Knowledge Center

The Knowledge Center provides access to hundreds of documents including policies,
procedures and a wealth of research on topics such as charitable gifts, expense
reimbursements, board governance, fringe benefits, and much more.
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This text is provided with the understanding that ECFA is not rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from an accountant, lawyer, or other professional.
"I'll Write the Check. You Do the Work!"

This week in a two-day training session with board members and CEOs from 12 nonprofit boards, participants were hammering out their unique governance philosophies. It's not an easy task because the options in the governance library are numerous and often contradictory:

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“Good Is the Enemy of Great”

When great board experiences end, they should be lamented.

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“Where Was the Board?” A Board Ambassador BHAG

When reporters, bloggers, podcasters, and even donors and staff, ask “Where was the board?”—it’s usually in response to an organizational, financial, moral, or leadership crisis. But “Where was the board” is the wrong question. It’s certainly not the first question.

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10 Essential Duties of Governing Boards

Included in the ECFA standards are very specific actions that must be routinely performed by the governing board. This checklist is designed to help your organization’s governing board plan and perform these routine requirements.

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10 Fundraising Mistakes That Are Easy to Fix

So…for what it’s worth, here’s my list of 10 fundraising mistakes I notice frequently. The good news—all 10 are fairly easy to fix. I’m not suggesting you put these on the board agenda (it’s staff work, not board work)—but from a board policy perspective, who owns the annual evaluation of your fundraising program?

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10 Fundraising Mistakes That Are Easy to Fix (Part 2)

In my last blog I listed five of the 10 fundraising mistakes that are easy to fix.
Again, I’m not suggesting you put these on the board agenda (it’s staff work, not board work)—but from a board policy perspective, who owns the annual evaluation of your fundraising program?

 

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10 Mistakes to Avoid at Your Next Board Retreat: Part 1

BoardSource has just released a jam-packed treasure chest of ideas and insights, Board Book Essentials: Checklists + Infographics + Topic Papers + Guides + Tools + Templates. 

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10 Mistakes to Avoid at Your Next Board Retreat: Part 2

Avoid low expectations! When you build in time for prayer and reflection—expect God to meet your need, often in surprising and exhilarating ways!

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10 Most Common Board Shortcomings

What governance shortcomings have you discerned in Christ-centered organizations and churches?

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10 Organizational Dangers—Caution If You Check 3 or More

What one danger should be addressed in the next 90 days?

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10 Questions to Ask Before Joining a Board

CEOs and board members are asking for more help on board member recruitment strategies.

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2 Big Differences: Decision-making and Conflict Resolution

There is a difference between how a "secular" board governs and how a "Christ-centered" board governs

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27 years — 27 Board Chairs!

How will you inspire and remind your board members (and especially your board chair) to view their colleagues around the table as part of a parade, not a crowd?

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3 Governance Missteps

What other governance missteps could be obstacles to accomplishing God’s plan for our ministry?

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3-Point Talk: Right, Wrong, or Inappropriate

What are we doing year-round to ensure that we are recruiting the “right composition” of men and women onto our board?

 

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4 Tips When Board Members Dip Into Operational Areas

If your board members are never tempted to dip into operational areas—please nominate them today for the “Board Member Hall of Fame!”

 

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5 Technology Advances for Governance Excellence

This document, authored by Vonna Laue and Michael Martin, offers five strategies some churches and ministries utilize to reap the benefits of technological advances.

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5 Years From Now, What Advice Would You Give Yourself Today?

It’s time to honor your board chair who is stepping down after weathering six years at the head of the table. What gift will you give him or her?

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6 Board Dysfunctions

What delightful dysfunctions are your board members bringing to your board process?

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7 Board Disciplines and 6 Risks

How effective, and disciplined, is your board in assessing risk?

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7 Questions to Measure Your Board’s Engagement Level

Of the four phases of board member recruitment (cultivation, recruitment, orientation, and engagement), the most critical is engagement.

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7 Reasons Why Strategic Plans Fail

Proverb 16:3 says, “Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.” What might be the second reason your plans may not succeed?

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7 Reasons You Must EXIT an Under-Performing Board Member

It’s not if, but when your board chair or Governance Committee will need to have a frank one-on-one conversation with an under-performing board member. Don’t put it off. Pray, discern, seek counsel from other board members—and then have the conversation (if possible, in person). Board service is for a season—but it is not forever!

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7 Ways to Address Absentee Board Member Syndrome

What person, or committee, is responsible for addressing absentee board members? What’s our current approach to missed meetings: Ho Hum, Hint, or Harass?

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7 Ways to Avoid a Financial Train Wreck

The clear communication and understanding of church finances is a key to avoiding a financial train wreck and helping a church be a positive witness for Jesus Christ. 

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A Blunt Board Member Blesses His CEO!

What’s the trust level between the board and the CEO? Is hard truth spoken frequently, sometimes, rarely or never?

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A Board Prayer

“Dear God . . . Grant us the joy of arriving at adjournment closer to one another because we are closer to You.”

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A Board Prayer: The Least Words, The Least Intensity, The Least Volume!

Dear God...Help me to SPEAK CAUTIOUSLY.

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A Dynamite Idea for Your Next Board Retreat

Who sets the tone at the top for trust in your ministry? How is your ministry perceived by donors, volunteers, the media, and the public? Busby notes, “We ignore perceptions at our peril.” In his chapter on “Perceptions,” he includes a list of ten major issues that can lead to misperceptions (compensation, fringe benefits, intellectual properties, family members paid by the ministry, related-party transactions, and five more).

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A Prayer for Competence

As a board member, what is your prayer?

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Accountability and the Great Commission

Steve Douglass powerfully communicates how accountability supports fulfilling the Great Commission. As Steve suggests, “When people perceive a ministry and its leaders are accountable, they believe in them more.”

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Address Absentee Board Member Syndrome

There are three unhealthy ways that many church boards respond to empty chairs at board meetings.

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Agenda Clutter

What might happen in your boardroom when you eliminate clutter?

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Aggressiveness Wins—But the Board Loses

Aggressiveness Wins—But the Board Loses

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Alert! The ER Factor Causes Value Extraction

Beware of the ER Factor in the Boardroom—ego and rivalry.

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Apply for a Staff Position and You Can Deal with That Issue

Help board members not to cross the line into operational details.

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Are You More Like the Queen or the Valet?

Our challenge and opportunity as board members is to treasure and wear the crown—the responsibilities—God has given each of us. Not to own it, but to be faithful and fruitful stewards on behalf of our Holy God and Heavenly King!

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Are Your Board Members “Listeners” or “Readers”?

While governance gurus share numerous opinions on best practices for writing board meeting minutes, unless your bylaws or Board Policies Manual spell out the details, the board secretary has ample freedom

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Ask the Gold Standard Question

A “pruning moment” can improve your board meetings.

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Back Off the Ledge of Dysfunctional Mayhem

When dysfunction reigns, healthy board members head for the door.

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Bacon, Eggs, and Board Chairs

His big take-away: “I returned to our board with a recommendation that we budget for an eight percent margin each year.” The board approved and he said that one new idea has been transformational for the ministry.

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Baiting the Board Hook for Maximum Engagement

Take five minutes at your next board meeting and ask every board member to share how God has wired them: spiritual gifts, social style (analytical, driving, amiable, or expressive), strengths, learning style, etc.

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Be Intentional About Your First 30 Minutes

Does your board meeting need a refresh—so you experience holy moments more frequently?

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Before the Board Meeting

Collaborate, then wisely build the board meeting agenda.

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Before You Get Your Point Across—Listen!

“Do not formulate what you want to say while someone else is speaking.”

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Begin With the End in Mind

If you begin with the end in mind, you’ll likely build deeper relationships and help board members leverage their strengths and spiritual gifts more intentionally.

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Best Board Books #1 – Boards That Lead

Best Board Books #1 – Boards That Lead

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Best Board Books #1: Boards That Lead

Board members and CEOs often ask me to recommend the best book on board governance. Of course—one size doesn’t fit all. There is no one “perfect” book for every board. It depends on many factors, as Dan Busby and I point out in “Lesson 38: Great Boards Delegate Their Reading” in Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom.

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Best Board Books #10 – Good Governance for Nonprofits

Best Board Books #10 – Good Governance for Nonprofits

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Best Board Books #10: Good Governance for Nonprofits

The book describes the efficacy of compiling the twists and turns of board policies (some that conflict with others) into one thoughtful 15- to 20-page document that is designed to be revised at any board meeting throughout the year.

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Best Board Books #11: Boards That Make a Difference

Best Board Books #11: Boards That Make a Difference

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Best Board Books #11: Boards That Make a Difference

Board members can’t always be blamed for governance dysfunction. Sometimes CEOs and senior team members invite confusion when they bring agenda items to the board—in essence, begging the board to micro-manage.

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Best Board Books #12: Call of the Chair

Best Board Books #12: Call of the Chair

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Best Board Books #12: Call of the Chair

Discussing the policy governance term, “executive limitations,” McKenna illustrates: “In effect, God gave Adam and Eve a policy of executive limitation, saying, ‘Go until I say stop.’ He did not say, ‘Stop until I say go.’” Are the board’s executive limitations crystal clear to your CEO and all staff?


