Archive for July, 2012

The grant proposal: one document – several audiences

No matter how sophisticated your grant seeking process is or your foundation relationships are, you seldomly have the chance to ask program officers or foundation board members to tell it like it is. And if they do, how often will the answer be filtered for their own purposes? I asked former foundation CEO and featured author, Martin Teitel, about the proposal screening process.

CausePlanet: What would grant seekers find most surprising about how their proposals are handled once submitted?

Martin Teitel: It’s often the case that incoming proposals are moved up the staff hierarchy, from bottom to top. So the people who are most distant from actual decision-making do the greatest amount of screening. Picture the process as funnel-shaped: proposals are rejected, in many cases, at each level as they move along. This fact is one of the reasons writing proposals is so difficult: you have to entice the first readers, so you can stand out from the throng. But the same document then needs to later impress a steely-eyed program officer who will push hard against the details. And the proposal might eventually have to wow a foundation board. One document – several distinct audiences. Writers of successful proposals should give themselves great big pats on the back for making it through this thicket. And by the same token, people who worked hard for a long time, only to have their proposal rejected by a form letter, should try to not take it personally, because getting through the proposal mill is a thorny combination of chance and arcane skill.

You can read the complete interview in our Page to Practice summary feature of “The Ultimate Insider’s Guide to Winning Foundation Grants” by former foundation CEO Martin Teitel this week at CausePlanet. Or, you can learn more about this book and others at

CausePlanet subscribers: Don’t forget to register for the author interview on Wednesday, August 29 at 11 a.m. CST.

See also:

The Foundation: A Great American Secret; How Private Wealth is Changing the World

Leap of Reason: Managing to Outcomes in an Era of Scarcity

Level Best: How Small and Grassroots Nonprofits  Can Tackle Evaluation and Talk Results

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Request free copies of “Leap of Reason” for your board and funders

Rarely do I have the opportunity to tell my readers they can request free print copies of books we feature. This is one of those opportunities. I asked Leap of Reason author, Mario Morino, about his advice for making the case for overhead support in our CausePlanet interview. His answer will give you glimpse of what the rest of the book delivers.

CausePlanet: What advice do you have for nonprofit leaders who want to make a case for overhead support so they can engage in more meaningful information gathering to drive relevant outcomes?

Mario Morino: Great question. I don’t want to sound self-serving, but I would encourage them to write to us at for free print copies of Leap of Reason they can distribute to their boards and key funders. Here are some relevant passages from the book they might want to bookmark and highlight for their key stakeholders:

Page 2: “The cold reality is that in our present era of unsustainable debts and deficits, our nation simply will not be able to justify huge subsidies for social-sector activities and entities without more assurance that they’re on track to realize results. Public funders—and eventually private funders as well—will migrate away from organizations with stirring stories alone, toward well-managed organizations that can also demonstrate meaningful, lasting impact.”

Page 41: “The magnitude of the combined hit—greatly reduced funding and increased need—will require organizations to literally reinvent themselves. Incremental responses will be insufficient. I agree wholeheartedly with Dr. Carol Twigg, President and CEO of the National Center for Academic Transformation, who concludes, ‘We will have to produce significantly better outcomes at a declining per-unit cost of producing these outcomes, while demand for our services will be increasing.’”

Page 42: “We need to be much clearer about our aspirations, more intentional in defining our approaches, more rigorous in gauging our progress, more willing to admit mistakes, more capable of quickly adapting and improving—all with an unrelenting focus and passion for improving lives. It’s no longer good enough to make the case that we’re addressing real needs. We need to prove that we’re making a real difference.

Email for your free copies of Leap of Reason or learn more by visiting our summary library.

See also:

Level Best

Nonprofit Sustainability

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Stepping up to leadership

Late last year, I made the decision to serve as a board chair for two different organizations at the same time. Your initial questions might be, “Why in the world would you do such a thing?” and, “Don’t you have a full-time job?” The answer to the second question is Yes, I’m gleefully, busily employed as Vice President of Communications for The Denver Foundation. The answer to the first question is a combination of timing and true love.

