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Lions, and Tigers, and Boards – Oh My!

Resource Center - Foundation

If you’re a board member, past, present or future, or even if you serve on a committee, you’d be wise to heed the advice from Simone Joyaux, ACFRE, who will fearlessly walk you through how to Fire a Lousy Board Member. Joyaux’s passion for boards exudes through her work and guidance on what great boards do, and don’t do, at their board meetings. 

Joyaux is described by colleagues around the world as “one of the most thoughtful, inspirational, and provocative leaders in the philanthropic sector.” If you’ve ever attended one of Joyaux’s AFP webinar’s or conference sessions, you already know this. Her experience speaks for itself: her books, Keep Your Donors and Strategic Fund Development are standards in the field, she has a web column with Nonprofit Quarterly, she chaired CFRE International and she is a regular speaker for AFP webinars and conferences.

So, what makes Joyaux so passionate about the work that boards do (or don’t do) that she’s hosting an AFP webinar and TWO sessions at AFP’s International Conference on Fundraising? “I believe boards add enormous value,” she says. “By value, I don’t mean that they are a fundraising squad. I get frustrated when we in the nonprofit sector think of board members as just fundraisers.”

Joyaux goes on to say, “Outside of board meetings they are members of the community that help nurture donors. But when they are on the board they are part of the corporate governance and help to nurture the organization.” That’s the reason why Joyaux would ask someone to serve on a board—because of their collaboration with the board, not just because of their stature in the fundraising field.

Corporate Governance is Key

She defines corporate governance as “the process whereby a group of individuals – the board – ensures the health and effectiveness of the organization’ and thinks that good governance is no longer a luxury. There are too many scandals, too many angry governments, and donors are getting rather spooked, too. Board meetings are the core of corporate governance: designing them, ensuring adequate preparation and making sure you talk about the right stuff the right way.

Joyaux says for an example of where a board went wrong, just look at Penn State and BP. “Yes, they both had management problems, but in both situations, I say to myself, ‘where is the board’?”

Joyaux notes that it’s extremely important for boards to understand the concept of corporate governance and distinguish between the board group and the member as an individual—there’s a major difference.

During her AFP webinar on Thursday, Feb. 21, What Great Boards Do at Their Board Meetings – And What They Don’t Do!, she’ll walk you through the glaring issues that arise when a board isn’t conducting a meeting properly. After all, how will they know when they’re doing it wrong?

“When they start getting down into the weeds and micromanaging, that’s where they go wrong. Step back and look at the high-level questions,” says Joyaux. When you put a bunch of board members in a room who were all taught to work on a management level, it’s easy to get down in to the weeds. To get back on track, ask yourselves, “Is that what we’re really supposed to talk about?”

Joyaux suggests using specific questions to help shape a board meeting agenda:

  • How do we anticipate the unforeseen possibilities? How can we foresee the unforeseeable?
  • How do we balance risk and gamble?
  • How do we move from inconceivable to inevitable?

 If your board finds itself saying, “We don’t have time to talk about that at a board meeting,” then what are you talking about? Joyaux suggests using your board chair to set the tone for the meeting. She elaborates on this theory in her new blog, Simone Uncensored – Bad board meeting – and the board chair makes it so!

Turn That Board-Frown Upside-Down

If your board meeting does start to go awry, you still have a chance to turn it around and ensure a good meeting. Joyaux suggests there are little things that the board chair and CEO of the organization can do to tweak the agenda. No need to get permission to make tweaks. Just do it.  

“People may not even notice, but it’ll still make a difference. As the board chair and CEO, you design the agenda to make it more strategic,” suggests Joyaux.

“Make sure board members are prepared for the meeting by sending the materials ahead of time. NEVER provide extra copies at a board meeting. Members should have read it ahead of time and made notes on their own original copy,” says Joyaux.

Providing additional copies on-site give the board members the sense that it’s okay not to prepare for the meeting. In order to have a decent meeting you need to start the meeting BEFORE the meeting with materials to get them thinking and engaged.

Using or Losing Your Board Members

Once you have the knowledge to run a successful board meeting by attending Joyaux’s webinar on Feb. 21, make sure to attend her education sessions at the AFP International Conference on Fundraising in San Diego. During the conference Joyaux will teach you how to Train Your Board Members to Personally Ask for Contributions and how to Fire Lousy Board Members.

Joyaux’s favorite definition of philanthropy is the “voluntary act for the common good.”

“When you are asked for a contribution by a volunteer, it’s a voluntary act. To have a board member participate in asking is the ultimate example of philanthropy.” This gives the board member a chance to show the prospect donor that they gave to the organization, and explain why. It gives the donor a sense of relation to the board member.

Besides that, Joyaux points out that this is a volume business. Thus, “the more askers, the better.” Having a board member assist with an ask gives a more personal and powerful expression.

Joyaux will provide additional pointers on Training Your Board Members to Personally Ask for Contributions during her conference session on Monday, Apr. 8, from 8:00 – 9:15 a.m.

During Joyaux’s workshop-style sessions at conference you can expect an engaging and hands-on experience because that’s her style! “I may have ten things I want to say and in between each point I engage the attendees and ask them what they think about it, what would they do,” says Joyaux.

This style may be even more beneficial given the bold topic discussed in her second conference session on Monday, Apr. 8, from 1:15 – 2:30 p.m. Joyaux will walk you through Firing Lousy Board Members, a topic on which she is currently penning a handbook.

Joyaux believes this is one of the largest issues in the sector. “There are lousy board members and we’re too chicken to fire them,” she says. The key is to be gracious, kind and respectful. You’re not looking to burn any bridges, you simply want to portray that it’s not a good fit.

Joyaux urges you to look at Firing Lousy Board Members as “enhancing their attrition”, or as the “thank and release.” In this workshop, Joyaux will share the secrets to this tricky situation.

Whether you’re new to a board, or the even the board chair, you are sure to gain some new tips and tricks from this thoughtful and passionate speaker. Joyaux’s workshop-style sessions will have you walking out confident and returning the passion for your board, in the right way.

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