 

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Best Board Books #13: Two Tools in Two Books – Part 1

Best Board Books #13: Two Tools in Two Books – Part 1

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Best Board Books #13: Two Tools in Two Books – Part 1

When is the last time we held up a “Stop Sign” to a program, product or service? If it were up to you, what would we stop doing immediately—and cut our mounting losses? (Resource: share the “dismount” worksheet from my Results Bucket webpage: “Dakota tribal wisdom says that when you discover you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.”)

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Best Board Books #14: Two Tools in Two Books – Part 2

Best Board Books #14: Two Tools in Two Books – Part 2

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Best Board Books #14: Two Tools in Two Books – Part 2

If your CEO, senior team, and board could summarize your strategic plan on one page (11” x 17”), what kind of clarity and alignment would that then bring to your entire staff, key volunteers, and major donors? What’s your next step?

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Best Board Books #15: Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom (Second Edition)

Best Board Books #15: Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom (Second Edition)

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Best Board Books #15: Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom (Second Edition)

In his classic book, Leadership Is an Art, Max De Pree warned leaders “to recognize the signals of impending deterioration.” Has your board sprinted to the agenda—and bypassed eating together and enjoying deeper relationships? Has that accelerated God’s work—or is a warning sign of impending deterioration?

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Best Board Books #16: The Council

Best Board Books #16: The Council

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Best Board Books #16: The Council

Board service is a high calling but Hoag, Willmer, and Henson remind us—it can get messy. “To share Moses’ burdens meant the seventy would voluntarily inconvenience themselves and put the needs of the people ahead of their own.”

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Best Board Books #17: Lessons From the Church Boardroom

Best Board Books #17: Lessons From the Church Boardroom

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Best Board Books #17: Lessons From the Church Boardroom

Lessons From the Church Boardroom is very, very practical—and the very short chapters will inspire your church board members to actually read the book—and focus on God-honoring governance.

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Best Board Books #18: Humility

Best Board Books #18: Humility

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Best Board Books #18: Humility

So…share Andrew Murray’s book with your board members. But this caution: every page convicts.

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Best Board Books #2 – The Imperfect Board Member

Best Board Books #2 – The Imperfect Board Member

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Best Board Books #2: The Imperfect Board Member

Patrick Lencioni wrote the foreword to The Imperfect Board Member and quotes the author: “A greeter at Walmart gets more orientation than most board members ever do.” Too true!

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Best Board Books #3 – Best Practices for Effective Boards

Best Board Books #3 – Best Practices for Effective Boards

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Best Board Books #3: Best Practices for Effective Boards

What is the next book our board should read? What is the next book our staff should read—a book that would help them clear up many of the myths and misunderstandings about the board’s role versus the staff’s role?

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Best Board Books #4 – Stewards of a Sacred Trust

Best Board Books #4 – Stewards of a Sacred Trust

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Best Board Books #4: Stewards of a Sacred Trust

Every board chair and CEO should order and read this book. You may not need it today, but unless your CEO is named Methuselah, you will need it eventually.

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Best Board Books #5 - Owning Up: The 14 Questions Every Board Member Needs to Ask

Governance Guru Ram Charan wrote in 2010, “The financial crisis of 2008 laid bare a long-buried truth: that many boards do not really own the strategy of their company.” So rate your board on a scale of 1 to 5 (5 is high). “How strongly does our board own our strategy?"
 

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Best Board Books #5 – Owning Up: The 14 Questions Every Board Member Needs to Ask

Best Board Books #5 – Owning Up: The 14 Questions Every Board Member Needs to Ask

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Best Board Books #6 - Serving as a Board Member: Practical Guidance for Directors of Christian Ministries

"What does it look like—in the middle of discussing a tough board issue—for us to “think theologically about the mission, governance, and leadership” of our ministry?

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Best Board Books #6 – Serving as a Board Member: Practical Guidance for Directors of Christian Ministries

Best Board Books #6 – Serving as a Board Member: Practical Guidance for Directors of Christian Ministries

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Best Board Books #7 - The Nonprofit Board Answer Book

When you scan the table of contents, dozens of relevant questions will jump off the page—and tempt you to read the crisp, well-written two- to four-page answers.

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Best Board Books #7 – The Nonprofit Board Answer Book

Best Board Books #7 – The Nonprofit Board Answer Book

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Best Board Books #8 – The Practitioner's Guide to Governance as Leadership

Best Board Books #8 – The Practitioner's Guide to Governance as Leadership

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Best Board Books #8 – The Practitioner's Guide to Governance as Leadership

Generative thinking is where goal-setting and direction-setting originate. The contributions boards make to mission-setting, strategy development, and problem-solving certainly shape organizations.

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Best Board Books #9 – Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board

Best Board Books #9 – Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board

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Best Board Books #9: Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board

“Planning by the board ought always to include the chief financial officer, a bringer of necessary reality to the process. Of course, the chief financial officer should never have a role that stymies the vision. Some realities have priority over numbers.”

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Best Board Books: Index to 18 Good Governance Stimulators

Best Board Books: Index to 18 Good Governance Stimulators

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Best Board Books: Index to 18 Good Governance Stimulators

“Great Boards Delegate Their Reading” is the title of Lesson 38 in Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom. It’s true! So…select one book, appoint an avid reader as your “Leaders Are Readers Champion” and watch boardroom engagement soar.

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Best Practices in the Boardroom

5 Steps to More Effective and Accountable Leadership

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Beware the Emotional Effects of Transition

The big changes facing your board may be in another realm: CEO succession, program changes, financial crisis, or other challenges. So this is just a reminder that changes produce transitions, and transitions produce emotions—and all of us may be at different levels of moving from the ending, to the neutral zone, to the new beginning.

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Beware the Emotional Effects of Transitions

How sensitive are your board members, CEO, and senior team members in recognizing that the decisions you make can trigger a variety of emotions and responses among the staff, volunteers, clients/customers, and donors you serve?

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Big Rocks, Pebbles, and Sand

Church boards have a natural gravitational pull toward issues that should be reserved for the church staff.

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Board Chair - Sample Position Description

Board Chair position description

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Board Chair Best Practices #1: CEO Annual Reviews

Some organizations conduct a 360 review (the board, the CEO’s direct reports, and the CEO’s own self-assessment). Others develop metrics to discern if the core values of the ministry are being lived out, and if so, to what degree.

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Board Chair Best Practices #2: Become a Student of Your CEO

Last week I began a blog series on board chair best practices. Click here to read Best Practice #1: Ensure that there is 100 percent board participation in the CEO’s annual performance review

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Board Chair Best Practices #3: Pick Up the Check!

This week, a colleague shared a comment he heard from a board chair of an outstanding national ministry. When asked what the board chair’s job description entailed, this person joked:

“I can’t remember all my duties—but certainly one of them is to pick up the check every time I have lunch with our CEO!”

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Board Chair Best Practices #4: The Meeting Before the Meeting

The board chair’s role in thoughtfully and prayerfully leading the board—especially during board meetings—is critical to a healthy board. And a common best practice is for the board chair and the CEO to have a meeting before the meeting

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Board Chairs: Our Single Greatest Need

At your next board meeting, ask each person (including the CEO) to write out and then share their answer to the question, “What is our board’s single greatest need?”

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Board Ethics Sample Policy

A board's commitment to biblical, ethical, businesslike, and lawful conduct

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Board Giving and the Generosity Circle

“I hope you ask yourself which of these individuals would be most like your own style of giving, and in doing so, you begin to recognize how your giving is a part of God’s workmanship in your life.”

 

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Board Input Versus Board Output

“What would you say are the one or two things your board did in the last 12 months that really made a difference for your ministry?”

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Board Meeting Body Language

What are your unwritten rules about board behavior? What guidance do you get from Scripture when confronting character or behavioral flaws?

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Board Meeting Minutes & The Four Social Styles

I’ve recently had numerous inquiries about board meeting minutes. (You can snooze now or later.) So I’ve been thinking about the four social styles (analytical, driving, amiable, and expressive)—and how each style might perform the duties of the board secretary.

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Board Meetings on Holy Ground

The next time you set the table for your board meeting, set the ground also. The gospel song, “We Are Standing on Holy Ground,” by Geron La Ray Davis, is a powerful anthem to remind board members of our Kingdom roles and responsibilities

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Board Member Application - Church

Sample form to be completed by a prospective board member

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Board Member Commitment Pledge

Sample annual pledge of service for board members

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Board Member Giving Commitments That Stick

Most boards have the expectation that every board member be a “donor of record” to the organization every year. Fewer boards have learned how to spiritually inspire all board members to be generous givers. (I’ll define “generous” in this blog.)

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Board Member Resources

A list of resources to help board members to excellence

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Board Retreat Engagement Reading

If you gave a Pop Quiz at your next board meeting, how many board members would be able to intelligently articulate your organization’s strategy?

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Board Secretary – Sample Position Description

Board Secretary position description

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Board Self-Evaluation Form - Full Board Evaluation

Evaluating the board as a whole

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Board Self-Evaluation Forms - Board Member Evaluation

Evaluating a fellow board member

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Board Self-Evaluation Overview

Discusses board self-evaluation and includes links to sample board self-evaluation forms

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Board Service Word Association Game

Does your board service inspire other family members to invest their lives in Christ-centered board work?

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Board Service: “Easy when . . .”

Before you invite prospects to join your board, what process do you use to spiritually discern if they have passion for your cause?

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Board Service: An honor or a duty?

