Wednesday, September 28, 2005

John's question

John asked a great question yesterday---here it is:

"What suggestions do you have for differentiating between governance and micro-management - and who determines where and how the lines are drawn? The administrator suggests monthly financial statements for a Board that meets monthly and oversees a charter high school and junior high school are an attempt by the Board to micro-manage. My take is a board has an obligation to micro-manage if necessary to insure compliance with state and Federal regulations and protect the public interest."

Of course the answer is not cut and dried. But I tell my clients that there are three times that boards must do management or even micro management---First, at startup when there are no staff; second, when the organization is in severe financial crisis--as in it may not make it through the next 60 days--which of course means that the board has probably been deficient in its oversight; and third, when there is immoral or illegal behavior in the ED/CEO position.

But other than that, no. If the board does not feel that the staff is doing the job, particularly in the area of compliance with state and federal regs, don't do the work for the staff--get new staff who can do the work. Now, this does NOT mean that boards should not get assurance that these things have been done, they should--and there's a simple way--have an audit with a management letter.

But micro management is NOT the board's job, and it will drive away competent staff.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Great group of students

What a terrific group of students we have this year---so much more depth of experience working and volunteering for both domestic and international nonprofits. Wow.

We had a good start-the students proposed key areas vexing nonprofits and Don Haider and I gave them opposing points of view in a debate format of the issue. A lot of fun. I'm particularly eager to see how the students deal with our final project related to nonprofit response to the asian tsunami of last Christmas.

A good start.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Back at Kellogg

First class of the new semester here at Kellogg, teaching Nonprofit Management to MBA students. Tonight my co-professor and I will start with a debate on key issues in the sector, and then move into raising tough questions with our students.

I love this part of my life. It's the most fun thing I do professionally, and very rewarding. I'm looking forward to the interaction with the students, and to their final paper, which is to evaluate the efficiency of two international NGO's who responded to the tsunami.

More tomorrow on what challenges the students threw out to us. They are so smart they scare me, sometimes.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Podcast and other tech news

Just some Sunday morning ramblings about tech..

First, I really like A9. I've posted about it before, but what a great search engine. Allows so much specificity, even searches research, blogs, etc. Nice tool.

Second, I have been invited to be on a podcast for a management podcast show....check it out

We're working on a "taping" date, and I'll post about the release when I know.

I've been spending much of the weekend tuning up our home computers and my old laptop, now a ductaped email/browsing/IM machine. Amazes me how much crap gets saved (one computer had 3500 tmp files or files with no content) by lazy programmers who don't bother to have their installation remove the temp files they create.

But also a good reminder to all of us to maintain our machines regularly. Not just backing up, but cleaning out the registry, cleaning out junk, clearing non-functioning bookmarks, and, of course, the big dog--defragging the hard drive.

You'll get more out of your machines, cut boot time, and the hard drive will last longer.....

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Conflict over conflicts

In the past month (in fact, during much of my lull in posting) I have been wrestling with three groups, two who are paying clients and one pro bono, who either have, or are about to have, serious board conflicts of interest.

In the worst case, a board member has been contracting for services for years, with no bidding, no review. In fact, the board member has proposed more services, the exec has resisted, and the board decided to sign the contract without the exec involved! Talk about asking for a visit from the IRS.

In another case, two or three board members can control the entire board, by reason of poorly written (or intentionally weak) bylaws. And they do. And there is little accurate or meaningful oversight from the other board members, who are really a throwback--titular board members who never come to meetings but lend their names....I thought that all ended in about 1990.

Makes me sad, makes me angry, makes me frustrated......

If you share my views, read these good pieces from Independent Sector:

Sample Code of Ethics


Obedience to the Unenforceable

Now I have to decide what to do as a consultant.......

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Amazing read---if you care about people

OK, so that's a guilt-enducing title for a post, but man, what a book.

Begging for Change, by Robert Eggar is, simply, amazing. An in your face rant about what's wrong and what's right with our sector, from a guy who runs the DC Central Kitchen. It's a fast read, more an autobiography with side rants than anything else.

But I can see why it won the McAdam award for best new nonprofit book this year. Good, mind-bending rethinking of our sector. It's going on my book club list for next cycle.

Check it out

Monday, September 19, 2005

Back in the saddle

Long, long time gone. But that's where I've been. Gone. For a number of reasons.

First, posts here, post-Katrina just seemed petty and irresponsible. As a former New Orleans resident, the entire situation from the actual storm, to the total breakdown of every kind of help was so appalling it kept me up nights, and depressed during the day.

The one bright light has been the response of the nonprofit community. While the feds, state, and locals, to varying degrees, dropped the ball big time, the nonprofit community obviously learned both from 9/11 and the tsunami how to get people and material in place quickly. Good for them/us, and I hope the feds pay attention.

My second reason for absence has been being on the road. Since September 8 I've been on 14 planes, rented 5 cars, stayed in 6 hotels (and slept on a plane one night) been through TSA security 8 times and been home twice for turnarounds of less than 18 hours. Most of that time I was doing what I was doing (some of which was work and some of which was fun), and not blogging.

But now I'm back, and ready to resume. I've got class at Kellogg starting in a week, and thus more bright eyes to teach. I've got a book to finish writing, and a bunch of other good things coming up. So, I'll be here regularly.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Helping the Victims of Katrina

Helping the Victims of Katrina
There's no question that we need to be finding ways to help people in the Gulf Coast who are suffering from Katrina. I lived in Louisiana for three years, and went to graduate school at Tulane, so I'm very familiar with the area and know the difficulties everyone faces in dealing with the aftermath. It will be years before the area gets back on its feet.

There are already wondeful stories of people trying to help--I heard a bit on NPR last night about a neighborhood in Idaho Falls that wants to rent a bus, drive to Baton Rouge and take 5 families back to Idaho with them for as long as it takes....we'll hear more about that level of compassion in the coming weeks, just as we will also see and hear seemingly endless stories of tragedy and sadness.

So, what can we do? First, mobilize our networks. Talk to you staff, your board, your community leaders about what your town, your agency, your network can do.

Second, post ways for people to give cash. It's really what the Red Cross, Salvation Army and the other organizations struggling to help need most.

Here are some organizations, websites and phone numbers you can post on your site.

American Red Cross 1-800-HELP NOW (435-7669) English, 1-800-257-7575 Spanish
America's Second Harvest 1-800-344-8070 Adventist Community Services 1-800-381-7171
Catholic Charities, USA 703 549-1390 Christian Disaster Response 941-956-5183 or 941-551-9554
Church World Service 1-800-297-1516
Convoy of Hope 417-823-8998
Christian Reformed World Relief Committee 1-800-848-5818
United Methodist Committee on Relief 1-800-554-8583
Lutheran Disaster Response 800-638-3522
Mennonite Disaster Service 717-859-2210
Salvation Army 1-800-SAL-ARMY (725-2769) Southern Baptist Convention 1-800-462-8657, ext. 6440 Nazarene Disaster Response 888-256-5886
Operation Blessing 1-800-436-6348
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance 800-872-3283

Remember to note that if people give online, to target the gift for hurricane relief. Also check with your local United Way, as well as your mayor's office to see if any community relief efforts are being planned.

I fully believe that we've just seen the tip of this tragedy, and that it will turn out to be the largest natural disaster--by far--- in our nation's history. We need to help now, and then continue to remember to help as the months and years pass and our attention gets shifted to other events.