The Center for Association Resources

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Is an association management firm focused on helping Non-Profit associations succeed in their mission.

Choosing a Good Board

Another in a series of articles related to association management selected from our reading list by:
Robert O. Patterson, JD
CEO/ Principal
The Center for Association Resources, Inc.

Every organization needs a good mix of board members to be most effective. The mix should comprise of people who have a solid interest in the work of the association and believe in the direction it is going.

Each board member should be able to solidly hold up an area of importance so that when different issues come up, there will be a place to turn for free and respectable advice.

Some areas that should be covered by any organization are leadership, legal, social, subject knowledge, history of the organization, financial and the public media.  Not every organization will be able to cover all their needs with their boards, and each organization will have specialized needs that will have to be identified.

For instance, if an organization is set up for race car safety, they probably don’t need a board member who is knowledgeable in the area of high tea parties. Then again, if a group needs to bring a lawsuit to bring about the enforcement of a law, it would be really nice to have a lawyer or two on the board.  Even if they don’t do the work themselves due to busy schedule or specialization, they can advise whom to see and how to set up the case for clarity and focus.

A socially savvy board member knows people who know people and they can tell more people about the group and it’s thrust.  They know best how to set up fundraisers and how to get people of distinction as honored speakers.  These board members are the heart of the group and keep the group alive.

A member of the media or a media member’s spouse or close relative can help any group immensely.  Just keeping the organization’s name in front of the media with the help of a good and honest and accurate media person is key.  Aim to get one of these people on your board until you get one.  They are that important!

One of the best resources an association can have is a person who has a knowledge of what the association has done in previous years.  This person will have an understanding of what works well, what has been done and over done and underdone. This person has an innate sense of the group and is part of the brain…an excellent resource for the group because many things are not written down, or information is lost. A good human memory bank is priceless.

The other must have association resource is one or more people who know the subject matter well. If your group’s reason to exist is to protect orphaned children, you must have someone who knows children well and orphaned children especially well.  If your group covers the protection of a particular beetle, you must have on hand a natural scientist of some kind to help the organization attain believability.

A board member with accounting background can help in many ways, including help with taxes, training employees, and banking and if you are fortunate enough you will have another to help with investing.

Last, but not least, a leader, a board member who will stay with the group, lead the others and is probably the founder of the group, so you don’t have to worry too much about choosing, but if you do, be sure and find someone who has previous experience.

A few final tips…

  • Be sure that all your board members will be able to attend most if not all meetings, and are interested enough to read the minutes of missed meetings.
  • Big name board members are nice on paper but rarely have time to help in real time.
  • And make sure potential board members get along with others.

Filed under: Association Resources, Center for Association Resources, Leadership, Non-Profit, Strategy, The Center for Assocation Resources info, , , , , , , , , ,

Board training…..getting qualified people on the board

Another in a series of articles related to association management selected from our reading list by:
Robert O. Patterson, JD
CEO/ Principal
The Center for Association Resources, Inc.

The governing body of a non-profit organization is its board of directors. Whether a non-profit is at its infancy, or is in transition to becoming a more mature organization or is already an established institution, it is vital for its board to be effective and productive. The non-profit board must understand and perform its legal obligations and significant responsibilities fully. Therefore the non-profit board’s membership should consist of qualified individuals who are either experienced in non-profit board functions or who are willing to proactively learn about the roles and acquire the tools and knowledge to be competent contributors.

Most of the time, individuals serve on a non-profit board because they are passionate about the cause. However, passion alone is not enough to fulfill the many duties asked of each board member. Time commitment is a necessary requirement for attending board meetings, preparing for the meetings such as reviewing proposals, budget or other documents and fundraising. A main function of the non-profit board is to raise money. It is a common policy among non-profits to require each board member to either give or get a certain monetary amount annually. Board members are also asked to organize and host fundraising events or to meet with foundations or government agencies that award grants to non-profits. Time commitment aside, each board member should have sufficient business and leadership skills as the board needs to approve the budget, establish a process to create a strategic plan, hire and evaluate the executive director, and ensure the legal and ethical integrity of the organization. In order to perform the roles and responsibilities dutifully, the board should evaluate its effectiveness and identify areas where a new board member may bring on skills that would be complementary.

During growth periods, a board may need to grow too. Sometimes the need to find new board members arise from resignation or when board members reach their term limit. Recruiting for board members may start with referrals from the current board or from the staff. There are services that match prospective board candidates with non-profit organizations such as boardnetUSA and VolunteerMatch. The tasks of screening and determining a board candidate’s qualifications rest with the board. There should be a process to evaluate the candidate as well as a process to on-board the new member.

As leaders wanting to make a difference, the board must be made up of individuals who have sound business skills, experience with board duties and functions and commitment to developing a strong board by ensuring each board member is qualified to meet the needs of the non-profit organization.

Filed under: Association Resources, Center for Association Resources, Leadership, Planning, Strategic Planning, The Center for Assocation Resources info, Training, , , , , ,

Why Non-Profits Should Have Conflict-of-Interest Policies

Another in a series of articles related to association management selected from our reading list by:
Robert O. Patterson, JD
CEO/ Principal
The Center for Association Resources, Inc.

Conflicts of interest can arise in any area of an organization, from the lowest ranks to the board of directors, and can create troubling situations. Non-profit organizations have a vested interest in mitigating and managing board members’ conflicts of interest as they arise (eliminating them entirely is generally not feasible). How to manage them? Develop a conflict-of-interest policy.

Step one in creating such a policy is understanding just what constitutes a conflict of interest. The definition is fairly simple: if a board member’s professional or personal affiliations disrupt their ability to place the organization’s best interests over their own personal interests, a conflict of interest exists. Because non-profit board members are likely to be involved in other business concerns or non-profit organizations in their respective communities, conflicts of interest can arise very naturally.

Step two in the process is deciding how to mitigate any conflicts that might occur. To do that, the board must know how these conflicts potentially negatively affect the organization. In all cases, a conflict of interest has the potential to cause a board member to shirk his or her fiduciary responsibility to the organization. If a personal interest is allowed to take precedence over the organization’s interests, the board member’s decisions will not be in the best financial interests of the organization. Board members can even be held legally liable for the organization’s actions because of their fiduciary responsibility. Another concern regarding conflicts of interest within non-profit organizations involves ethical implications. Non-profits are meant to serve the public good, and when board members ignore the best interests of the organization, they are, in effect, betraying the public trust.

After all board members have a thorough understanding of the implications of conflicts of interest, the written policy can be developed. All board members should discuss the policy, and each one should agree in writing to uphold it. There are three important elements to be included in the written policy. The first is a full disclosure clause that states all board members must make known their affiliations with any organizations that the non-profit does business with. The second element is a clause that restricts board members from discussing and voting on issues that pertain to transactions with a company that the board member is involved with. The third clause regards staff members: it should restrict them from being in a decision-making role regarding business with firms they have an interest in.

It is important when drawing up the written conflict of interest policy not to use “boilerplate” documents – do not simply copy another organization’s policy or use a sample one. The policy should be tailored to your organization’s specific needs and goals. By creating a solid conflict of interest policy, the organization’s interests will be protected and legal and ethical troubles will be mitigated.

Filed under: Association Resources, Center for Association Resources, Leadership, Planning, Strategic Planning, Strategy, The Center for Assocation Resources info, Training, , , ,

June 2017
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