Outlines the importance of effective board service as both an honor and a duty

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Board Treasurer – Sample Position Description

Board Treasurer position description

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Board Vice Chair – Sample Position Description

Board Vice Chair position description

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Board Voting by Proxy

Discusses the implications of board voting by proxy

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Board Warts

What are you doing—in every board meeting—to build God-honoring trust, conflict (the good kind!), commitment, accountability, and results?

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Boardroom Body Language

“There are generally two kinds of ‘logs’ you need to look for when dealing with conflict. First, you need to ask whether you have had a critical, negative, or overly sensitive attitude that has led to unnecessary conflict. One of the best ways to do this is to spend some time meditating on Philippians 4:2-9, which describes the kind of attitude Christians should have even when they are involved in a conflict.”

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Break Bread, Not Relationships

Building a 24/7 healthy board culture takes time. Don’t skimp on meals or relationships.

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Break the Script!

When I was in seminary, my pastor continually looked for ways to “break the script” on Sunday mornings—not to showcase his creativity—but to refresh our focus on our role in God’s work.

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Cajoled Onto the Board

How does your nominating committee measure a board prospect’s passion for your ministry?

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Called to Serve #1: What Will You Measure?

As you measure outputs and outcomes, are your board members, board chair, CEO, and senior team members all on the same page?

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Called to Serve #10: What's More Important Than Structure?

Discuss the theological values that undergird your ministry—and assess if the relational values of the Good News are alive and well in your boardroom and in your 24/7 year-round board culture.

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Called to Serve #11: Do Not Censor What the Board Receives

How frequently does our CEO deliver bad news? How appropriately does our board respond to bad news?

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Called to Serve #12: Coherence With Corrals

Is our policy document (corral) current and crystal clear? Does it result in the natural fecundity of a God-honoring organization?

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Called to Serve #13: The Prospect Pipeline

Agree on how many names should be in the “board prospect pipeline” (at various stages in the “dating” process) at any given time.

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Called to Serve #14: There Are No Committee Statues!

“Culture is evidenced in specific and measurable behaviors. People consistently perform according to what is measured.”

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Called to Serve #15: SILENCE!

Before (way before!) you entrust the board chair position to the next “likely suspect,” discuss the high bar that both De Pree and McKenna set for the “call” of the chair.

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Called to Serve #16: Board Member Self-Measurements

Before your next meeting, ask board members to read De Pree’s chapter, “What Does a Trustee Promise?” and then write a confidential, self-assessment, “How will I know if I’m doing a good job?”

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Called to Serve #17: Be a Frantic Learner!

Before you order your next “everyone read this book before the board retreat,” take time to discern where frantic learning is needed. Seek God’s voice—not the hype from the bestsellers list.

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Called to Serve #18: If No Progress—Skip the “Progress Report"!

At your next board meeting, present a gift card to the first committee chair who courageously announces, “We have no progress to report, but we are working on our three to five annual SMART Goals that the board approved at the last meeting. Thus ends our report!”

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Called to Serve #19: The Phone-Book-Size Board Packet Syndrome

Do pre-meeting materials, reports, and minutes arrive with adequate time to reflect and discern next steps?

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Called to Serve #2: Violence and Committee Meetings!

De Pree notes the story of the English visitor who watched his first American football game and observed, “The game combines the two worst elements of American culture—violence and committee meetings.”

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Called to Serve #20: Use White Space to Practice Hospitality

Do we practice God-honoring hospitality before, during, and after our board meetings?

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Called to Serve #21: When Your Organization Is Bleeding and Boring Board Members

Do we address governance tensions appropriately?

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Called to Serve #22: The Ten-Foot Pole Tension

Has your board addressed this common tension—board member evaluation and assessment? How long is your board’s pole?

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Called to Serve #23: Board Meddling on Management’s Turf

Think back to your last board meeting. Did your board chair halt discussion that spiraled down into management and operational items?

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Called to Serve #24: Max’s Most Memorable Message (1924–2017)

Ask your CEO, “What do you want to be remembered for? And what should we measure?”

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Called to Serve #25: What the Board Owes the CEO

Question 1: What is our ministry’s strategy? Question 2: Is our strategy crystal clear to our CEO?

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Called to Serve #26: The Error of Leadership Indifference

“How many errors in organizations are due to leadership indifference?"

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Called to Serve #27: Give Space…But Plan Sparingly

Does the board allocate adequate space to the CEO—or does the board meddle and micro-manage?

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Called to Serve #28: Don’t Neglect Your CEO’s Growth

Christ-centered boards should have the same mindset: inspiring their CEOs to thrive by providing an adequate budget and time for personal and professional growth.

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Called to Serve #29: Goal No. 1—Keep Your CEO Alive!

What the board might consider a helpful resource or benefit may not speak to your CEO’s unique needs.

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Called to Serve #3: Loyalty Is Never Sufficient

What Bible verse or passage would enrich the meaning for us as we reflect on these standards of governance effectiveness?

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Called to Serve #30: No Board Detail Is Too Small (Index to 30 Blogs)

Max De Pree: “…my experience has convinced me that no detail is too small to consider carefully when it comes to thinking about the important work of nonprofit boards and the people who serve on them.”

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Called to Serve #4: Challenged With Measurable Work

If you’re “called to serve,” how are you enriching your board service competencies?

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Called to Serve #5: How to “Table” a Thank You

How does your board thank people?

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Called to Serve #6: Governance Through the Prism of the Agenda

Do our board agendas align with our philosophy and theology of governance?

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Called to Serve #7: The Bell Curve of a Board Meeting

At your next meeting, ask one board member to observe and plot the bell curve for the entire board meeting—and then share an end-of-the-meeting analysis if the most critical agenda items were discerned at the top of the bell curve.

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Called to Serve #8: No Reading Allowed!

Peter Drucker said, “At least once every five years, every form should be put on trial for its life.”

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Called to Serve #9: Death by Committee

Rate the effectiveness of each committee on a scale of one to five.

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Called to Serve: Be a Frantic Learner!

Before you order your next “everyone read this book before the board retreat,” take time to discern where frantic learning is needed. Seek God’s voice—not the hype from the bestsellers list.

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Called to Serve: Board Meddling on Management’s Turf

Think back to your last board meeting. Did your board chair halt discussion that spiraled down into management and operational items?

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Called to Serve: Board Member Self-Measurements

Before your next meeting, ask board members to read De Pree’s chapter, “What Does a Trustee Promise?” and then write a confidential, self-assessment, “How will I know if I’m doing a good job?”

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Called to Serve: Challenged With Measurable Work

As you reflect on these five marks of effective boards—which one has your board mastered? Which one needs more work? If you’re “called to serve” how are you enriching your board service competencies?

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Called to Serve: Coherence With Corrals

Divide into three or four teams at your next board meeting and invest 20 minutes on these questions: Is our policy document (corral) current and crystal clear? Does it result in the natural fecundity of a God-honoring organization?

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Called to Serve: Death by Committee

Rate the effectiveness of each committee on a scale of one to five—with five meaning “high performing” and one meaning “no performance at all.” List three next steps to improve our committee structure.

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Called to Serve: Do Not Censor What the Board Receives

How frequently does our CEO deliver bad news? How appropriately does our board respond to bad news?

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Called to Serve: Don’t Neglect Your CEO’s Growth

Christ-centered boards should have the same mindset: inspiring their CEOs to thrive by providing an adequate budget and time for personal and professional growth.

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Called to Serve: Give Space…But Plan Sparingly

De Pree adds that great boards give a president space “by acting with [the CEO] to set the priorities, as well as working to involve the entire organization in understanding and adopting those priorities. How can a board expect a president to paint a coherent or imaginative picture on an unlimited canvas?”

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Called to Serve: Goal No. 1—Keep Your CEO Alive!

What is your CEO’s “love language?” What the board might consider a helpful resource or benefit may not speak to your CEO’s unique needs. Talk about it!

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Called to Serve: Governance Through the Prism of the Agenda

Do our board agendas align with our philosophy and theology of governance? Do they “hold the future and mission in trust” by focusing on priorities that are future-oriented? Do we nominate people who have demonstrated competence in hearing God’s voice about our future?

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Called to Serve: How to “Table” a Thank You

How does your board thank people? Do you consider the recipient's “love language?” Read how one board honored a retiring board chair—and why the thoughtful gift still brings tears to his eyes

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Called to Serve: If No Progress—Skip the “Progress Report!”

At your next board meeting, present a gift card to the first committee chair who courageously announces, “We have no progress to report, but we are working on our three to five annual SMART Goals that the board approved at the last meeting. Thus ends our report!”

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Called to Serve: Loyalty Is Never Sufficient

How does our Christ-centered organization measure up against these first five marks of effective leadership? What Bible verse or passage would enrich the meaning for us as we reflect on these standards of governance effectiveness?

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Called to Serve: Max’s Most Memorable Message (1924–2017)

As your board considers what to measure each year (perhaps you’ve already done it), invest time also in spiritually discerning God’s direction for the ministry. As John Wesley said, “I judge all things only by the price they shall gain in eternity.”
 

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Called to Serve: No Board Detail Is Too Small (Index to 30 Blogs)

Max De Pree: “…my experience has convinced me that no detail is too small to consider carefully when it comes to thinking about the important work of nonprofit boards and the people who serve on them.”

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Called to Serve: No Reading Allowed!

CEOs and Senior Staff: the purpose of your report is to enable board members to monitor, measure, and assess alignment with the mission they hold as stewards, before God. Help them do that!