I am, in fact, deeply in love with both organizations. One is the Colorado Nonprofit Association, our state’s nonprofit trade association that works to lead, serve and strengthen the nonprofit sector. The other is the Communications Network, a national consortium of communications professionals that promotes the use of consistent, strategic communications as an integral part of effective philanthropy. I’m also enamored with my fellow board members in both cases–each board is a highly functioning group of professionals who work together ably and well. Finally, I respect and inherently trust the CEOs’ of these organizations, Renny Fagan’s and Bruce Trachtenberg’s, leadership and capabilities.

So it came down to timing. We don’t always get to choose the timing when leadership calls us. I’m writing here today hoping my experience this year and especially the learning opportunities it is bringing me will help you as you’re called to leadership in your own life.


There’s an old saying about how if you want something done, you should “ask a busy person.” Of course, like so many clichés, this carries a ring of truth. Busy people figure out how to accomplish their goals. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be called to action.

The challenge is that as leaders, we must be more than simply busy and productive–we must be highly effective. We must develop the skill to make decisions, delegate activities and parse out our time to serve the priorities that take precedence. My favorite tool on this front is the late Stephen Covey’s time management matrix: . I spend a good deal of time considering how to spend the majority of my day in the “important, not urgent” quadrant.

For my two boards, I know I play key roles in governance and in support of the executive directors. At work, I am responsible for The Denver Foundation’s reputation in the community and for its proactive efforts to share its story with those who can help it take action. I should spend my time in ways that support these most important of priorities. When the constant barrage of everyday urgencies so easily pulls me from my focus, I take a few moments at the beginning and end of each day to assess how I’ve been successful in sticking to my priorities. I find this focus helps me generally respond calmly and evenly in the midst of multiple demands on my time.


When I first came to work at The Denver Foundation, our president told me most things on his calendar were negotiable, but if something had to do with his kids, it was sacrosanct. I was delighted to hear this. The truth is that while I love the Association, the Network and the Foundation, I love my husband and son most of all. I also love to hike in the mountains, train for triathlons, write and spend time with my friends. When I’m not able to preserve the balance of exercise, social time, family and work, I become increasingly depleted.


So I balance my dedication to my professional life with the critical needs of my personal life. Our society gives kudos to the workaholic, but more often I find effective and dynamic leaders are those who have mastered the art of balance, and I strive to follow their example.

Shared leadership/teams

Priority-setting and balance are certainly important, but they are related to personal choices I make about my own time and activities. By far the most important lesson I’ve learned about leadership is that I’m never the most important person in the room. We all are. What does this mean? It means leadership has nothing to do with standing at the head of the class. It is entirely about understanding how the group around you is operating, how the people within that group interact and how to help each person do his/her very best work together. Often this means stepping back and out of the way.
This type of leadership requires the discipline of reflection and intuition: we have to pay attention to the people around us and key in to what motivates them. As hard as it is to do this in a large group, such as a board of directors, it is even more difficult to motivate people when you don’t spend the time to understand the needs of the individuals and what serves the group as a whole. At the same time, people are counting on you to make decisions, motivate consensus, call for votes when needed and move things along. The art of leadership includes balancing the need for action with a keen respect for the gifts of time every board member brings to the table or every colleague brings to the office.

Looking forward

I’m only six months into this experiment of leading multiple boards while juggling an active home life and a demanding job. While the practices I’ve shared here have kept me sane so far, I imagine I’ll have much more to share in February of 2014 when I hand the reins of the Nonprofit Association Board over to my successor. In the meantime, I’m always looking for ideas and suggestions that will help me do better…I hope you’ll share what works for you.



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Using assessment to accelerate board performance

A nonprofit’s board of directors is one of its most valuable resources. Unfortunately, some organizational leaders take the board’s role for granted, allowing board service to settle into a comfortable status quo. Executive directors, alternately responding to major strategic challenges and absorbed in the everyday business of the organization, can forget the board is a key asset that must be developed, tended to and mobilized just like any other. Likewise, the board’s executive committee may shy away from its own responsibility for keeping board members engaged, involved and contributing to the important work of the organization.

