Posts Tagged ‘Jan Masaoka’

Four ways to remove a board member

Occasionally, a board member needs to be removed from the board. In some cases, a conflict of interest or unethical behavior may be grounds to remove an individual from the board. In other cases, the behavior of a board member may become so obstructive that the board is prevented from functioning effectively.

The best boards often have strongly felt disagreements and heated arguments. Challenging groupthink and arguing for an unpopular viewpoint are not grounds for getting rid of a board member. But if a board member consistently disrupts meetings or is otherwise destructive and demoralizing, it may be appropriate to consider removing the individual from the board:


Personal intervention


One-to-one intervention by the board president or other board leadership is a less formal solution to managing problem board members. If a board member has failed to attend several meetings in a row, or has become an impediment to the board’s work, the board president can meet informally with the board member in question. The conversation can occur in person or on the telephone; the board president can specifically request a resignation. Examples:

“I respect your strong opinion that we have made the wrong decision about moving the office. But we can’t continue debating the issue. If you don’t feel you can wholeheartedly help us try to make the decision a success, I’d like you to consider leaving the board.”

“I suspect this is a time when it’s just not possible for you to get to the meetings and participate as fully as I’m sure you woud like. I’m wondering if it would be better if we released you from your board obligations . . . what would you think about my sending you an email confirming your resignation due to lack of time?”

“I’m having a hard time managing board meetings with your frequent interruptions and I am worried about losing board members due to the kinds of criticisms you make of them in meetings. I think it would be best if you would take a break from the board . . . you could resign now, and later, when there’s a different board president, talk with him or her about your re-joining the board.”

Leave of absence


Make it possible for individuals to take a leave of absence from the board if they have health, work, or other reasons why they cannot participate fully during the current term. A board member can take, for instance, a 6-month “disability leave,” or a 3-month “busy with new job” leave.

You can either keep the person on the board formally (but not expect them at meetings) or you can have them resign for purposes of determining a quorum. Either way the time on leave counts towards their board term; otherwise someone who takes a year’s leave can end up being on the board for much longer than is appropriate.

Suggesting a leave of absence to a board member who is, for example, failing to do tasks he or she agreed to do, offers a gracious exit and allows the board to assign tasks elsewhere.


Term limits


Most boards (62%) establish not only board terms but also term limits, such as two-year terms with a limit of three consecutive terms. In such a situation, a board member cannot serve more than six consecutive years without a “break” from the board. After a year off the board, an individual can once again be elected to the board. Proponents feel that term limits provide a non-confrontational way to ease ineffective board members off the board. Opponents of term limits believe that, with proper board leadership, errant board members can be guided toward either improving their behavior or quietly resigning from the board. (The difficult part is ensuring “proper board leadership” over many years.) Whether or not you have term limits, place a person’s term right next to their name on the board roster; otherwise it’s too easy for everyone to forget how long they’ve been on the board or when their term ends. Example: Jack Moon (Term 2 ends January 2012)



Your organizational by-laws should describe a process by which a board member can be removed by vote, if necessary. For example, in some organizations a board member can be removed by a two-thirds vote of the board at a regularly scheduled board meeting.

If you do not have a way to vote out board members, add this now to the bylaws, not when there’s “a problem with a first and last name.”

See also in Blue Avocado:


See also:


Nonprofit Sustainability: Making Strategic Decisions for Financial Viability


This article is adapted from one in the Best of the Board Cafe, Second Edition, by Jan Masaoka.


Image credits: wikihow, managementtrends, info.legalzoom


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Organize your board to support the revenue strategy

Instead of focusing only on how board members can raise individual donations (or not!), think more broadly and effectively about how board members can support the key aspects of your organization’s business/revenue strategy:

In the quest for funds, there is no shortage of advice given to nonprofits. Start a social enterprise! Get corporate donations! Raffle a house! Perhaps the most frequent and consistent advice: focus the board on getting major gifts; in fact, recruit a strong fundraising board that can get major gifts.

But pursuing a new funding stream for which you may not have the right people and competencies already is usually not the best place to start. Instead, we recommend you see how you can boost and leverage the funding streams and people you already have in place.

Let’s imagine a community center with five areas of activity:

  1. An after-school tutoring program
  2. Memberships from neighborhood residents
  3. Facility rentals (to basketball teams, Girl Scouts, etc.)
  4. Annual Neighborhood Congress Day
  5. Organizing neighbors on issues such as zoning, traffic, police presence, economic development, housing

We have to consider which are the most important programs for the community center. The board and management team can discuss:

  • Which programs add the greatest value to our neighborhood?
  • What do we need to do to maintain our largest revenue sources?
  • What do we need to do to grow the type of revenue that will support our most important programs?