 

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Called to Serve: The Bell Curve of a Board Meeting

At your next meeting, ask one board member to observe and plot the bell curve for the entire board meeting—and then share an end-of-the-meeting analysis if the most critical agenda items were discerned at the top of the bell curve.

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Called to Serve: The Error of Leadership Indifference

De Pree then asks, “How many errors in organizations are due to leadership indifference?"

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Called to Serve: The Phone-Book-Size Board Packet Syndrome

Effective communication is fueled by trust.

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Called to Serve: The Prospect Pipeline

Agree on how many names should be in the “board prospect pipeline” (at various stages in the “dating” process) at any given time.

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Called to Serve: The Ten-Foot Pole Tension

Has your board addressed this common tension—board member evaluation and assessment? How long is your board’s pole?

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Called to Serve: There Are No Committee Statues!

Before (way before!) you entrust the board chair position to the next “likely suspect,” discuss the high bar that both De Pree and McKenna set for the “call” of the chair.

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Called to Serve: Use White Space to Practice Hospitality

Do we practice God-honoring hospitality before, during, and after our board meetings? How could we be more hospitable? Why does this matter?

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Called to Serve: Violence and Committee Meetings

So this year, we’re encouraging you to keep that question in mind as you inspire your colleagues on the board to reflect on their sacred calling. 

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Called to Serve: What the Board Owes the CEO

In working with nonprofit ministries and churches, I find that mission statements are often noble, sometimes breath-taking, even enduring and endearing. Yet…strategy? Shoddily articulated. Often written and quickly filed away. Rarely—derived from a fork-in-the-road holy moment on our knees.

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Called to Serve: What's More Important Than Structure?

Discuss the theological values that undergird your ministry--and assess if the relational values of the Good News are alive and well in your boardroom and in your 24/7 year-round board culture.

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Called to Serve: When Your Organization Is Bleeding and Boring Board Members

Do we address governance tensions appropriately? Are we bleeding and boring board members?

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Caution! Understand the Governance Pendulum Principle

You have limited time to act when the pendulum oscillates in a positive direction.

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Checklist for Churches Demonstrating Integrity in Compensation-Setting

Steps to integrity in compensation-setting

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Church Board Member Annual Affirmation Statement

A discussion of the annual church board member affirmation statement

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Church Board Sample Minutes

Sample minutes for a church board meeting

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Church Governance Resources

Resources on church governance issues

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Common Misconceptions of Board Members

Understanding board member myths can lead to improved governing effectiveness.

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Communicating Between Board Meetings to Your “Listeners” and “Readers”

With the wide ranges of digital options today, there are solutions. Some CEOs will record a verbal report and email an audio file to the “listeners,” along with the traditional written report. Others will host (and record) a conference call as a nod to the “listeners” on the board.

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Conducting Effective Board Meetings

Outlines the important role of the board chair in planning and leading effective board meetings

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Conference Call Board Meetings

Includes a compilation of state government legislation on teleconferencing

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Conflict of Interest Sample Disclosure Annual Statement

Sample statement for reporting conflict of interest disclosure

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Conflict of Interest Sample Policy for Churches

Sample Conflict of Interest/Related Party Policy for churches

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Conflict of Interest Sample Policy Statement for Churches

Conflict of interest policy statement for churches

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Conflict of Interest/Related Party Questionnaire

Questionnaire for employees concerning conflicts of interest and related-party transactions

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Conflicts of Interest and Related-Party Transactions for Churches

Discusses conflicts of interest and related-party transactions – includes a sample conflicts of interest policy and related documents

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Corporate Documents

Discusses the bylaws and articles of incorporation for a nonprofit organization

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Covenant of Confidentiality

Nonprofit boards may use this sample covenant of confidentiality to protect the confidentiality of a ministry

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Creating the Vision for the Next Board

Creating a vision for and drawing the blueprint for the future board is one of the most important legacies of a board.

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Criteria for the Nominating Committee’s Pipeline

As you discern your board’s unique culture, you’ll want your pipeline criteria to reflect your unique DNA. For example, at a recent board meeting (the one board I serve on), I suggested we add three “virtues” to our list of board prospect criteria.

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Cronies and Admirers Need Not Apply!

Of the four areas—Friendship, Focus, Fidelity, Foresight—what are you best at?

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DEAR JOHN: Books, Board Chairs, and Boredom

Based on my inbox, I’m wondering if it’s time to start a “Dear John” newspaper column? (You do remember newspapers, right?) I doubt if I’ll ever replace “Dear Abby,” but—here goes.

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Defending Risks Everywhere Is Not a Strategic Plan

You must discuss the risk elephant in the boardroom.

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Do Not Interrupt!

Don’t assume board members know how to listen.

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Do Unwritten Board Policies Really Exist?

Can’t find that 10-year-old policy? You need a BPM.

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Do You Need a Consultant—or a Pastor?

If you want a healthy board, recruit healthy and spiritually mature people.

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Does Your CEO or Pastor Need a Coach?

So why do boards wait until crisis time to bring in outside help? What if—as part of a normal, healthy, biblically-functioning church or ministry—boards invested in their CEOs and pastors and helped them grow now? Helped them leverage their God-given spiritual gifts, strengths and passions?

 

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Don’t Be Late—or Annoying!

What’s worse than fingernails on a chalkboard? A boisterous board member at a prayer meeting.

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Don’t Stretch Credulity with BHAGS and Stretch Goals

The actual achievement of audacious goals is very uncommon.

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ECFA Financial Management Survey Highlights

Results from the first-ever survey of financial management practices of ECFA-accredited organizations was recently published by ECFA. The executive summary of the ECFA Nonprofit Financial Management Survey 1.0 can be downloaded here on the ECFA website.

 

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Effective Board Governance in Turbulent Times

The furthest thing from your mind is a collapse of Wall Street that significantly impacts Main Street—a collapse that impacts many of your donors and funders, and in turn, impacts the budget of the ministry you serve.

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Eight Best Practices for Recruiting New Board Members

Have you ever served on a board when a prospect was nominated for board service because he was a friend of a friend of someone’s Cousin Eddie?

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Eliminate Fuzziness Between Board and Staff Roles

Keep your leaders on track with a one-page Prime Responsibility Chart.

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Enabling Dysfunctional Boards

When will you discuss your next board member self-evaluation process?

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Encouragement: Oxygen to the Soul

How can your board be more intentional about encouraging your CEO?

 

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Enhance Harmony by Clarifying Your Participant Hat Expectations

Understand the three board hats: Governance, Volunteer, and Participant.

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Equal Opportunity Talkers

When your board members exited your last board meeting, what percentage of them would have said, “I made a very significant contribution today on an important topic”?

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Equip Your Board Members: Indexes to Inspiration

What will 2021 look like in your boardroom or on Zoom meetings?To avoid “bringing our delightful dysfunctions into every new board experience,” here are helpful “Indexes to Inspiration”—links to more than 200 blogs, lessons, and book chapters. Appoint a “Leaders Are Readers Champion” and plan now for a “10 Minutes for Governance” in every 2021 board meeting.

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Even Your Board Members Are Changing Their Thinking!

Judges 2:10 is a good wake-up call for boards: “Eventually that entire generation died and was buried. Then another generation grew up that didn't know anything of God or the work he had done for Israel.”

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Every Church Needs a Conflict of Interest Policy

Boards often become convinced they are making a decision in the best interest of the church, but they fail to consider how the decision will appear on the internet and social media.

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Executive Compensation Policy – Church

A board’s determination of the church’s senior staff members’ compensation is one of its key tasks. 

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Executive Compensation Process – Sample for Churches

Sample Executive Compensation Process

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Fast Feedback Tool

What if…you’re the chair and the Fast Feedback exercise reveals low scores? What would you say?

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Finance Committee Sample Charter

Sample Finance Committee Charter

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Fist Fights Over Mission Statements!

Recently a CEO asked me to resolve a verbal fist fight over the ministry’s mission statement. In their strategic planning process, some members of the management team voiced a strong difference of opinions. I assured this in-the-trenches leader that this was a good thing! 

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Forget the Plaques!

When you honor your next departing board member or board chair, how will you meaningfully connect the dots between faithfulness and Kingdom impact?

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From the Pen of Olan Hendrix

ECFA is pleased to offer excerpts from Olan Hendrix's writings as a part of our Knowledge Center. Please find below many great topical articles that we hope will be a blessing to you in your ministry.

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Getting Your Board Through the Wilderness

Nonprofit ministry and church boards are always facing changes—planned or unplanned (the economy, CEO transitions, shifting loyalties of donors and much more).

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Gloom, Boom, and Zoom

Wow! All bloggers today (no matter the subject) are medical, financial, psychological, and pastoral experts. COVID-19 has unleashed the advice-giving genes in every LinkedIn and Facebook user.

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God said, “It is good.” He didn’t say, “Oh, it’ll do.”

At your next board meeting, ask one board member to observe the meeting and share an end-of-meeting evaluation—using the “W.O.W. Factor Meeting Evaluation Form,” or something similar.

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Good Thing Pilots Are Life-long Learners!

Inspire your board members to be trustworthy stewards as they hear from God and pilot the direction of your ministry.

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Governance for Christ-centered Ministries

What are the transformational distinctives of Christ-centered board governance?  What is different in Christian-centered board governance compared to the secular governance models?