But how to make board development a priority when there are so many other pressing needs? Assessment is an efficient, effective way of helping boards understand what optimum performance looks like, why it is important and how they can achieve it.

Board assessment is a three-in-one package. First and foremost, it is an educational process that often helps to inform or remind boards of their roles and responsibilities. Second, it is a diagnostic tool, helping the board identify those areas where it is performing well and those where it may need to develop capacity. Third, both the process and the findings it yields create an opportunity for dialogue through which the board itself prioritizes what it must do to become the board it wants to be.

There are many different approaches to board assessment, ranging from a simple worksheet or checklist boards can fill out and discuss on their own to a more comprehensive facilitated tool or process. (Visit La Piana Consulting for a resource.)

Not all approaches will address the same topics in the same level of detail. Even so, any kind of assessment has the potential to inform and even transform how board members think about and approach their work on behalf of the organization and its mission.

Here are just a few of the benefits my colleagues and I have seen nonprofit boards gain from assessment:

Clarification of roles

One of the most common results of a board assessment is the discovery that greater clarity is needed about the board’s role in one or more areas. Fund development is a prime example. Many nonprofit leaders and board chairs lament the board is not active in fundraising but have not been clear in defining what those expectations really are. Instead, board members are left to interpret for themselves how much engagement is acceptable. Assessments can surface conflicting or incomplete understandings about the board’s role in an objective way and help the organization create the clarity needed.

Discovery of blind spots

At times, assessment can simply confirm for board members they do in fact have a role in a particular area. For example, most boards with which we have worked indicate little knowledge of or involvement in the area of risk management. This is fairly remarkable, given the nonprofit board is legally responsible for the organization’s activities. Often, however, boards trust the organization has obtained the necessary insurance coverage and turn their attention to other matters. But risk management is not a one-and-done proposition and should be revisited on at least an annual basis. Succession planning is another area where many boards have not yet actively engaged, despite acknowledging they need to start the conversation. (Visit La Piana Consulting for a resource.)

Examination of relationships

The relationship between the board and executive director or CEO is a critical element of organizational health. By asking board members to reflect on their role in hiring, supporting and monitoring the effectiveness of the executive, assessment can surface tensions or gaps in that partnership. For example, it may be the board leans too heavily on the executive, or there could be a lack of trust inhibiting a good working relationship. Similarly, the rapport among board members is often an indicator of board functioning. By eliciting candid feedback from board members about various areas of board performance, assessment can identify common and/or differing concerns, experiences, and preferences, such as might exist between new board members and their more seasoned counterparts. In each case, paying attention to individual responses as well as the aggregate result helps to distinguish what may be isolated personal issues from larger patterns of relationships.

Ability to inform engagement

Many boards engaging in assessment are in a growth stage and are navigating the shift from an operationally focused (or “working”) board to the more strategically focused policy board. In these cases, the assessment itself serves as a catalyst, encouraging board members to think more broadly about their role, their participation and their contributions to the organization. This can be both challenging and energizing for boards. Even those that are not transitioning to a policy governance focus often find the assessment has stimulated their thinking about strategic issues or priorities for organizational change. For this reason, a board assessment can be an excellent tool when preparing for strategic planning, a leadership transition or a similar transformation.

Assessment is a relatively small investment, typically requiring a modest amount of each board member’s time to fill out a form or survey and discuss the results. But it can yield real benefits, provided the quality of the assessment tool and discussion educates board members, surfaces actionable priorities and identifies steps to address them.

Finally and most heartening is the quite unexpected result we often see in the course of facilitating board self-assessments. Shining a light on the board not only helps identify opportunities for improvement, but also often elicits affirmations from board members reflecting on why they are there in the first place and how honored they are to be part of a dedicated board working with talented staff to advance the organization’s mission. It is that very commitment and willingness to serve that assessment can help energize and direct for lasting results.

