Big Nonprofit Ideas for the Other 95%
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Erin Bradrick: 2017 Legal Tips
The New Year means a close look in the corners. We’ve got the legal issues you need to fine tune. Erin Bradrick is senior counsel at the Nonprofit & Exempt Organizations law group (NEO).
Greg Cohen: This Year’s Board Retreat
Done right, your retreat will energize and focus your board and get them working as a team. Greg Cohen knows how. He’s senior associate at Cause Effective.
Top Trends. Sound Advice. Lively Conversation.
You’re on the air and on target as I delve into the big issues facing your nonprofit—and your career.
If you have big dreams but an average budget, tune in to Tony Martignetti Nonprofit Radio.
I interview the best in the business on every topic from board relations, fundraising, social media and compliance, to technology, accounting, volunteer management, finance, marketing and beyond. Always with you in mind.
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Hello and welcome to tony martignetti non-profit radio big non-profit ideas for the other ninety five percent happy new year for sure, the new year twenty seventeen my voice just crack together come a fourteen year old it’s incessant with the voice i got to get lessons or surgery or something. Happy new year, that’s much more important, i hope twenty seventeen is going to be very successful for you. I hope you’re going to be doing some introspection and inspection and buy two guests today. You’re goingto talk about some topics for you to be the introspective about. Oh, i’m glad you’re with me. I’d be hit with ryan ola thigh assis if i got a whiff of you missing today’s show twenty seventeen legal tips are first introspection topic the new year means a close look in the corners we’ve got the legal issues you need to find tune aaron bradrick is senior counsel at the non-profit and exempt organizations law group neo and this year’s board retreat done right, your retreat will energize and focus your board and get them working as a team. Greg cohen nose out he’s a senior associate at cause effective tony steak too. Charity registration. We’re sponsored by pursuant full service fund-raising data driven and technology enabled, you’ll raise more money pursuant dot com. And by we be spelling supercool spelling bee fundraisers. We b e spelling dot com. I’m very pleased a real pleasure to welcome aaron bradrick when she calls in, we had her, but she’s gone, it wasn’t her. Okay, aaron bradrick is not here yet, but she ought to be calling in very shortly at ten a m pacific time, which is one o’clock eastern. So let’s see, well, some of the things that she and i are going to talk about, of course she’ll have the detail. Um, we’re going to start with this topic of charity registration, which i’m planning to fill in a little more on in tony’s take two, but you know, the general idea that you need to be properly registered in each state where you solicit our first introspection is the introspection show our first introspection topic for twenty seventeen. Yes, you need to be probably registered wherever you’re soliciting donations, you need to be registered with the state authorities, and we’re also going to talk about a board calendar. I’m not. Sure, i don’t know, maybe non-profits doing this routinely, i mean, i go to board meetings, but i don’t know whether they are planning the full year. Maybe they are. I’m not saying i’m not saying it’s not happening. Maybe greg cohen has all inside, and tonight we might talk about that later on, but it ought to be there ought to be a yearlong calendar of topics for your meetings, however often their car so that you got some strategy around it and some common sense. Um, let’s, see what we’re going to? Uh, yeah, all right, we’ll take a break and we’ll see if we can get i mean, i didn’t mind i don’t mind summarizing, frankly, but it’s bothering sam sam’s bothered sam doesn’t like it. I don’t know father was like, all right, it’s, my shot duvette piela i want, but i’ll take the advice. We’ll take a break, we’ll see if we can get aaron burr. Aaron bradrick on the phone. If not, well, you’re going to stay with us anyway. Nobody’s going anywhere, we’ll see what happens. It’ll be an adventure for everybody. Stay with us. You’re tuned to non-profit radio tony martignetti also hosts a podcast for the chronicle of philanthropy fund-raising fundamentals, is a quick ten minute burst of fund-raising insights, published once a month. Tony’s guests are expert in crowdfunding, mobile giving event fund-raising direct mail and donor cultivation. Really, all the fund-raising issues that make you wonder, am i doing this right? Is there a better way there is? Find the fund-raising fundamentals archive it. Tony martignetti dot com that’s marketmesuite n e t t i remember there’s, a g before the end, thousands of listeners have subscribed on itunes. You can also learn maura, the chronicle website, philanthropy dot com fund-raising fundamentals, the better way. Hello, i’m j c. I’m joan, and welcome to twenty first century entrepreneur. We bring education in sight, knowledge, awareness, trouble, craziness and fun for you, the entrepreneur who’s looking to build your business and your community. Listen every friday from noon toe