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Governance Stew

<p>Not every blog needs several hundred words. Sometimes one-liners are adequate and satisfying. Or a paragraph. So for today, I&rsquo;ve tossed several governance ingredients into the kettle. After simmering, add your own spice as needed.&nbsp;</p>

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Governing Board Culture

We are confident we need to address our current governing board culture but we are not sure when and how to proceed. What do you suggest?

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Graveyards and Succession Plans

What is the next step in approving or re-visiting your CEO succession plan?

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Great Boards and the Elephants-in-the-Room

Does your board conduct an annual self-assessment process?

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Guarding Your Pastor’s Soul

Senior pastor moral failures are devastating to churches. Wise boards invest time—up front—to ensure the pastor’s soul is not neglected.

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Hallway Executive Sessions

What is your board’s policy and protocol for executive sessions?

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Handling Conflicts of Interest

Practical approaches to assist boards in understanding real or perceived conflicts of interest

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Happy Birthday! (When Is It?)

How well do you know your CEO? (Stay tuned for “Lessons Learned” in the next blog post.)

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Hooey Alerts!

Would anyone issue a “Hooey Alert!” for your new board member orientation?

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How Long (or Short) Should a Board Meeting Be?

“It’s not rules and regulations [or meeting length?]. It’s the way people work together,” says the author.

 

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How Many Board Members Are Present in Your Boardroom?

It’s more than just answering the roll call.

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How to Avoid Obliteration

On the planning process continuum between “foggy confusion” (and perhaps obliteration) and God’s guiding light…where is your organization?

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How to Avoid Three Common Board Mistakes

You may have been on a board where one or more of these three mistakes were made. Avoiding these mistakes will improve the effectiveness of your board.

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How to Spend a Day in Prayer

Some of your board members may have more time—during this COVID-19 crisis—than they’ve ever had before. So consider planning a day of prayer: personal and/or corporate.

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How Would Your Board Invest One Extra Hour?

If you had one extra hour at your next board meeting, how would you use it?

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Impending Deterioration

What is your board’s reality? Entropy or excellence?

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Improving Your Church Board—One Step at a Time

Article by Dan Busby

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Independent Board Members

Outlines ECFA's requirement regarding independent board members

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Index to 22 Time-Saving Governance Tools and Templates

The book gives you full access to all 22 tools and templates—formatted as Word documents so you can customize the tools for your board’s unique uses.

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Index to Ram Charan’s 14 Questions + 3 Next Steps

At your next board retreat, select five or six key chapters from Owning Up and assign board members to each question. Provide a “Read-and-Reflect Worksheet” template for Owning Up or another governance book of your choosing.

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Individual Board Members - Sample Position Description

Describes responsibilities and characteristics for individual board members

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Integrity Slipping?

What is one of our greatest dangers for injury? An issue that tops the charts is the potential for a spiritual 911-type injury is when our integrity slips.

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Internal Control Resources

Publications that include information on internal control

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Invitation for Improvement

With an eye on eternity, how will you inspire your board members to be looking for more “invitations for improvement?”

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Is There a Retirement Age for Board Members?

Gently helping an elderly board member exit from the board.

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Is Your Board Color Blind to Hazardous Condition Signs?

What color is your boardroom flag?

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Is Your Board Crisis-Ready?

The day will come when the board faces a big challenge, be it financial, moral, spiritual, or relational.

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Is Your Ministry Too Close to the Edge?

Discusses various forms of risk management for nonprofit organizations

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Is Your Vision Stuck on One Strategy?

Parrott’s final chapter is another must-read, “Catching the Wind of God.” He begins, “I am convinced one of the core problems of evangelical leaders is that too often we’ve stopped trying to catch the wind of God in our sails because we’ve become fairly effective at creating our own independent power to get God’s work done.”

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It Takes a Village to Raise a Board’s Effectiveness

Almost 1,100 CEOs, board chairs and board members participated in the 2011 Governance Survey of ECFA members. 

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Just Do 1 Thing a Month!

Good news! A board member recently shared a brilliant solution to this dilemma.

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Keeping the Boardroom Afloat

Are too many staff causing the boardroom to capsize?

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Keeping Up With the Joneses

How about your board? How much better—how much more God-honoring—could you be if you focused not on the Joneses but on God’s unique call for your important ministry?

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Leverage the 80/20 Rule in the Boardroom

Invest 80% of your board work on future ministry opportunities—not rehashing the past.

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Listen to the Wisdom of Many Counselors

Don’t ask board members to vote against God!

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LOL! The ONE Thing You Must Do in 2021!

Apparently—it’s not ONE thing, it’s everything. Did I mention prayer and discernment? My suggestion: for now, meditate and rest on 1 Thessalonians 5:24: “The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.”
 

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Looking for Consensus but Finding Division

Finding consensus on challenging issues requires deft handling and a flexible approach by the board chair.

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Loose Lips Sink the Boardroom Ship

What happens in the boardroom must stay in the boardroom.

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Micromanaging Board Members: Ego Satisfaction?

What drives your board's actions: ego satisfaction from micromanaging or ensuring that Christ is on the throne for each board member—and then, as a group, spiritually discerning his voice?

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Mission Statement Pop Quiz

All the literature, all the books, and all the resources hammer us on the importance of aligning everything we do with our mission.

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More Annoying Boardroom Habits: Part 1 of 2

But here’s his asteroid-size attention-getter: smart, successful people are pitifully blind to their own tics. (If you agree, then insert your own Big Gulp here.)

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More Annoying Boardroom Habits: Part 2 of 2

As a Christ-follower, I have one caveat to the book. There is a spiritual dimension missing, as is common in many business/leadership books. For the Christian, behavioral change is a mandate, but we’re not dependent on only bootstrap discipline and frank feedback.

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More Huckster Than Holy?

Is fundraising the greatest need in your organization? If so, what might you learn by digging deeper into this subject?

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Musical Chairs

If we are to spiritually discern God’s direction, as board members, how important is it that we really know each other?

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Never Throw Red Meat on the Board Table

Boards need advance preparation to fully address complex issues.

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New Board Members: Acronyms and Anxiety!

Although new board members may play it cool—and pretend to know what’s going on—few really grasp the culture or protocol of a board in their first few meetings. Every board is unique. Every board’s lingo is unique. Ask any board member about their first impressions and they’ll share several anxiety-producing board practices

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Nice Farewell Dinner, But Where’s my Plaque?

What is your CEO’s love language—and how do you regularly express appreciation to him or her?

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No Bad Board Meeting Is Too Short!

Is it time to rethink the frequency and the length of our board meetings?

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No Margin. No Mission.

When staff members, or volunteers, or even board members push back on the importance of profit, margin or cash reserves—it often means we’ve missed opportunities along the way to discuss biblical money principles. Questions like “Is this a ministry or a business?” trumpet bad theology and ill-informed core values about money management.

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Oops! Tension Between Clarity and Generative Thinking!

It’s a delicate dance, a fine line, a slippery slope (insert your favorite metaphor here). But as the authors note, “…in their ‘day jobs’ as managers, professionals, or leaders of organizations, trustees routinely rely on generative thinking, so much so they have no need to name it or analyze it. They just do it. But in the boardroom, trustees are at a double disadvantage. Most boards do not routinely practice generative thinking.”
 

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Pastor Pay—It’s About More than Just Money

Getting the compensation-setting process right must be a priority.

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Peter Drucker on Outside vs. Inside Results

Is it time for a quick “results audit” in your organization? Does your ministry tilt more towards inside results or outside results? What you talk about—and what you measure—matters.

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Pick 1 Word That Describes How You’re Feeling Today

The big changes facing your board may be in another realm: CEO succession, program suspensions or cancellations, financial crisis, or other challenges. So this is just a reminder that changes produce transitions, and transitions produce emotions—and all of us may be at different levels of moving from the ending, to the neutral zone, to the new beginning.

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Policy: The Board’s Chief Occupation

At the beginning and end of each board agenda item, are you asking the key question: Is our policy on this issue current and clear, or does it need to be amended?

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Pop Quiz on Your Elevator Speech

So…what is your ministry’s elevator speech? Does it prompt the listener’s next question, “Wow! Tell me more!”

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Pop Quiz: Top-5 Ways to Bless Your Ministry

STOP! Before you read further, grab a blank piece of paper and a pen (it’s homeschool time!)…and answer this question

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Prioritize Prayer Over Problems

Create space for prayer—serious supplications for serious work.

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Public Access to Church Board Meetings or Board Meeting Minutes

Discusses any legal requirements and the propriety of granting public access to church board meetings or board meeting minutes

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Quality Financial Reporting

Outlines a nonprofit board’s responsibility for quality financial reporting

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QUESTION 1: Is Our Board Composition Right?

This week while we’re still enduring the COVID-19 marathon, I’m launching a series of 14 pesky boardroom questions—over the next 14 blogs. I’m leaning on the savvy wisdom of Ram Charan’s helpful governance book, Owning Up.

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QUESTION 10: How Do We Get the Most Value Out of Our Limited Time?

Time is short and “a lot is expected of us,” whines a board member in chapter 10. “Deal with it!” responds Ram Charan. This jam-packed chapter will help boards maximize their limited time—and, for Christ-centered boards, it will also be a reminder to recruit board members who are already Kingdom stewards of their time.

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QUESTION 11: How Can Executive Sessions Help the Board Own Up?

In addition to these two resources, we pray that it comes naturally to your mind and heart to add a third resource—God’s Word. Perhaps you’ll begin your next executive session with Psalm 19:14 (TLB): “May my spoken words and unspoken thoughts be pleasing even to you, O Lord my Rock and my Redeemer.”