See also:

The Ultimate Board Member’s Guide

The Practitioner’s Guide to Governance as Leadership

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Look at “what and why” instead of “how”

Leap of Reason is a bold and wise look at a persistent problem in the nonprofit sector by one of our leading philanthropists. Managing to outcomes requires nonprofit leaders to take a candid look at what and why they measure instead of how. No one is left out of the equation in Morino’s analysis. Whether you represent government, business, or nonprofit, you’ll find Morino’s insights deeply provocative. While it’s impossible to predict how dismantled our economy will be in the coming years, we can ensure nonprofits are more durable than ever by making our outcomes indispensible through purposeful and enlightening measurement.

In our CausePlanet interview, I asked Mario Morino about the set of conditions organizations must possess before they can successfully manage to outcomes. Here’s what he had to say:

CausePlanet: You explain the real challenge in managing to outcomes is that organizations need a set of prerequisites: an engaged board, leadership with conviction, clarity of purpose and a supportive performance culture. These conditions appear to be best tackled at the top. Have you seen boards and CEOs successfully self-diagnose their level of engagement or conviction?

Mario Morino: I agree with your premise. The top of the organization must value high performance and lead the way on the changes required to get there. That’s not to say you can’t get an initial spark from elsewhere in the organization. I’ve seen that happen a number of times. But if the top leadership doesn’t help to kindle that spark, leading by its own example, then the fire for performance will die out quickly.

And yes, I have seen boards and CEOs self-diagnose their challenges and make the leap of reason! I’ve seen it up close quite a few times. For example, I saw this at the Lawrence School in Northeast Ohio, where I serve on the board and as an advisor, and some know me as “the parent from hell.” Lou Salza, a brilliant, passionate new headmaster and a highly committed board chair, Susan Karas, led a fundamental rethink and reinvention. I describe Lou’s role in Lawrence’s transformation in my recent speech, “Relentless: Investing in Leaders Who Stop at Nothing in Pursuit of Greater Social Impact” What I should have also pointed out was the important role Susan played and what happens when you have this kind of passionate, focused leadership leading the charge.

I’ve also seen rethinking and reinvention in organizations that did not have an infusion of new leadership, such as:

Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers
Friendship Public Charter School
Maya Angelou Public Charter School
Saint Luke’s Foundation
Share Our Strength
Year Up
Youth Villages
The SEED School and others.

Watch for more highlights of our interview with author and philanthropist, Mario Morino, next week.

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12 tips for starting your fundraising committee

In light of our recent Page to Practice feature of Emily Davis’ Fundraising and the Next Generation, I thought you’d enjoy her recent blog about the twelve steps involved with starting a fundraising committee.

Frequently, I’m asked about steps nonprofits can take in starting a nonprofit fundraising committee. Below are some ways that you can start out in organizing a team of volunteer fund raisers for your organizational mission.

1. Have a committee description. How can volunteers know what you need them to do without instruction? Start with a committee description that includes as much detail as possible like committee activities, meeting times and length, preferred skills and qualifications, and any other logistics you would want to know if you were joining the committee.

2. Be clear about your committee name. The words “fundraising” and “committee” can scare some people away. Another option is to call your committee the “Resource Development Team.” It sends a slightly different message that this is a team of leaders who are leveraging not just dollars, but also resources of all kinds for the mission and cause.

3. Identify board leadership. One of the best practices in nonprofit leadership is to make sure that your organizational any committees are led by active board members. Board members serve as ambassadors for your organization – both with internal and external networks. Having board members lead committees allows there to be seamless connection between the board and committees with communications, activities, reporting, etc.

4. Share your Fundraising Plan. Every organization should have a plan for their resource development strategies, whether it is a simple or a complex plan. Share that plan with your Fundraising Committee and ask them to provide feedback as well as take specific projects. Review the plan annually and find out what worked well, which goals need to be amended, and what just is not realistic. The plan helps with measurement and evaluation as well.

