Board Governance and Training: Board Roles and Responsibilities

Take your board to a new level with a refreshing session focusing on board roles and responsibilities. Just about every board needs to refocus on its appropriate role governing the organization and set new goals for performance. Gail can reinvigorate your board, helping each member find the ideal role, build new skills and contribute personal vision to your organization.

Trained in organizational development skills, Gail creates deeper discussions about your organization’s and your board’s purpose that help your board members get re-connected and re-invigorated.

Gail is an expert facilitator who can create alignment on goals and agreement among board members. She creates high-impact, results-oriented board retreats that are also enjoyable for all participants.

Strategic Planning Retreats

The annual board retreat is the right time to pull everyone together, appreciate accomplishments, identify future challenges, and set clear action-oriented goals. There are two keys to success with your board retreat: a great facilitator who can manage the group for results, and also a clear, well-defined agenda and outcomes.

Email Gail to see how to get the most out of your upcoming strategic planning retreat at She can help design your retreat for maximum productivity.

Board Facilitation

Have a thorny subject or urgent matter to resolve? Gail can help set up a productive discussion designed to encourage dialogue and reach consensus among a divided board.

As an expert board retreat facilitator, she can help you create a more closely knit board with a new level of collegiality and commitment.

“Gail Perry’s successful facilitation continued long after our retreat was finalized. Our Board was sharply divided about our future before the retreat. Gail helped us come to an agreement on non-negotiable goals. Her approach gave us a clear vision and marching orders. It has worked quite well. We have achieved solid success thanks to Gail Perry.”

- Ruth SummersExecutive DirectorThe Grove Arcade, Asheville, NC

Related Posts

How Board Members are Helping the Boys and Girls Club Make Their Year-End Goals

I'm just back from the Northeast Leadership Conference of the Boys and Girls Club of America where I spoke yesterday afternoon at their Regional Leadership Conference. IMG_0117(Love those BGCA folks!) Here's what Dovie Prather, the Senior Director of Development Club Resources for BGCA Northeast Region, shared with me about their year-end fundraising strategies. (That's Dovie in the picture right here along with Glen Staron, Vice President, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Northeast Region, and me.) Dovie spends her time coaching board volunteers and staff in the various Boys and Girls Clubs in her region - from Maine to Maryland. She has worked with her share of reluctant board members who don't want to go on fundraising calls. But the staff needs the board members to help if they are going to make their goals. And face-to-face visits are a key part of her year-end fundraising strategy recommendations for her Boys and Girls Clubs. She's counting on those one-on-one calls for $1k or more with key supporters to help the Clubs meet their goals. (See my earlier blog post on Focusing on Individuals to Make Your Year-End Goals). We all know that we can count on individuals this fall far more than we can count on our foundation and corporate supporters. But most of her board members think they won't be successful in face-to-face visits. And she doesn't really want to send the board members out alone anyway. So here's her solution:

Focus on "Friendmaking" to Take the Fear out of Fundraising

Could fundraising be as easy as picking flowers? Maybe! I frequently tell my clients and audiences something rather revolutionary: that I'd rather have a "friend" of my organization than a donor. At first everyone is startled. Then they sit back and consider what it would mean to have "friends" rather than donors. What will friends do for you? They will introduce new people to the cause and bring new friends on board. They will spread the word. They'll help you in any way they can. And when the going gets tough, where are they? They are right there with you at your side. And will your friends contribute money?

How to Evaluate a Board Meeting

It's a great idea to evaluate every meeting or committee meeting that you hold. But you want something painless and simple, that will actually encourage people to participate. One organization I belong to has breakfast speakers once a month, and members pay to come for breakfast and the speaker. This organization sends an email to all attendees immediately after the meeting, asking them to fill out an evaluation survey on SurveyMonkey. They get good, not great, response on the survey. Another board that I serve on solicit evaluations immediately after the meeting. In our board packets, there is a convenient evaluation form to fill out. Here's what's on the form: Share your thoughts about the board meeting: Meeting room? Stick to the agenda? Liked the agenda? Did we miss anything important" People were prepared? Reports clear and helpful? Cordial, team-like discussion? Appropriate use of our time? (meeting began and eneded on time?) Any other comments? Anything we could improve? In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge our organization faces this year? What were your big take-away's from the meeting?