In this community center, the answers are:

  • The Neighborhood Congress and community organizing are the heart of the organization—we are a neighborhood council first and foremost.
  • But in terms of financial support, we are a tutoring center.
  • We need to have connections to government funders and foundations, as these are our biggest funding sources.
  • As a neighborhood council, memberships and small business sponsorships are important ways to stay close to our constituents.

Organizing the board around the business strategy, then, means something like this:

  • We need two board members who can and will work proactively to stay in touch with government officials (both elected and administrative) and work to keep our county funding.
  • We need two board members to help with foundation fundraising — whether making introductions, writing proposals or joining staff in meetings with foundation representatives. We will try to get foundation funding for neighborhood issues but also realize sometimes it won’t happen.
  • We need two board members who can and will actively recruit members and local merchant sponsors.

Each pair can then develop a work plan for the year. For example, one board member might agree to set up a lunch for herself with the executive director, a city council member and someone from the mayor’s office to tour the neighborhood. Another might say he will stop into one local merchant each month to talk about the center.

This modest process can result in board members who are capable of supporting the key elements of revenue strategy and just as important, are organized to do so. In addition, it provides a platform where board members of all economic means can contribute meaningfully to the organization’s finances.

Rather than a vague and intimidating dictum like, “Every board member has to raise money,” this approach focuses on the organization’s real-life revenue streams and mobilizes board members in support of a strategy for sustainability.

Special thanks to Jan Masaoka and Blue Avocado for this article, which was originally posted on February 9. 2012.

See also:

The Ultimate Board Member’s Book

A Fundraising Guide for Nonprofit Board Members

Should board members be required to give?

Just tell me: What’s the best way to raise money?



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Financial endurance: Does your funding strategy have it?

In Kimberley Sherwood’s blog last week at Co-Strategy, she talked about the importance of defining your funding strategy and went on to cite research by Bridgespan (featured at NPQ), which highlighted a handful of best practices for guiding your strategic financial growth.

One of the practices from Bridgespan surrounds the notion that “you must break the funding wall by committing to an evolving funding strategy over time. As you consider the next three to five years, how will your strategy need to evolve to ensure your long-term financial security to deliver sustained impact? Where do you take calculated risks?”

In Nonprofit Sustainability: Making Strategic Decisions for Financial Viability, authors Jeanne Bell, Jan Masaoka and Steve Zimmerman underscore Bridgespan’s research, encouraging nonprofit leaders to ensure financial endurance and sustained impact through an evolving revenue strategy. In my interview with the authors, I asked them about their view of sustainability as an orientation, not a destination. Steve’s response is fitting for this discussion:

One of the common comments that I receive from boards when we’re doing strategic planning is that they want a ‘sustainable business model.’ It is often said in a way that implies that sustainability is a destination-–once you get to the nirvana of a sustainable business model you don’t have to worry anymore and money will continue to come rolling in for perpetuity. We know the reality is that nothing is forever. Funding sources come and go and constituents’ needs evolve. So, what is sustainable today may not be sustainable tomorrow. As a result, sustainability is constantly evolving and requires an orientation of monitoring and decision making to make sure that your organization is sustainable at any given point and time.

Smart nonprofits today realize the board can’t bring in a consultant and have a “one-off” strategic planning session. They must commit to an evolving plan that’s responsive to the ever-changing environment. How relevant is your current plan and does it build your financial endurance?

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Evaluating the executive director


Are you sighing just from having read the title of this article? Why does this topic make us all feel so tired?

Virtually everyone agrees that boards should conduct performance reviews of executive directors (EDs or CEOs). Even so, the predominant practice is neglect, and the predominant feeling is resentment. The neglect comes from the board: only 45% of nonprofit CEOs have reviews, reported CompassPoint’s recent Daring to Lead 2011 study. Resentment comes from the executives, who are too often either resentful of the review process or even more likely and paradoxically, disgusted with the board for not conducting one.

And the agreement that ED evaluations should happen forestalls us from reflecting on why. In fact, in contrast to most performance appraisals, the key goal of ED evaluations is not performance improvement, but instead: a) the chance to reflect on the performance of the entire organization (not just the individual), and b) to spark a calibration of expectations and goals between the ED and the board.

Board evaluations of ED performance are radically different from any other type of performance review and must be thought of differently. For example:

While most staff reviews are between two individuals, the ED evaluation is a collective, committee review of an individual.

An ED review appropriately is more about the organization’s achievements rather than about the individual’s completion of a series of tasks.

Board members seldom (if ever) see the ED other than at board or committee meetings and are typically highly unfamiliar with either the building blocks or the nuances of the internal and external leadership roles that EDs play.