5. Provide staff support. Do not expect that you will create a Fundraising Committee and they will magically begin fundraising millions of dollars. Very few people are fundraising experts, so realize your staff is going to be the key to the committee members’ successes in many ways. Your staff is on the ground and working with stakeholders every day. Create opportunities for the staff to share and support the committee’s efforts. Train staff members how to lead, not just manage, the committee. Leaders breed leaders – this is a great opportunity for staff members to support and engage volunteers in a leadership capacity.

6. Offer trainings. Other ways to support your committee is to provide them with in-service trainings or share regular training opportunities through other organizations like your local nonprofit association. Investing small amounts of money in trainings can have a great return on investment in terms of fundraising from your committee members. It also shows a value in the committee members and your appreciation for their volunteer work. Read the next six steps at Davis’ blog.

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Ensuring organizational excellence: a self-assessment

After many years of working with a variety of organizations, helping them to be all they choose to be, I realize the most valuable service of an outsider is to ask the “right” questions. For the organization that truly wants to grow/improve, a well-placed question puts it squarely on the helpful path of introspection and self-discovery.

In virtually any situation, the simple question, “What is your goal?” has oftentimes not been considered. Yet the answer to this question is vital and provides the platform for effective decision making and pursuit of a course of action.

For the organization that aspires to excellence, I suggest there are 12 inquiries that quickly identify primary areas of strength and weakness. These inquiries can be initiated via a self-assessment tool and process. Even if the organization determines it can benefit from a deeper investigation, eventually bringing in someone from outside to guide the discovery process and address problem areas, it is helpful to consider these questions early in the process.

Here are the 12 inquiries, stated in the positive rather than in the form of questions. They avoid values-based concepts, including those considered standard in the nonprofit industry (e.g. diversity), because the values of a particular organization certainly should be considered in the self-review process. The list provides the framework for an organization of excellence. When these activities are pursued with consistency, they combine to create an organizational culture. Thus, the significant opportunity to “reinvent” one’s self is ever available.

Mission and values: We have a clear, succinct and articulated mission (purpose) and are grounded in the values that underwrite our work.

Vision and planning: We are aware of our intentions for this organization’s future and have committed to a strategic, realistic plan of action, including a frequent review of the plan, for getting from where we are today to that future point.

Leadership/governance, management and staffing: We have a governing body that understands its legal, fiscal and other responsibilities and provides for effective leadership and proper accountability of the organization, including adherence to industry-specific best practices for dealing with conflicts of self-interest. There are sufficient human resources, paid or unpaid, with the necessary skills to manage and provide for the day-to-day activities of the organization. All involved individuals are provided with specific performance expectations, learning opportunities and feedback and are appropriately engaged, supervised, compensated and acknowledged for their efforts.

Programs/services and products: The programs and services or goods/products we offer are created based on industry best practices and delivered with the good faith of the irreliability to provide the stated benefit to the receiving constituency.

Policies and procedures, systems: Internal systems ensure consistent and ongoing delivery of programs/services and/or products and provide for the necessary functions that support this delivery. Our organizational success is reliant on record keeping and systems and not the perpetual involvement of any particular person or specific, static group of people.

Tools and technology: We effectively utilize tools and technology to ensure sustained management of the organization as well as program/product delivery and evaluation. We gather and analyze/utilize meaningful data to guide and inform our decisions and work.

Fiscal management: We are responsible stewards of our fiscal resources in compliance with all legal requirements and accounting industry standards. The organization provides for timely and accurate budgeting and financial transaction management, recording, reporting and review. We adhere to built-in internal controls and utilize prudent fiscal management and investment practices.

Revenue generation: We engage in activities, build relationships and represent the organization insuch a manner that financial resources, including adequate cash flow, areperpetually generated and available for the pursuit of our mission.

Target constituencies and alliances; communications: We have clearly identified the target constituencies who benefit from and/or assist us in doing our work. Our reputation and image are recognizable and positive; communications with each stakeholder group, and the members of that group, are as distinct, direct and effective as resources will allow.

Risk management: We have conducted a prudent assessment of the organization’s operational, disaster, crisis and security risks and engage in adequate precautions and actions at all levels of operation to reduce exposure to and potential effects of any incident(s) such that the entity or its constituents will come to harm.