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QUESTION 12: How Can Our Board Self-Evaluation Improve Our Functioning and Our Output?

Don’t confuse inputs (meeting frequency, meeting length, etc.) with outputs. Boards should “explicitly state that the central purpose of their board self-evaluation process is to continuously improve their ability to govern effectively.”

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QUESTION 13: How Do We Stop From Micromanaging?

Ram Charan writes: “The worst thing to happen to a board is when the CEO and the management team lose respect for the board.” Maybe the best thing to happen to a board is when the board selects the right CEO—and then trusts their CEO.

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QUESTION 14: How Prepared Are We to Work With Activists?

Ram Charan’s final chapter in Owning Up addresses the challenging issues faced by for-profit public companies. You’ll be tempted to skip this chapter (since nonprofit ministries do not have shareholders).

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QUESTION 2: Are We Addressing the Risks That Could Send Our Organization Over the Cliff?

During this COVID-19 marathon, I’m encouraging board members to address 14 critical boardroom questions from the savvy wisdom of Ram Charan’s must-read governance book, Owning Up.

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QUESTION 3: Are We Prepared to Do Our Job Well When a Crisis Erupts?

I urge your CEO and board chair to read chapter 3—even in the midst of the current unknowable unknown crisis. Charan advises, “Here the board can be an important check on management’s interpretation of events because even the best CEOs can sometimes be too optimistic or have blind spots.”

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QUESTION 4: Are We Well Prepared to Name Our Next CEO?

Ram Charan reminds us that every board member “knows deep down that nothing is more important than having the right CEO at all times.” This fourth chapter in Owning Up is bursting with must-read sections.

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QUESTION 5: Does Our Board Really Own the Strategy?

Consider summarizing your strategy and strategic plan with a one-page 11” x 17” template, “The Rolling 3-Year Strategic Plan Placemat,” Tool #14 from the book, ECFA Tools and Templates for Effective Board Governance: Time-Saving Solutions for Your Board.

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QUESTION 6: How Can We Get the Information We Need to Govern Well?

One final thought: when the board is equipped with the right information at the right time—your prayer can be more focused, and we pray, your ministry will be more effective.

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QUESTION 7: How Can Our Board Get CEO Compensation Right?

Often, strongly-opinionated board members, with limited experience, make compensation judgments in a vacuum, or worse, based on their own company’s compensation practices—totally unrelated to appropriate comparability data.

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QUESTION 8: Why Do We Need a Lead Director Anyway?

Two more helpful snippets: Charan believes it is critical that the Lead Director speak to every board member in between meetings so you don’t have “a two-tier board” which can lead to “power struggles between competing factions.” And because this position takes a large hunk of time, “a term of three years for a Lead Director seems about right.”

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QUESTION 9: Is Our Governance Committee Best of Breed?

The best boards expect the CEO to lead a senior team that embraces God-honoring teamwork, a healthy culture, and rapid response to conflict resolution.

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Quick Fix Tools for Board Self-Assessments

How will you inspire your board members to measure and monitor their own effectiveness?

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Ready for a Board Breakthrough?

Announcing 3 Transformational Tools for More Effective Governance

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Recording Church Board Minutes

Outlines the importance of and procedures for recording board meeting minutes, including a sample set of minutes

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Recruiting Board Members

Outlines some helpful board recruitment strategies to develop and maintain an effective board

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Related-Party Sample Board Resolution

Sample board resolution related to conflicts of interest and related-party transactions

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Renewing Your Vision

The importance of keeping God’s vision for ministry in focus

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Rumsfeld’s Rules on Meetings

If you asked the Lord for a give-it-to-us-straight assessment of your last board meeting, what improvements might He suggest?

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S.M.A.R.T. Goals for Boards

What are the Top-3 Goals for your board this year?

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Serving on a Ministry Board with Excellence

Boards seem to give little thought to qualities that separate good boards from the very best

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Seven Best Practices for Cultivating New Board Members

Recruiting the right people onto the board bus must be a high priority for boards. As the board goes, so goes the organization.

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Sorry! There Is No ONE Thing!

Warning! Beware of board members, CEOs, consultants, self-proclaimed governance experts (or any warm body clutching Robert’s Rules of Order) who would pontificate, “There is just ONE key to effective governance.”

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Spiritual Discernment

Dr. Stephen Macchia is one of the leaders of a growing spiritual discernment movement.  As Steve says:  “No matter who joins you at the discernment table, they bring with them their hearts . . . the condition of their hearts directly impacts the discernment process.”  May you bring a burning heart to the discernment table.

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Staff and Volunteer Ethics Sample Policy

A nonprofit's staff and volunteers' commitment to biblical, ethical, businesslike, and lawful conduct

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Staff Reports at Board Meetings: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Like you, I’ve observed and endured my share of staff reports at board meetings. They fit into three categories, but I’ll start with the ugly so we end on a high note.

 

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Succession Planning: “Appointment Without Anointment Always Led to Disaster”

Do you agree that “appointment without anointment” will lead to disaster?

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Succession Planning: “Appointment Without Anointment Always Led to Disaster”

Do you agree that “appointment without anointment” will lead to disaster?

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Succession Planning: “Do I Still Have Fire in My Belly?”

News Flash! Your CEO will retire someday. . .

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Succession Planning: “Do I Still Have Fire in My Belly?”

Even if your current CEO is relatively young, effective boards help CEOs plan for their inevitable retirement. David McKenna counsels, "Succession begins before we assume a position of leadership, not when we get ready to leave it.”

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Succession Planning: “My Heart Had Left the Building”

“The number one issue for me was passion. My heart was no longer engaged in my job—the fire had gone out. My heart had left the building.”

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Succession Planning: “My Heart Had Left the Building”

The first of 11 principles in the new ECFA Governance Toolbox on succession planning is cautionary: “Principle No. 1: Avoid Buses and Boredom!”

 

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Succession Planning: “One Size Fits All” Is Bad Counsel

What are some foundational biblical principles you can glean from David and Solomon or Paul and Timothy or others?

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Succession Planning: “One Size Fits All” Is Bad Counsel

While boards expect their CEOs and senior team members to have stellar succession plans in place, it’s rare when boards excel at their own succession planning. The best boards anticipate their future leadership needs and build board succession planning into their DNA.

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Succession Planning: “Wise People Know When to Quit”

Does our board regularly practice spiritual discernment for fork-in-the-road decisions, or are our prayer practices more superficial than transformational?

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Succession Planning: “Wise People Know When to Quit”

When boards help their CEOs end well at the right time and in God-honoring ways, they build a healthy foundation for God’s next leader.

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Succession Planning: 11 Principles (Index to 11 Blogs)

Board members should discern not only what CEO competencies they need for the next few years, but what kind of situation their new leader will inherit. Michael Watkins says there are four broad types of organizational situations—and there are risks. For example, a veteran CEO of a “Sustaining Success” organization may not be effective in a “Turn-Around” opportunity.

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Succession Planning: 11 Principles (Index to 11 Posts)

Board members should discern not only what CEO competencies they need for the next few years, but what kind of situation their new leader will inherit.

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Succession Planning: Decide If You Need a Search Firm

Michael J. Lotito: “If you spend a lot of time figuring out who you’re going to hire, you’ll have to spend far less time figuring out who to fire.”  

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Succession Planning: Decide If You Need a Search Firm

Boards of larger organizations that rely on retained search firms for senior-level positions will often engage a firm to conduct their CEO search. Just as organizations have unique cultures and methodologies, so retained search firms will have unique approaches for your important search. Interview at least three firms.

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Succession Planning: Does Your CEO Need a Coach?

According to Soderquist Leadership, “92% of executives who received coaching said they would be willing to be coached again.”

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Succession Planning: Does Your CEO Need a Coach?

I know. I know. The daily to-do list pushes succession preparation way down. Critical budget needs leave inadequate funds for leader development. Stop! Reflect! Pray!

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Succession Planning: Hire Slower and Fire Faster

What do board members fear the most? They fear having to terminate a CEO on their watch.

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Succession Planning: Hire Slower and Fire Faster

What do board members fear the most? They fear having to terminate a CEO on their watch. The common wisdom is “Hire slower, fire faster.” But few follow this counsel in nonprofit organizations. Even fewer in nonprofit ministries.

 

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Succession Planning: Is Your CEO Thriving or Just Surviving?

Will our CEO leave when he or she is thriving, or just surviving?

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Succession Planning: Is Your CEO Thriving or Just Surviving?

Reflect on the theological implications of “every CEO is an interim CEO.” Will our CEO leave when he or she is thriving, or just surviving?

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Succession Planning: The Five Stages of CEO Abandonment

Surprise…and maybe shock! While you thought your CEO would serve until retirement, today she called your board chair to announce her resignation!

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Succession Planning: The Five Stages of CEO Abandonment

Boards will often have a sense of abandonment. The timing is rarely perfect. Some board members will experience one or more of the five stages of loss and grief popularized by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross: Denial and Isolation, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance

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Succession Planning: The Ongoing Continuous Process

Are there appropriate board-approved succession policies to guide the work of the Succession Planning Task Force?

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Succession Planning: The Ongoing Continuous Process

"Are there appropriate board-approved succession policies to guide the work of the Succession Planning Task Force?"

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Tame the Advice Monster!

