When a nonprofit organization starts the board is typically friends of the founder(s). As the organization grows, it’s important to bring in new skills and connections that can take the organization to the next level. All too often you find organizations chasing the same group of people to become a board member.
So where do you start? The first thing you want to do is complete a board skills
matrix. Who are the current board members, what skills and connections do they have, and what are their terms of office? I often find the same person has been board chair of the nonprofit for somewhere between 10 and 25 years. This is because in so many cases, there is no ongoing recruitment – typically done by a nominations committee – to bring in new skills and committed people to the organization.
Next step: brainstorm with staff and board members about the next level of connection to fill in the gaps. Who do any of you know in HR or accounting or
marketing or fund-raising? Who are the corporations that provide community
support where it may be helpful to have a board member from that entity? For
example Liberty Mutual, or State Street Bank, or Eastern Bank all provide grants.
Do you know anyone at these organizations? Liberty and State Street focus most
often on disadvantaged children and education. And talking of banks, do you
have anyone from your bank on the board? Most banks provide some form of
When you’ve developed a list of entities you would like to see on your board,
have everyone go through their LinkedIn or Facebook contacts. Who knows
someone at these organizations? Who is the best person to approach the
individuals on the list? Remember we live in a degrees of separation world. It’s
highly likely somebody you know is going to know someone at an organization
that you want represented on your board.
If you’re still struggling at this point – and you shouldn’t be – another interim
solution is to put together a short-term nominations task force. Bring in new
people to the organization and let them know this is a limited life project. Your
goal is to bring in three or four new board members with the right skills and connections. Have the task force meet once a month and assign very specific
duties and timelines. At the initial meeting you can go through your board skills
matrix and the companies and individuals you have already identified.
Another couple of quick tips. Make sure you are clear on the roles and
responsibilities of a board member. Particularly if there are expectations around give or get. And don’t forget to think about millennial’s. They bring a wealth of experience in the new world of social media, new contacts to cultivate. They may not be right for your board, but perhaps they might be right to join a committee and be ready to engage as a board member at a future date.
To read more and download your free board skills matrix visit,
Do you feel a sort of panic setting in around this time of year? An inner dialogue that goes something like this: “Yikes!…. The holidays are nearly here……… Time to set New Year’s resolutions…. BUT I haven’t even accomplish this year’s goals…….. I’m such a failure… Maybe if I set brand-new goals, I’ll be successful…. That one thing everyone tells me I must do, surely I can accomplish just THAT….”
Resolutions are, simply put, the commitment you make to reach a goal. Yet most of us make resolutions based on wishful thinking and dreams. Occasionally we cling to big, hairy goals we have absolutely no chance of reaching. Or worse, we grasp onto someone else’s suggestion of what we should do. So before rushing headlong into a list of New Year’s resolutions, I urge you to STOP!
Take time to be thoughtful about what you want to accomplish in 2017. If you make a resolution to go on a diet, the overall goal might be to lose weight. Or better still, to be healthier. Ask yourself what will be possible when you are healthier? How will your life be different? Will you feel more attractive? Will you be able to wear different clothes? Will you be able to do a job you’ve always wanted to do or have the confidence to be in a relationship?
Whatever your resolution is, be very clear on the trade-offs required. What will you need to say “yes” and “no” to? Most importantly, ask yourself how committed you are to keeping these promises. If you’re not willing to give up Monday night football to take a class at college, you may not succeed in your larger goal of changing careers.
Review and learn from your achievements, disappointments and failures this year, and the behaviors that have helped you succeed or fail. Asking for feedback from others is a vital part of this process. So often, we are not aware of how we operate and create our own roadblocks. Regular feedback from unbiased sources is critical for “course correction.” Interim steps are also a good way the way to achieve larger goals, keep your resolutions and achieve lasting change.
In 2002 I left my job at a large software company to accommodate my need to take better care of my health and do less computer work. At that time I didn’t realize I was also choosing a more fulfilling life -because I was only focused on one aspect of my life. I hadn’t yet realized at my core what was really important for me to feel I was living a meaningful life. Deciding to become an executive coach was an easy decision taking into account my experience and skills. It then took another two years to find the best market niche which would utilize my strengths and interest. And I used to be in marketing! Initially I focused on people with disabilities, and then on attorneys. Neither was quite right although I made headway in both areas.
At this point, I had to be open to reviewing the data from my “experiments”, ask for feedback, and be willing to make the necessary changes to meet my larger goal. I now work with nonprofit organizations and individuals who want to make a difference in people’s lives every day. The work is hard, but when you do something because it is deeply important to you, it gives you motivation every day to continue.
One of my former clients, Martin, wanted to expand his chiropractic business. The first thing he had to do was set clear goals. And most importantly, decide what he wanted his role to be. Did he want to work in his business, or on his business? Accounts, administration and marketing all had to be handled. If he didn’t want to do this, who would do this? Martin could be the best chiropractor in the world, but if no one knew about him, his business would fail. What had to be done to generate more clients, and what was he personally willing to do in this area? Like many of us, Martin did not like business development. Our discussions led to personal development goals, and a business plan with long-term goals and interim steps in each area to keep him motivated. Without clear goals, and a plan for managing the business, most of us get caught doing more than we ever did before. How can you work smarter, not harder?