Quality assurance and evaluation: Programs, services and/or products/goods are provided with assurance of quality. Consumer acceptance is tracked and measured for a successful result, based on data-based review and pre-determined standards for quality and quantity of output and desired outcomes.

External environment: We are mindful of our efforts in the context of a larger world, tracking changes that occur externally to our work that have consequential impacts on both short- and long-term strategies and activities. We are vigilant in adapting and redirecting our course to ensure relevancy, responsiveness and ultimately, organizational survival.

See also:

The Practitioner’s Guide to Governance as Leadership

The Board Member’s Ultimate Guide

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Managing outcomes requires a leap of reason

Rather than take a blind leap of faith based on intuition or anecdotal information, author Mario Morino asks us to take a leap of reason when managing to outcomes. Why? Because our causes deserve it and social markets increasingly will fund only the nonprofits that demonstrate results.

Unfortunately, nonprofits aren’t great at managing to outcomes for a variety of reasons Morino explains in Chapter One of this book (request a free copy below).

Similar to other professions, nonprofit leaders aren’t rewarded for good management and consequently, have an acute shortage. Funders generally don’t provide financial support in order to make the leap to managing outcomes. Admittedly, nonprofits are cautious of managing to outcomes because they fear the information will be used against them rather than constructively for them. Among those who do try managing to outcomes get lost in the how to measure rather than the what and why.

I asked Morino about the benefit of good information in our interview:

CausePlanet: Your book claims the vast majority of nonprofits do not have the benefit of good information and tools to manage desired outcomes. Furthermore, you stress the importance of collecting better data to determine where you’re headed, chart a logical course, redirect when necessary and compete for funding. If some nonprofits are guilty of overmeasuring, why is there a disconnect with outcomes?

Mario Morino: There are some nonprofits that overmeasure, often because they are pushed by their many funders to provide a lot of data that help their funders check compliance boxes but don’t help the nonprofits themselves to navigate, learn and improve. And there are many nonprofits that undermeasure or don’t measure at all, perhaps because their leaders and board members are not asking all the hard questions they should be asking.

But I don’t want to dwell on the measurement part of this story. Measurement is a tool of effective management, not an end in itself. The macro point of Leap of Reason is that as a society, we’re not making nearly enough progress toward solving our big social and environmental challenges, and we desperately need to find better ways of encouraging, supporting, and rewarding high performance in our social and public organizations. In this era of scarcity, investing in high performance is not a luxury. It’s a necessity.

Join us next week for more of Morino’s author interview and our discussion of the prerequisites necessary for managing to outcomes.

Request a free copy of Leap of Reason for you, your board and/or your association by emailing or visit our Page to Practice™ summary feature of Leap of Reason.

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NOW is the best time to rebuild your board: Here’s why and how

According to surveys by the Nonprofit Finance Fund, nonprofits face growing financial pressures while also experiencing greater demands for services. At the same time, there are new funding opportunities for nonprofits, including corporations seeking to advance social and environmental purposes as well as investors and new philanthropists. The smartest NGOs/nonprofits will weather the financial threats while capturing substantial new revenues in the next several years.

The organizations that build the most effective boards of directors, who work in concert with their CEOs, will win; they will win by maximizing strategic and financial success. So if your board is stale by a matter of years or decades, you most certainly need to build a new board. But even if you just recently completed a board-building process, it’s good to begin thinking about the next board members you want to recruit.

In fact, each board should work on building the next board that will take the organization even farther to the next level.

Here’s WHY it’s important to continuously build the board:

The role of the board is not simply to provide oversight, but also to add value and advance the community in accomplishing its mission. This happens best when the board is ambitious in achieving a greater vision.

    The social and economic environment is so dynamic it’s essential for your NGO/nonprofit to engage board members with the most current, relevant expertise.

      It can take time to cultivate the most desirable candidates to your board. And often, busy people need to build the time into their schedules in order to fulfill the responsibilities of service. So, they’ll say, “Yes,” if you give them a year or two to plan ahead.

