Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Accountability – It’s Exciting and Not Just About the Money – But That Counts Too!

With all the financial mess we are dealing with on a national level today it seems like a good time to talk about accountability. Accountability is essential for effective governance and it’s about more than the money.

Accountability is an important, strong sounding word but it is also one of those words that leaves a lot unsaid. What should a nonprofit board be accountable about anyway? Effective governance requires that a nonprofit Board review and approve the mission and strategic direction, budget, financials, compensation policies and fiscal and governance policies.

Try to recruit new board members with this line? You’re more likely to put them to sleep or see recruitees run away. But all of these functions are important governance responsibilities. Let’s break it out and discuss it so that we understand it as the energizing charge it should be rather than the dry responsibility that it sounds like.

Developing the strategic direction for an organization is an exciting venture. Determining the vision of the organization for the future and the values you will have as guiding principles is exciting and uplifting. Making that happen with fiscal responsibility is the accountable and just as important ingredient in the journey.

Board training should include the role of accountability and the Board should understand that its accountability is to the community – that is who is counting on you. Just as parents are responsible for their children, the responsibility is more than to pay the bills – it is to lead, set a good example, expose our children to new experiences and possibilities, to help them make their dreams come true.

This is the exciting part of a Board’s accountability. But just as we must balance our budget at home and invest in the future at the same time (paying college tuition, funding an IRA) doing so is important for the Board of a nonprofit. You will undoubtedly have to take some risks, but they should be reasonable risks grounded in both confidence and facts – not just one or the other. I am an officer on two nonprofit boards and I always face financial decisions as I would if it were my own money. That means I vote against some proposals based on my own financial risk/value to the community assessment. Other risks I am willing to take because of my assessment of value to the community.

What’s important in understanding your Board’s role in accountability is that you see the whole picture. Too many people just look at the financial responsibility or the desire to fulfill the mission only. Accountability comes in to play when you balance both roles.

So today, if you were thinking about where is the accountability in the bailout plan, take some time to also think about your own accountability as a board member.
Marion Conway Consulting

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Nonprofit Leadership 601 Blog Names Marion a Top 50 Leader - Wow!

One of the blogs I visit (see sidebar list of links) is Heather Carpenter’s blog - Nonprofit Leadership 601. Heather is a doctoral student in Nonprofit Leadership and hence the name of her blog. She blogs on a personal level about working in and with nonprofits, nonprofit leadership and management and the newest approaches to more effective leadership. I always find her blog invigorating, encouraging and intellectually challenging.

Yesterday visits to my blog spiked and today I received two emails congratulating me on being named to the Top 50 Next Generation of Nonprofit Leaders You Should Know list on the Nonprofit Leadership Blog. Wow!!! I visited Heather’s blog to see what was going on.

Heather noted that the Nonprofit Times had just published its list but they were all people associated with serving large nonprofits and that 77% of nonprofits have a budget under $1 Million. So she developed her own list of people serving small nonprofits and there is my name on this list with people who really are leaders in serving small nonprofits. This is truly an honor! I just had to share it with those of you who read this blog.

Visit Heather’s blog today to read her recent post on the theory of leadership and see her whole list of the “Next Generation of Nonprofit Leaders.”
Heather's Blog - Nonprofit Leadership 601

Marion Conway Consulting