one eastern on top radio dot n y c, and you can tweet us at twenty first c e radio or talk alternative. Talking alternative radio twenty four hours a day. Welcome back to big non-profit ideas for the other ninety five percent, and we did get aaron. It appears that i may have made a mistake. There’s an allegation that i made a mistake. I’m pulling a trump. This is me and i’m pulling a donald trump. This is alleged hacking. This is a land that there’s a mistake. I’m going to go back and check the record. I actually, you know, on dh i’ll apologize in advance, erin, because there’s a good chance. I did make a mistake. I’m usually pretty good, but maybe i did let’s see let’s give her air informal introduction she’s a senior counsel at the non-profit and exempt organizations law group in san francisco where she is calling from she’s, a regular contributor to the very popular non-profit law block dot com and the practices devoted solely to non-profit and exempt organizations she’s at aaron bradrick and the firm is at neo-sage group dot com welcome, aaron the same story and sorry for that computer and i was planning to call in at ten. Thirty. So, uh, sorry about that, but i’m glad to be here. That’s okay, i may be the one who’s. Supposed to say sorry? I thought we ok, obviously i thought we said i i thought i said ten pacific, but i made you know, you there’s a good chance for because i’m booking a lot of guys glad. Glad we’re on now. Yes, and thank you for doing it. Spur of the moment. Okay, so i gave a little introduction into just a couple of the first two topics that you and i we’re going to talk about the filing requirements for charity registration and the board calendar, but i just gave glossy overviews so let’s talk about this charity registration filing thing. You think this is something good to look at in the beginning of the year? Yeah, i mean, i think the basic idea is that the new year it’s, good climb for organizations, kind of take a look in the mirror and see what they have coming up for the next year, make sure they’re organized, ready to go with a fresh start. And i think one of the things that we’re seeing lately is particularly at the state level regulatory agencies really cracking down due to the lack of compliance with registration and filing requirements. And it could be something that’s easy for an organisation to overlook. We recommend kind of the beginning of the year taking a look at what deadlines you have coming up for various filing requirements, which often turned on when your fiscal year and for the organization. I’m not just the annual returns that are filed with the irs and potentially with state tax authority, but also with potentially a charitable oversight and sees which is the attorney general and any ongoing filing requirements with the secretary of state or department of state and creating a calendar for you the year of when the silent or do and making sure you have a point person who’s designated to make sure the organization doesn’t miss the deadline. Yeah, that could be that could be a tough one for smaller organizations where the organization has a lot of filings to keep up with it’s it’s it can be difficult for someone to devote, like a quarter or a half of their time to these compliance issues. Yeah, absolutely. And particularly for all. Fall into your organizations where you don’t have a staff member, you can designate the responsibility of making sure these were met on the problem that we also see with a lot of these organizations is particularly when they’re all volunteer run when there’s a change in the officer structure there’s a change in the board, they don’t update these regulatory agencies with her new address, so even if they do miss a filing deadline, mostly agencies will send out reminders or have notices that the deadline has passed and that you have not seen an opportunity to make this filing before their adverse consequences from missing the deadline. But if you haven’t updated with a new address, sometimes organizations aren’t even receiving notices at all, not even aware that they’re missing with that fine, but we’re seeing greater consequences for missing these types of filing requirements, so it is really important for organizations to make sure they have some sort of system in place to make sure things don’t fall through the cracks. There’s something related to that that happened a few years ago? Now i know you’re talking about going beyond what’s required by irs, the form nine ninety whichever variation on organization may do based on their size, but but it was like three years ago or so ah, a couple of hundred thousand non-profits lost their tax exempt status for failure to file their version of the nine, ninety. Yeah, so the irs regulations we’re past that said that if an organization fails to file on exempt entity return for three consecutive years, then immediately upon the third missed filing, they’re exempt. Status will be automatically revoked. There’s no discretionary basis for preventing that automatic revocation. So if you missed three years of your nine nine year whatever for my ninety year required to file, then you can be automatically revote. There’s there’s some leeway, but for many organizations, if you are automatically revoked, you have to apply