizations across the country. This action not only validated our role in the convening and research but it also got us thinking differently about our role in public policy. Our signature effort to that point had been publishing nonprofit economic reports, and writing the original legislation and hiring the lobbyist to create what is now Pick.Click.Give. We didn’t engage much in public policy until I became CEO in 2015. Since then, we have taken part in extraordinary… Read more »

Jan 9, 2024
Posted Under: President's letter

Are you ready? This year promises to be one in which your full participation will be in high demand. Not only is it a national and local election year that by all current indications will do more to divide us than unite us, but we are also bringing with us the persisting challenges of 2023 as we continue to reckon with workforce challenges, declining funding, and significant leadership transitions in our board and staff spaces. I wrote last month about our superpower as a sector to hold on to our belief that everything will turn out for the best, and I am digging deep into that place as I prepare with you for 2024. We are ready for you with tools and resources to keep you focused, motivated, and connected…. Read more »

Dec 11, 2023
Posted Under: President's letter

This holiday season, Diwali, Hanukkah, Solstice, Christmas, and Kwanzaa all celebrate by embracing the light. The light that shines through these darker days brings with it joy, delight, connection, and reflection. I like to think it also promises us more light ahead – not just in sunlight but in all the other ways we may need it, too. In this particular season, I find myself wondering where we are right now in the grand scheme of history. There are no good words for it. It feels less clear to call it pandemic time and equally unclear to not think of it in those terms. We might feel more collective comfort if we could name it, but that label eludes us. Instead of a name, I am left to look and… Read more »

Nov 12, 2023
Posted Under: Board Development 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: Board Development 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: Board Development 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: Board Development Human Resources Leadership Development 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 »