So how do you tame the advice monster?  Stanier says you must ask “The Best Coaching Question in the World.” I’m guessing that few board members see themselves as coaches. We’re advice givers. That’s why we’re on the board, right?

 

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Tap! Tap! Tap!

Does the Spirit hear a busy signal when nudging your board?

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Term Limits for Boards

Outlines the importance and strategy of term limits for boards

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Thank You. Thank You. Thank You!

“With all this book’s emphasis on the soul of leadership, you may have been wondering how you get somewhere! Well, you get somewhere by discerning God’s will and doing it together. That is what spiritual community and spiritual leadership is all about.”

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The “Quieter” Pool of Board Members

What methods do you leverage to tone down your noisy board members and encourage your quieter board members to speak up?

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The 20% Board Member

During my years at Willow Creek Community Church and Willow Creek Association, I recall that both elders and church board members practiced a very high level of commitment to excellence. And for many, excellence could only be accomplished with a high commitment of time.

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The 5-Tool Hall of Fame Board Member

So what powerful competencies would a five-tool board member demonstrate?

 

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The 6 D's: Doer

Do you have a written pathway to the board that includes reference-checking? What questions do you ask others about a prospective board member?

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The 6 D's: Donor

Before we invite new people to consider board service, what is our giving guideline for board members?

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The 6 D’s: Demonstrated Passion

How will we discern and document that our board candidates have passion for our cause?

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The 6 D’s: Diligent and Faithful Participant

How many board prospects are you currently dating and who is observing them, up close, to discern if they meet Criteria No. 4: Diligent and Faithful Participant?

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The 6 D’s: Discerning Decision Maker

What are 10 questions we should be asking our board prospects?

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The 6 D’s: Documented Team Player

How will we conduct our due diligence on future board members to ensure that they are competent team players and not Lone Rangers?

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The Big Difference Between Micromanaging and Appropriate Questioning

“Asking questions of an operating nature is not in itself micromanaging, as long as the questions lead to insights about issues like strategy, performance, major investment decisions, key personnel, the choice of goals, or risk assessment.”

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The Board and the Bachelor Farmer

What stories of management faithfulness and governance faithfulness are you using to inspire and motivate your board members?

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The Board in the Boat, Part 1

Imagine—if your board had the elegance, the unity, and the team harmony of a precision rowing crew, the world’s finest!

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The Board in the Boat, Part 2

What is the cost in ministry impact when your board members are not all pulling in the same direction?  

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The Board in the Boat, Part 3: Discombobulation

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this three-part series on strategy alignment, we’ve used the “board in the boat” metaphor to discuss the importance of inspiring board members (and the CEO and staff) to all be rowing in the same direction

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The Boardroom Lexicon: I, Me, We, Us

“CEOs must pursue God and focus on abiding in Christ. A major warning sign is when a leader places self-interest ahead of the things of God and the needs of the ministry, evidenced in arrogant language and prideful behavior.

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The Bully in the Church Boardroom

??God, the pastor, the board chair, and other board members must neutralize the board bully.

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The Cardinal Sin Is Dullness

I was catching up on my reading last Sunday evening, with the Oscars on TV in the background.  I had one take-away—an actor quoted Frank Capra (1897-1991), the famed director of the 1946 uplifting movie, “It's a Wonderful Life.”

 

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The Connection Chasm

Does your board have a Pathway to the Board Checklist? How are you communicating board service opportunities to younger board members?

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The Cousin Eddie Syndrome

How does your board avoid the Cousin Eddie Syndrome—and when is the last time you’ve reviewed board recruitment best practices?

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The Executive Committee and Its Role for Ministries

Describes the potential role of an executive committee of a ministry board

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The Gold Standard Question for Board Members

“You’re driving away from a ‘typical’ board meeting (or sharing the experience with a friend or family member), and you say, ‘THAT WAS A GREAT BOARD MEETING TODAY!’ Tell me, what happened at the board meeting to provoke that positive response?

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The Hottest Questions About Board Service

How does your Christ-centered board move from decision-making to discernment (actually hearing God’s voice about your future)?

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The Impact of Founder's Syndrome

Visionary leaders do not just experience personal stress but can also cause great organizational distress. Founder’s Syndrome occurs when an organization is driven more by the personality of the founder than by its own mission. It is an organizational problem more than a personal one. All institutions face this danger, but it is especially complicated in Christian settings, where founders often function as spiritual leaders as well.

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The Language of Christmas Gifting

At your next board meeting, ask each board member, “What is your love language?”

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The Last Time We Evaluated our CEO? How About Never!

What is your board's process for annually evaluating your CEO? 

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The Meeting Before the Meeting

How will you know the perspective of your board members, if you don’t have some form of “the meeting before the meeting” (lunch, phone call, Skype call, etc.)?

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The Nothingness Syndrome

Are you guilty of receiving (and even reading) emailed board reports—but not hitting “REPLY” with a short encouraging note to the CEO? 

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The One-Minute Board Member

At the end of each board meeting, Ryan suggests you jot down anything else you might have said—had the conversation continued. Then hand your thoughts to the board chair as a possible topic for your next board meeting.

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The Participant Hat: Hinting, Whining, or Affirming?

Are the Participant Hat expectations crystal clear to all board members?

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The Peaceful Urgency Continuum

What do you do, in your board meetings and day-after-day, to forge a Peaceful Urgency as your board stewards God’s work?

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The Perfect Board Member (PBM)

What would you add when creating the Perfect Board Member?

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The Power of Passion: It’s OK to Say No!

Here’s the gut check for board members: does your board service (including your ad hoc assignments) leverage your “3 Powerful S’s” (Spiritual Gifts, Strengths, and Social Styles)? If not, your board work will often be a draining experience. That’s not God’s plan!

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The Powerful Potential of Tab 10

What’s your next step for leveraging the God-honoring heart and passion of former board members?

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The President Gets 100 Days—You Get 90!

How does your board discern where the CEO should invest his/her most valuable resource—time? Where does your board invest its precious time?

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The Range of Normalcy: Where’s Your Board?

Recently in a board enrichment session, the CEO punctuated most topics with this question: “So, John, where is our board on the range of normalcy?”

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The Top 10 Most Read Blogs in 2017

“Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable,” noted Mark Twain. So, this last blog of the year highlights some statistics (the Top 10 Most Read Blogs in 2017) and delivers, maybe, a few facts.

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The Widow’s Mite Is NOT the Gold Standard of Giving!

Last year I wrote two blogs on “10 Fundraising Mistakes That Are Easy to Fix” with a follow-up post on “Board Giving and the Generosity Circle.” This issue keeps popping up in board meetings—so here’s a summer re-run on this important topic.

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Then and Now

“If ECFA had not been formed, another organization would have been needed to fill its role,” said Lauren Libby, former ECFA board member.

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There Are No Irrational Customers

What does your customer value—and what is your systematic quest for those answers?

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There’s an Elephant in the Room—But Let’s Just Keep the Peace!” is the title of the “In-the-Trenches Board Interviews” segment in the new resource: ECFA Governance Toolbox S

Addressing Board and Organizational Conflicts of Interest—Avoiding Trouble, Trouble, Trouble With Related–Party Transactions

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Thrive with Four Kingdom Values

Pastor Carlos said he didn’t have the spiritual gift of church board meetings!

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TOOL #1: The Pathway to the Board

Give this internal document to your Governance Committee to guide them along the six steps…from suggestion to election.

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TOOL #10: The 5/15 Monthly Report to the Board

Use this tool to keep the board informed and inspired between meetings. Once formatted, it takes just 15 minutes to write and 5 minutes to read.

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TOOL #11: Monthly Dashboard Report

Use this tool to update the board and senior team on the CEO’s or senior pastor’s Top-5 Annual S.M.A.R.T. Goals. (Send updates at least monthly.)

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TOOL #12: Quarterly Board Meeting Agenda and Recommendations

Use this agenda template to signal the board, seven to 10 days in advance, that this board meeting is important—and their insights are needed.

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TOOL #13: Board Retreat Read-and-Reflect Worksheets

Prior to your next board retreat, create a “Read-and-Reflect Worksheet” and inspire the board to read one governance book in preparation for your retreat.

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TOOL #14: The Rolling 3-Year Strategic Plan Placemat

Roll-up your sleeves and gather the strategically-gifted board and senior staff around the table—and begin with this: “What is our strategy?”

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TOOL #15: Board Retreat Trend-Spotting Exercise

Use this trend-spotting template to generate insights and interaction on a key hot topic at your next retreat—each person presenting one article.

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TOOL #16: Prime Responsibility Chart

Use this tool to eliminate fuzziness between board and staff roles.

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TOOL #17: Board Policies Manual

Use this tool to create a Board Policies Manual (BPM)—and finally, you’ll have all your policies in one document and always updated.

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TOOL #18: Job Descriptions for the Top Leader and Board Chair

Review these sample job descriptions for the Board Chair and the CEO (or Executive Pastor) and then use these insights to refresh your documents.

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TOOL #19: Ten Minutes for Governance

Use this tool at every meeting to enhance lifelong learning.

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TOOL #2: Board Nominee Suggestion Form

Give this suggestion form to board members to help them discern who to recommend for board service.

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TOOL #20: Tent Cards and Tools for Leveraging Board Member Strengths

Inspire your board to complete the online CliftonStrengths® assessment and then create tent cards and tools to leverage strengths at every board and committee meeting! 