        It often takes more time to research and identify board candidates with diverse backgrounds and perspectives than it does to recruit the most obvious candidates. The investment is essential if your organization seeks to be relevant, enriching and fully meaningful.

          There should be some planned turnover on your board in order to promote dynamic thinking and avoid stagnation.

            Here’s HOW to continuously build the board:

            Imagine the organization’s greater vision in the next several years – in terms of communities you might serve; programs you might offer; strategic alliances; and key revenue sources including philanthropy, corporations, fees for services and government.

              Consider people with the experience, networks of influence and diversity of perspectives who will be most valuable to the organization in achieving the greater vision.

                Create a plan to recruit the best candidates. Establishing a clear role for the board and a board structure and practices that are highly effective and efficient are necessary steps to attract and retain the most desirable board candidates.

                  Create opportunities for leadership succession: create room for new board members without bulking up the board by rotating people off the board.

                    By the way, many of the most desirable candidates find it preferable to serve on a particular board – even possibly ascend to a leadership position – for a certain period of time and then have the opportunity to move on to serve another organization. They regard board service as a learning opportunity as well as a chance to contribute.

                    Pacing rotations thoughtfully and carefully for board leaders and members is important and depends on a variety of factors, including the complexity of the organization. Too quick of a rotation, leaders and board members will not have the opportunity to fully engage and contribute. Too long, board leaders and board members can potentially become stale, too dominant or cliquey.

                    In all cases, dynamic board-building is vital.

                    See also:

                    Leveraging Good Will

                    The Practitioner’s Guide to Governance as Leadership

                    The Ultimate Board Member’s Book

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                    Using market forces to create social value

                    This week I wanted to share one of the many compelling stories from Beverly Schwartz’s “Rippling,” featuring a “changemaker” who uses market forces to create social value. “Far different from corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs, these partnerships create a hybrid adaptation that establishes a profitable business for the sole purpose of supporting, fueling growth, and sustaining a social purpose,” says Schwartz.

                    Profit isn’t a dirty word
                    Schwartz adds  “profit is not a dirty word—if profits are recycled back into the business or used to sustain or increase employment or wages and provide access to opportunities for those who are marginalized, impoverished, or in temporary need.” The following is one of the social entrepreneurs who illustrate how to use market forces to create a ripple effect in her community’s pond.

                    Finding opportunities within the problem
                    Albina Ruiz is building a community-based solid waste management system that plays an important role in improving sanitation and health conditions in Peru and other countries in Latin America. Whenever children learn more about cleanliness it is always positive. Every stage of the waste management cycle creates employment and income, integrating business and social value throughout the entire process. Ruiz admits she was obsessed with the trash that seemed to overwhelm Lima. Heaps of trash were everywhere in the city streets, rivers and vacant lots.

                    Trash equals jobs
                    Albina realized the garbage represented people. For every piece of trash discarded there was a person behind it and in front of it. Where everyone, including the union, saw trash, she saw an opportunity to create jobs, improve public health and improve the environment.

                    • Albina designed a new type of small tricycle truck that could fit in the narrow, hilly streets and around the garbage blocking the roads.

                    • She enlisted households within the slums to become paid recyclers who would sort the organics for animals as well as recyclables like bottles, iron scraps, paper, plastic and anything else they could reuse.

                    • She formed an association of these local changemakers who would partner with the tricycle trash collectors and coincide with the public campaign that encouraged residents to wait for these small trucks to pick up their trash rather than throw it in the streets. Incredible and obvious ripple effects result from Albina’s efforts.

                    Furthermore, some of her recyclers now make handcrafted products from the recycled items and sell them to high-end stores. “Albina’s primary tool is employment, and she uses it by organizing the recylcers into income-generating micro-enterprises, a strategy built into every state of the waste management cycle,” says Schwartz.

                    If you’d like to learn more about other social entrepreneurs and how they developed a sustainable business model, join us on July 11 at 11 a.m. CST for our monthly author interview. Visit to register.

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