Another client, “Liz”, had ongoing back and knee issues. She wanted to be healthier. We identified measurable exercise and diet goals. She quickly realized she could not meet these goals without committing to changes in her work schedule. She asked her husband and family to keep her on track. Soon she realized this was only the first layer of the real change she wanted to see in her life; a career change. Nineteen months later – with lots of interim steps along the way -Liz quit her job to focus on more creative pursuits. And I became one of her first clients, purchasing two pieces of her extraordinary artwork.
To make sure you successfully climb the mountain in 2017, set realistic but challenging short and long-term goals which are specific and measurable in outcome and time. Work in those all-important interim steps to boost your sense of accomplishment and keep you moving forward. And don’t forget the reward system to ensure the journey to reaching your goals is a fun one!
Six Ways to Set and Reach your 2017 Goals:
- Appreciate and understand what you’ve accomplished this year.
- Name the three lessons you’ve learned from your successes.
- List your top three areas of challenge in 2016. What did you learn from these challenges? For example, how or where do you self-sabotage? When you encounter a roadblock, what could you do differently in 2017?
- Set goals for the coming year which are attainable and yet will challenge you. If this seems overwhelming, consider hiring a coach to help you identify goals, move forward and hold you accountable.
- Write down your goals, the interim steps and how you will celebrate small and the big successes. Who will you do this with?
- “Go public with your goals.” Tell your significant other, friends or business colleagues about your goals and ask them to support and hold you accountable.
How effectively you write can mean the difference between winning or losing that grant or sales proposal. How well you use words to communicate to your team is equally as powerful.
It’s important to pay the attention to the words you use when speaking, particularly if you are in a leadership role. How carefully you communicate can mean the difference between a team who is completely invested to your organization’s project or vision, or just simply compliant. The words you choose can inspire, demotivate or keep your team “stuck”.
For example, consider the words you use when trying to get something done. If you nonchalantly request that a task get completed, and it doesn’t happen, do you get frustrated or upset? Were you really demanding instead of requesting? If the task requires completion, is there a way to successfully communicate its importance so that your team feels motivated and is eager to complete it? Remember – the words you use to inspire actually matter a lot.
As an executive coach, I have consistently observed how the words people use reflect their commitment to complete, or not complete, a task. If someone communicates that they will try to make 10 sales calls or connect with 10 potential funders before our next meeting, I know immediately there is little guarantee of follow through. However, if someone communicates that they absolutely will make those 10 calls, I am pretty confident it will get done. They have communicated their intention to be action oriented and successful in completing the task. More often than not, those people who declare their intention make very effective leaders.
Beyond committing to a task, a leader must be committed to him or herself. If your actions do not demonstrate a commitment to yourself, how can you expect others to be committed? Think about the difference in how you feel when you state, “I will complete this today” versus “I will try and complete this today”. Which one of these statements makes you feel more empowered and productive?
Being an effective leader, defining your future, and accomplishing your goals often requires you push yourself beyond your comfort level. You might have to take on certain tasks that aren’t particularly enjoyable. But always keep the bigger picture in mind. In many cases, the goal is to develop crucial relationships with new funders or sales prospects. Always be striving for long term fulfilment instead of short term satisfaction.
As Don Miguel Ruiz stated in his book, The Four Agreements, “Be impeccable with your word”. He couldn’t have been more right!
All successful leaders share one trait in common. They have the ability to build trust, which takes time and effort. Trust is earned by virtue of effective communication, authenticity and connection. It is rooted in the capacity to work well with others and inspire a team. Regardless of whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, you can easily become a powerful and well respected leader by considering the following:
- Be selfless. People are inspired by leaders who show they care for others. Take a moment and think about your team, whether you manage them directly or they participate on your board. Have you taken the time to get to know them on a personal level? Can you identify what motivates them, or what is going on in their lives? Have you put in the effort required to make a genuine connection with each of them? Would they define you as caring and compassionate? Building trust is about investing in your people at a personal level.
- (Instead of talking, listen! Ask thoughtful open ended questions and focus on what people share with you. Learn about their personal stories, take note of what is important to them. And then use this information to motivate and support your team more effectively.
- Do a quick self-assessment. What kind of leader are you? What is your vision for the organization? Do you demonstrate passion? How much time do you spend on leadership versus management? To help answer these important questions, try this simple exercise. Look back at your meeting schedule over the past two weeks. Figure out how much time you spent on strategic activities and refining your vision versus revisiting an old strategy or reacting to a specific situation. The answers might surprise you. Moving forward, schedule at least 30 minutes each day, preferably first thing in the morning and away from the office, to focus on developing your leadership skills by defining your own values and goals. Invest in your personal growth by getting to know who you are as a leader, and then use your new found insight to become an inspiration for your team.
- Follow through on your commitments, and lead by example. If you agree to do something, make sure and get it done quickly. Nothing erodes trust faster than someone who doesn’t make good on their promises.
- Demonstrate thoughtfulness. Make that call to ask an employee how they are doing, write a thank you note when one is needed, take note when a team member goes the extra mile. These gestures matter! Be mindful about investing in your people as they are your greatest asset.
Contact us to learn more about how executive coaching can help you develop your leadership potential.