A FIrst Class Strategic Planning Process

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, I am the chair of a board governance committee charged with creating a strategic plan this year. (lucky me!). And I am determined to create a compelling, engaging, even exciting planning/visioning process that everyone will actually enjoy! Here's the process that I've sketched out this year: September: 1. Board Self Assessment Survey 2. Set strategic planning timetable and process October: 1. Form Task Force 2. Identify our organization's stakeholders 3. Determine if and how we want to get feedback and input from the stakeholders 4. Create a plan/process for receiving their feedback November board meeting: 1. Discussion of board self assessment survey data and determine any action items that need to be taken 2. Vision discussion with full board - what is our vision for our organization. How much money would it take to achieve our vision? (this is a "high impact - big picture" discussion that can draw additional people and resources to a big vision, as opposed to starting with "what can we accomplish within our resource constraints?") December January and Feb: Focus groups of key players/stakeholders discussing what is our vision and how much money would it take March: WHERE ARE WE? 1. Complete environmental scan at a board meeting. 2. Provide input from the stakeholder focus groups that were conducted in Jan and Feb. 3. Conduct SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis. April - May - June: WHERE DO WE WANT TO GO? 1. Based on all info and data gathered to date, create several scenarios of LL's future. 2. Assess each scenario re its pros and cons 3. Determine the right path for LL's future and set goals. July - August - September HOW DO WE GET THERE? 1. Staff and committees create plans for accomplishing the goals. Plans will include objectives, tactics/strategies and who's responsible What do you think? Want to comment?

The Trouble with Strategic Planning

Have you ever seen the energy sink out of a group of people when the words "strategic planning" are mentioned? I've actually seen people shudder! The problem is that board members have had bad experiences with this thing called "strategic planning." They have sat through laborious planning discussions that went nowhere and wasted their time. (The last thing you ever want to do is ask a board member for a full day of their time and then have them feel like it was wasted.) Even if the experience seems helpful at the time, NOTHING ever happens or changes afterward. Why is it that many nonprofit planning retreats end up focusing on the wrong things? The wrong trends. The wrong information. The wrong discussions. This is why people dread "strategic planning" it's a lot of time and talk with little or no results. I once served on a board that held a strategic planning retreat one Saturday from 8am till 5pm. Our icebreaker was to share the name of our favorite pet in a mingle exercise. (dumb). Then we labored over the mission and spent needless time wordsmithing the mission, vision and values. I just couldn't stand it - I just had to leave in mid-afternoon because I ran out of patience. At the end of the process, nothing really was accomplished, and the key critical "elephants in the room" never even got discussed. I am the lucky chair of a board governance committee who is charged with creating a strategic planning process for our organization. You can bet that I'm going to create a powerful, compelling experience that our board members will enjoy. I'll chronicle my experiences with our process over the next year as we progress. Have you had a strategic planning process that really worked for your organization? Why don't you share your experience?

How to Coach Your Board Volunteers

How important is it that you coach carefully any of your volunteers? And you need to choose them carefully too! I am commenting today on a LinkedIn discussion. The person who started the conversation told of a private school where two different board volunteers spoke about fundraising to the other parents. The first volunteer who spoke complained about "slack parent giving" last year, particularly compared to faculty/staff giving. And he was dressed in a monotone of gray. Wow, just the sort of delivery designed to get parents charging ahead to support the annual fund! Make folks feel bad and you're lost before you start. The second volunteer was a more "flamboyant" presence. He went on about how generous parent booster giving had been last year - to sports and extra-curricular activities. He was engaging and warm. The first volunteer was deadly (he had a track record of defeat), and the other one was enthusiastic (he had experienced success.) Clearly the person who had a negative and defeatist tone would never inspire other volunteers. This also shows that you can't expect every single board volunteer to be a great fundraiser. I think it's delusional to expect all board members to be able to be effective advocates for the cause or successful fundraisers. We need to select, train and "pump up" our volunteers carefully! I like to script my folks - or at least give them talking points - so they make an appropriate and engaging presentation. Negativity or arm-twisting never work! Never trust a volunteer to get up in front of a crowd and deliver the right message. Remember, they aren't in the business, they are just beginners (usually). So take control, brief them and give them the talking points. If you're really on top of things, actually schedule a formal rehearsal with them. Put them in front of a fictitious group of people and let them practice.

Find a "key revenue problem solver" for your board

Alice Korngold, contributing writer for Fast Company Magazine is blogging about building nonprofit boards, one of my favorite topics. I loved her post titled More Bad News for Nonprofit $$: More About Building Better Boards to FIx This, alice-korngold_1She takes a much-needed business person's approach to nonprofit boards. Here's my favorite: she says that the best people she has worked with, or recruited to a board were "key revenue problem-solvers." Nonprofits need to evaluate their business model frequently for missed revenue opportunities and sources of increased earned income. A board member with the right skill set can be invaluable in these cases. She cites as an example a new board member who was the global pricing strategist for a major consulting firm. The new board member "pulled a nonprofit out of the red by helping them revise their pricing strategy, thereby shifting the organization into financial health."

Board Chairs: Fire-Up Your Board with a Call to Action!