But despite these obstacles, there’s a firm belief that ED evaluations “just should be done!”

But while board members drag their feet, many EDs are seething.

“If I didn’t make them give me an evaluation,” fumed one former executive director, “I would never have gotten a raise.”

Many executives feel similarly: the route to a raise — or sometimes simply to recognition for the organization as a whole — requires going through an evaluation which will document the strong performance of the organization and the board’s approval, support, and affection for the executive.

When board members are unhappy with the CEO

On the flip side, an all-too-common scenario unfolds when a board is dissatisfied with its executive and some board members raise the question of termination. “But we haven’t done an evaluation!” other board members cry, and so first an evaluation process must be devised and then implemented.

We know one national nonprofit at which the board chair — faced with nearly instant dissatisfaction with a new executive — felt obligated to initiate a thorough process “to be fair to her [the executive] and to get all of us on the same page.” Worthy aims, but during the year it took to complete that process and fire the executive, the organization’s reserves were squandered and its reputation was damaged.

Executives who know they are in trouble often stall the evaluation process by making it too complicated or by continually calling the process into question. They even often succeed in delaying the evaluation until the disapproving board members have given up and left the board.

Not mainly about performance improvement

We know that many board members have relatively little appetite for ED performance appraisals. But maybe it’s not just laziness. Too often boards undertake executive review only when they are unhappy, or even only when they are considering termination and want to establish a paper trail for doing so.

Second, there is often uncertainty about how to conduct them.

And third, hidden reason for the lack of appetite for executive evaluation is that board members suspect that such a review won’t change the flawed behaviors of an otherwise adequate (or even superior) executive, nor will it lead to a sharp turnaround for a seriously underperforming executive. So why do it?

Going back to the limited view of the ED’s work that board members have, it’s not surprising that the review process isn’t an effective vehicle for the kind of coaching and feedback that often occurs in other performance reviews.  This is true even when evaluation teams try to conduct interviews and seek input from members of the staff and others who work with the ED. Since board members only observe directly a fraction of the ED’s work, they can only judge or play an effective coaching role when it comes to the ED’s relationship with the board.

When asked what positives came out of their evaluations by the board (other than a raise or praise), most executives struggled to find an answer, and only a couple could think of an instance in which the review resulted in changes or improvements in their own behaviors.

Surprisingly, we did hear over and over again that positive results came from the executive review, not necessarily related to the executive’s performance. We learned that the ED evaluation turns out often to best serve as way for getting everyone — board and staff — on the same page about organizational goals for the year. And then, proceeding from those goals, there may be some supporting goals for the executive director as an individual.

Alignment of goals

Veteran executives often realize that a mutual alignment of goals is the real purpose of ED reviews. Such alignment usually occurs no matter what process or instrument is used. Inevitably, a discussion of performance brings up issues of why organizational goals for the last period were met or not and what is expected for the future. Of the many goals and objectives within the plan for the year, the discussion almost always moves to what board members and the executive see as the most important and the most crucial.

So a key message is this: don’t worry so much about finding exactly the right instrument or process to assess the ED’s performance. But use it as a vehicle for aligning expectations and goals for the coming year — for the organization as a whole, for the board, and for the ED.

Special thanks to where this article was originally published.

See also:

The Nonprofit Leadership Team: Building the Board-Executive Director Partnership

Crucial Confrontations: Tools for Talking About Broken Promises, Violated Expectations, and Bad Behavior

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Model statement versus mission statement: Do you have both?

When engaged in decision making, nonprofit leaders typically look at financial sustainability and programmatic sustainability in isolation from one another. Because a blended approach is seldom used by boards and leaders, important decisions are made out of context, leaving the organization at greater risk for future viability.

In Nonprofit Sustainability, the authors demonstrate how to use an adaptable tool called the “Matrix Map,” which is extremely helpful in visualizing what programs merit nurturing, require dissolving or compel us to maximize them based on their profitability and impact. Matrix mapping can be used for simple decisions, complex collaborations, mergers, planning and fundraising feasibility. The authors claim that Matrix Maps foster discussion, facilitate strategic options and ensure that decision makers keep both aspects of sustainability front and center.

Nonprofit Sustainability uses three fictitious organizations to illustrate how to use the Matrix Mapping tool and introduce the concepts of business models, sustainability and financial viability in the nonprofit setting. According to the authors, financial sustainability is not only a legitimate goal, it is a necessary and intrinsic goal. Furthermore, most nonprofits are now employing hybrid revenue strategies where they combine donations, earned income, contracts, grants and other income types. Consequently, financial goals must be set and managed differently for each revenue stream.