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TOOL #21: Board Member Annual Affirmation Statement

Share this document with board prospects to communicate your high commitment and generosity standards. Plus, require re-commitments annually from all board members.

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TOOL #22: Straw Vote Cards

Use red and green straw vote cards to discern if you have consensus or division on big and small issues—and save valuable time!

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TOOL #3: Board Nominee Orientation: Table of Contents

Inspire qualified board prospects to consider board service by giving them a comprehensive overview of your governance documents.

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TOOL #4: Five-Finger Feedback

Use this tool to enrich engagement and immediate feedback.

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TOOL #5: The Board’s Annual Self-Assessment Survey

Select the board self-assessment survey option that best fits your board’s culture and your board’s aspirations for continual improvement.

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TOOL #6: The Board’s Annual Financial Management Audit

Use this TRUE OR FALSE audit annually as a first step in assessing your ministry’s financial health and integrity.

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TOOL #7: The Board’s Annual Legal Audit

Use this TRUE OR FALSE annual audit as a first step in assessing your ministry’s compliance with applicable local, state, and federal laws and regulations.

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TOOL #8: The Board’s Annual Fundraising Audit

Use this TRUE OR FALSE annual audit as a first step in assessing if the ministry is communicating giving opportunities with integrity and accuracy—and whether or not the board understands and affirms the ministry’s current fundraising practices.

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TOOL #9: The Board’s Annual Evaluation of the Top Leader

Review these templates—and then customize your annual process so it fits your unique situation and your unique top leader! (One size doesn’t fit all.)

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TOOL 1: The Pathway to the Board

When you use the right tool at the right time—you’ll move faster and deeper toward your board’s sacred calling of God-honoring governance. And you’ll eliminate those “Oops!” blunders so you don’t propose marriage on the first date.

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TOOL 10 Review – The 5/15 Monthly Report to the Board

In the hallways of boardrooms, perhaps the most constant whine is, “We don’t hear from our CEO in between board meetings. How can I steward this ministry, if I’m not in the loop?”

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TOOL 11 Review – Monthly Dashboard Report

When it comes to goal setting in your ministry, does your CEO embrace “S.M.A.R.T.” goals?

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TOOL 12 Review – Quarterly Board Meeting Agenda and Recommendations

What are the key elements of an effective agenda and board meeting?

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TOOL 13 Review – Board Retreat Read-and-Reflect Worksheets

When was the last time our board read a governance book together—and made boardroom improvements as a result of our study?

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TOOL 14 Review – The Rolling 3-Year Strategic Plan Placemat

How does your board define strategy?

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TOOL 15 Review – Board Retreat Trend-Spotting Exercise

What’s the culture in your organization? Ostrich or eagle?

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TOOL 16 Review – Prime Responsibility Chart

Eliminate Fuzziness Between Board and Staff Roles

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TOOL 17 Review – Board Policies Manual (BPM)

Do you need a flashlight and emergency provisions to search for all of your board-approved policies over the last five decades?

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TOOL 18 Review – Job Descriptions for the Top Leader and Board Chair

The Number One Hiring Mistake!

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TOOL 19 Review – Ten Minutes for Governance

Lifelong Governance Learning—in 10-Minute Chunks!

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TOOL 2 Review – Board Nominee Suggestion Form

Avoid the “Friend of a Friend of Cousin Eddie Syndrome”

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TOOL 20 Review – Tent Cards & Tools for Leveraging Board Member Strengths

How do we inspire the deep engagement of our board members?

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TOOL 21 Review - Board Member Annual Affirmation Statement

"If volunteers see the fulfillment of their role as ‘obeying and serving God’ rather than serving you or your [organization], it will cause motivation to swell.” -- Al Newell

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TOOL 22 Review – Straw Vote Cards

“Did we sense any holy moments—that clearly demonstrated our ministry is governed by eternal values and obedience to God’s direction?”

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TOOL 3 Review – Board Nominee Orientation: Table of Contents

“Recruit board members for their passion, not their position. Don’t swallow the board myth that says you need a CPA, an attorney, and a fundraiser on your board. . ." John Pearson

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TOOL 4 Review – Five-Finger Feedback

What if…you’re the chair and the Five-Finger Feedback exercise reveals low scores (just one or two fingers up)? What would you say or do?

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TOOL 5 Review – The Board’s Annual Self-Assessment Survey

“Self-assessment is the first action requirement of leadership: the constant resharpening, constant refocusing, never really being satisfied.”  – Peter Drucker

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TOOL 6 Review – The Board’s Annual Financial Management Audit

“In the worst-case scenario, clarity of ministry finances is a key to avoiding a financial shipwreck. In the best case, clarity prevents a ministry from becoming an embarrassment to Christ.”  – Dan Busby

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TOOL 7 Review – The Board's Annual Legal Audit

What if—at your next board meeting—senior staff reported this bad news (a RED alert on your “Ministry Dashboard Signals” report)?

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TOOL 8 Review – The Board's Annual Fundraising Audit

“#4. The board is aware of communication being shared with givers concerning the potential of over-funding or under-funding of projects for which funds are being raised.” – True or False

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TOOL 9 Review – The Board's Annual Evaluation of the Top Leader

Are we leveraging our CEO’s strengths? Are we leveraging the strengths of our board members?

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Tough Decisions for Boards

Discusses elements of making effective board meeting decisions

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Travel Expense of Board Members and their Spouses

Outlines the issues surrounding board member and spousal travel reimbursements

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Try “Stoppage Time” at Your Next Board Meeting

At the end of your next board meeting, read this tongue-in-check post to the board and then ask for feedback.

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Two Prayers and a Poem Are Not Enough!

How will you raise the significance of the devotional thoughts at your board meetings and retreats?

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Two Things Boards Should Never Joke About, Part 2

Not every board member is a skilled fundraiser—and that’s OK.

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Two Things Boards Should Never Joke About, Part 1

Oswald Chambers wrote that prayer is “the vital breath of the Christian.” Is that vital breath evident both in your board meetings and outside of board meetings?

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Two Tools for Improving Communication

Has your board agreed on the template and standing topics that your CEO should report on each month (and the report frequency)?

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Unmistakable Integrity Starts with the Tone at the Top

Integrity appears in both very small ways and very significant ways.

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Wanted: Lifelong Learners

Would you trust a surgeon who stopped learning?

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Watch Out for Boards Asleep at the Wheel

Golden opportunities are missed when a board’s eyes are wide shut.

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We All Need Feedback

God is honored when we ask for feedback—and when we practice what we preach, our CEOs will ask for feedback.

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What Color Is Christ-centered Governance?

All of us have different views of the board’s role. Our perspectives are colored by our experiences. Maybe Fred’s last board stint was colored by high trust and stunning Kingdom outcomes. Jennifer’s previous experience, perhaps, was colored by mediocre results, less-than-honest reporting, and infrequent board meetings. Maybe Fred and Jennifer could meet in the middle on board roles—but the middle approach may not be effective for their organization.

 

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What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Prepare your board now for the possibility of future accusations and investigations.

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What Criteria for New Board Members?

When is the last time we reviewed our written criteria for board member selection?

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What Drains Your Board Members?

This subject arrested my attention when a good friend, Jim Galvin, asked in a recent eNewsletter, “What’s Your Kryptonite?”

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What If…Every Board Member Wrote 5 Thank You Notes?

At your next board meeting, bring notecards, envelopes and stamps—and ask every board member to write five or more thank you notes—on the spot—to the people that are responsible for the success of your ministry.

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What Will You Measure in 2017?

“The task of stating just exactly what to measure falls to the leaders in organizations. It’s not an easy job, and finding what to measure won’t happen automatically.”

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What Would Grace Enable Our Board to Be?

“It’s so easy to fall into the trap of measuring only what’s easy to measure.”

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When Bad Boards Happen to Good People

Do CEOs get the boards they deserve?

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Where Two or Three Are Gathered on Social Media

Conflicts of interest always sound more questionable on the internet and social media.

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Why Do Board Members Micromanage?

What would be the upside if the board and senior team agreed on a two-page strategy document?

 

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Would You Have 60 Minutes of God-honoring Governance?

Would you have 60 minutes of God-honoring governance?

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Yikes! Motivation Doesn’t Last!

So what motivates the men and women who serve on your board? And is your on-going motivation adequate? (Is it daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or never?) 

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You Made Me Better Than I Was

Church board experiences should leave all participants better than they were.

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Your Board’s Fair Share of the World’s Burden

How many of us really get it right—a holy balance in bearing our due share of the world’s burden?

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Your Board’s ONE Thing

So today, we’re simplifying the question: “What’s your board’s ONE thing at your next meeting?”

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Your CEO’s Worst Mistake!

What are the top three things you need to accomplish in the next six to 12 months to give your organization the best chance of long-term success?

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Your Designated Dicernmentarian

When we’re facing a fork-in-the-road decision, do we have the spiritual tools at hand to truly hear from God and practice “indifference” to our own personal views?

 

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Your Greatest Need: Money or Discernment

What’s the most important need in our ministry right now? Raising money to do our work or discerning what work God wants us to do?

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Your Leader’s ONE Thing

I’ve started collecting the wise and pithy proverbs from management and leadership gurus who pontificate on “The Number One Thing/Most Important Task of a Leader.” They’re all good—but can they all be the most important? 

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Your Ministry’s Most Precious Commodity?

Warren Buffet famously said, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘NO’ to almost everything.”

 

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