It's wonderful to see a board chair assume rightful leadership and challenge her board members to action. Here's a brilliant example of excellent leadership from a nonprofit board chair. Call to Action!I'm on the board of our local AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals) chapter here in North Carolina's Research Triangle. (If you don't know about AFP, you need to join! Our wonderful board chair, Eli Jordfald, took on a personal priority this year - to reinvent our annual "National Philanthropy Day" celebration in November. If this "reinvention" was going to happen, Eli needed every single one of us board members to commit to a part in making this successful. With only a part-time staff person, we rely on our board volunteers to make it happen. So if we didn't pull through, then we wouldn't even have an event. Eli send out an email last week with the subject line: "Call to Action." Take a look at this professional and very specific note to her board members. She was not necessarily "asking for help." Instead it was "rallying the troops." How long has it been since you issued a Call to Action to your board, your staff or your volunteers? These words alone get immediate attention.

Top Tip to Maintain your Nonprofit Board's Momentum and Motivation

A question I am frequently asked is, "Once I get my board fired-up, then how on earth do I keep my board members motivated and enthusiastic? Whenever the board members gather together, we get excited and energized about our work. But my board members frequently get distracted with other priorities. What to do?" The first thing you must do is take responsibility for keeping your board energized. If you are the nonprofit CEO, do everything you can to keep them going. AND if you are the chair of the board, also, do everything YOU can to fan the flames of your board members' energy. The most important thing is to take responsibility and don't expect that someone else will assume this role. Do you know the saying, "If it's to be, it's up to me?" Well, here's the perfect place to implement that idea. If your board is gonna stay excited, motivated and energized, it won't happen without YOU taking the lead. You can't expect your busy board members to keep focused and energized on their own. If you leave it up to them, you just may be disappointed. This is "Volunteer Management 101" - and the number one job of managing volunteers is motivating them. Here is a real life best practice example from a board I am currently serving on. This is from the CEO of Lillian's List, a political action group on whose board I serve. Our CEO, Carol Teal, is just about the best nonprofit CEO I've ever had the pleasure of working with.

We're in the Dream Business

Do you ever consider what we fundraising folks are really up to when we appeal to our donors? Is it hype? Is it promises that we will keep? Is it mission, vision and values? Is it changing the world? Last month at the Bridge Fundraising Conference in DC, I kept hearing a theme echoing through many of the presentations I attended. MLK“We are in the dream business.” It really means that we are selling a happy dream of the future. Of a better world. A better community. People being helped. Smiles. Comfort. Happiness. But in our appeals for help, we forget this all too often. Instead we focus on problems, what's wrong, what we will do to fix things. But the most successful approach - whether you are doing fundraising, sales, bringing together groups of people for a common purpose, teamwork - whenever leadership and inspriation are required - is to picture your dream for the future. Think Martin Luther King, one of the greatest inspirational leaders - and orators - of recent times. His "I have a dream speech" is a spectacular example of inspired dreaming. The dream is so powerful that it's like a great river sweeping everyone up in its path, surging inevitably downstream to a much happier future. When we paint a picture of our dream for happy students, healthy children, cared-for elderly, majestic symphonies, clean sparkling water - whatever we are raising money for - we also capture the power of that mighty river of energy sweeping everyone together. When I work with boards, we talk about dreaming. I tell them they should always be standing high on the hill sharing their vision of a happier world with everyone they know. When they are standing on that hill, solid in their dream, focused on the future, they are more powerful than they can imagine. When you, your board members and your volunteers take a firm stand on the mountain, that's when you have the energy and the power to change the world. That's when nothing can stop you.

The Number One Way to Get Your Board Members to Follow Through

iStock_000006450448XSmallSo many nonprofit board members are enthusiastic and well-meaning but too often they back out of their commitments. Bet you have run into this problem! And I have been on the other side too, as a board member. In the heat of an exciting discussion, I suddenly found myself making personal commitments. Then later, in my office, I thought better of those ideas and was not so very enthusiastic about them. In nonprofit organizations, it's hard working with volunteers, who actually don't HAVE to do anything anyway. You simply can't MAKE volunteers work. That's why I always say that we are in the motivation business. You have to be able to motivate and charge up your board members and volunteers if you want them to be productive. It's a rare nonprofit volunteer who can keep herself fully pumped up with excitement and enthusaism all the time! Here's my secret weapon in motivating my volunteer committees. And it's an old standby of teamwork and leadership theory: PEER PRESSURE. Here's the most important thing to know about board members: they never, repeat, never want to look bad in front of their peers.

Boards gone wild!

I am teaching today in Greensboro, NC at the AFP CFRE Review Course and the AFP First Course in Fundraising. As usual, they have me talking about managing and motivating volunteers and board members. In my last class, we had such a laugh over "Boards Gone Wild." What do I mean? A Board Gone Wild is a well-meaning group of volunteers who gallop off in the wrong direction. It's the wrong direction because the plan or project they are espousing is not well-planned, not well-thought out, has unintended negative consequences, and cannot be pulled off with the current staff and human resources on hand.