Whether it is purposeful or not, every nonprofit has a business model, say the authors. Even though every program is managed individually, each must operate within an overall strategy. The authors assert that leadership’s role is to develop and communicate that strategy so all the activities operate within one vision, which makes the business model viable.

CausePlanet: One of the most intriguing imperatives I read in this book was the importance behind describing what success will look like. So I asked Bell, Masaoka and Zimmerman “What is the best use of a business model statement as it relates to the mission statement?”

Zimmerman: “Mission statements discuss what the organization wants to accomplish typically in broad, inspirational terms. Business model statements are more specific and provide details not only on how the organization carries out its mission but also how it pays for it. So, for example, an early childhood education center’s mission statement might be:

“To support the intellectual, physical, spiritual and emotional development of children so they become self sufficient, contributing members of the community,”

but their business model statement might read:

“We provide early childhood education and daycare services for children ages three to five supported by government funding and subsidized through the generosity of individuals.”

The statement acts as a guide for the board in explaining the business model and helps focus them on the programs and revenue strategies that create a successful organization.

For more discussion about Nonprofit Sustainability, you can follow the authors: Jan Masaoka at Blue Avocado (, which is an online magazine for nonprofits where the discussion on this topic and many others is continuing. Both Jeanne Bell and Steve Zimmerman contribute there and can also be reached via their respective organizations: Compasspoint ( and Spectrum Nonprofit Services (


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Learn how to revise your business model with Matrix Maps

Free Nonprofit Sustainability webinar

Based on the book Nonprofit Sustainability: Making Strategic Decisions for Financial Viability, co-authors Jan Masaoka and Steve Zimmerman will present a webinar on the Matrix Map tool for understanding and revising your business model to address both financial and mission impact at the same time.

If you attend the webinar, you will also receive a coupon for a 25% discount on the book. Thursday, June 16, 11:00 am Pacific time. Click here to register for free. Limited to the first 500 registrants.

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Destination: Sustainability

For nonprofit leaders who are tired of their current decision making paradigm, the more nimble and actionable process of “matrix mapping” explained in the book, Nonprofit Sustainability: Making Strategic Decisions for Financial Viability, offers a fresh and immediately gratifying alternative.

This book will help you examine your current business model, identify areas for adjustments, consider income streams and ultimately assist with ongoing decision making. Nonprofit Sustainability by Jeanne Bell, Jan Masaoka and Steve Zimmerman is an essential tool for CEOs, EDs and management teams.

There was a quote from this book that especially resonated with me because I’ve heard versions of this so frequently during my years in the nonprofit sector. It goes as follows: “A new executive director was told by the board and the staff, ‘There’s a $300,000 hole in the budget that you have to fill.’ Not only is this a dishearteningly phrased directive, it’s an unproductive way to characterize a financially difficult situation. Behind this statement is the unspoken assumption that programs and their funding occupy two separate spheres rather than fitting into an overall business model for the organization.” (p. 109)

This excerpt compelled me to ask the authors, “What is the most common reason why nonprofit leaders look at programmatic sustainability and financial sustainability in isolation of one another?”

Steve Zimmerman responded by saying “It is difficult for board members and senior managers to look at both mission impact and financial profitability primarily because our systems aren’t designed to do so. Program evaluations rarely provide information about the full cost of the program and financial statements don’t reveal the impact that our programs are having. Likewise, in our board meetings we tend to discuss items down an agenda: programs then finances then fundraising. But all of these are deeply interconnected. The Matrix Map is a visual tool that integrates mission and money and allows leaders to make decisions while holding both programmatic and financial sustainability together.”

I also asked Zimmerman, Bell and Masaoka to explain their claim that “sustainability is an orientation, not a destination.” Zimmerman said, “One of the common comments that I receive from boards when we’re doing strategic planning is that they want a “sustainable business model.” It is often said in a way that implies that sustainability is a destination – once you get to the nirvana of a sustainable business model you don’t have to worry anymore and money will continue to come rolling in for perpetuity. We know the reality is that nothing is forever. Funding sources come and go and constituents’ needs evolve. So, what is sustainable today may not be sustainable tomorrow. As a result, sustainability is constantly evolving and requires an orientation of monitoring and decision making to make sure that your organization is sustainable at any given point and time.”

For more discussion about Nonprofit Sustainability, you can follow the authors: Jan Masaoka at Blue Avocado (, which is an online magazine for nonprofits where the discussion on this topic and many others is continuing. Both Jeanne Bell and Steve Zimmerman contribute there and can also be reached via their respective organizations: Compasspoint ( and Spectrum Nonprofit Services (

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