all over again to have your exam status reinstated. We’re actually up to almost seven hundred thousand organizations that have been automatically revoked over the last, i guess, six years, seven years now. Oh, okay, i didn’t know it was that large, and maybe that maybe that initial wave was now that the first wave of, like, three hundred thousand that wasn’t six or seven years ago, was it? No, i believe i believe they started them in two thousand ten, but i’d have to confirm falik automatic. Revocation put into effect, there was a big there was a big serge, a bubble, whatever in one year, but i think i was only, like three years ago or so roughly because because i know this show is six and a half years old, and it didn’t come at the beginning of that. I mean, those may have been happening, but then there was that huge one. Like i said, like close to three hundred thousand or so. All right, so okay, look in your look, look in the dusty corners, check your filing requirements, basically let’s say let’s, go to the let’s, go to the board calendar. You do you do you think most non-profits are setting their agenda for the year in advance? Are they doing that? I think probably not, but i think it could be a very effective tool. I think some larger organizations previewed organizations with large staff that helped to kind of coordinate the board meetings or, more likely, that be setting some sort of calendar for a full year. But i think he’d be helpful even for smaller organizations are entirely volunteer run organizations as well. I think it can just help. To set expectations for various meanings in advance to make sure the meetings are effective and efficient and that the board really covers everything it needs. Teo during the meetings throughout the year, yeah, it makes great sense. You you look at the whole year plan and make sure that everything is covered. So maybe you have some training on financials are you want to cover programs and you want make sure i would think you give equal time to all your programs or maybe wake them based on the preponderance that they proportion that they bear to your organization’s revenue or activities or something. But you won’t make sure everything is covered. It makes sense tow look at it for the whole year. Um, and you also suggest leaving some space for things that are going come up at hawk, of course, you know, it would be nice if we could predict in advance everything that was going to arrive throughout the course of the year, but i think that’s a very rare occurrence. So it’s important to make sure that in scheduling kind of topics for a board meeting, you’re not so rigid that there’s not opportunity for the board to discuss the really pressing issues that arise throughout the course of the year. You, uh you call this stargazing? I like that on time. Stargazing. I’ll have to give credit. I think jean takagi uses that term a lot. My colleague at any old locker. But we like the idea that, you know, a big part of the board function is really thinking big for the organization. So it’s not just necessarily thinking about the financials and the more procedural and legal aspects of government, but also thinking about, you know, what the organization can really accomplish, what its mission is, what is exempt purposes are and how it can best carry those out with the assets that has access to the kind of thinking big picture thinking about the potential of the organization. In fact, that could be a problem with a lot of boards is that they do get mired in the detail and they ignore the the larger role that they that they should be filling. Yeah, look at that time that’s looking critically at markets and competition and potentials, maybe scrutinising current activities to decide if we should be doing everything that we are doing etcetera, so these bigger picture items um and i think one of the hardest things for boards is actually to take a critical look at current programs and to make the tough decisions so, you know, if something isn’t working as well as it may be ought to be here isn’t necessarily the best use of the organization’s asset. Is there some kind of big changes that need to be made and those air filter big conversation? You know, there’s, not one that just happened in a short, you know, fifteen minutes section of ah one board meeting, so making sure that there’s room on the calendar for any of those types of conversations that should be taking place and perhaps will come up organically, you like to take a look att governance policies and there there are some that are in new marais tid in the form nine, ninety let’s get you why don’t you take those off? Go ahead. Yeah, the form nine ninety asks about a section has a section in the form nineteen doing be about policies, and it does actually say on the form nine, ninety itself that these policies aren’t required under the internal revenue code, but it is possible it somewhere required under applicability student law, so it is important for an organisation to be aware of any state laws that apply to it. But the policies that are mentioned on the form nine ninety are conflict of interest policy, a whistleblower policy and the document retention and destruction policy. The fact that they’re even included on this in a return form is just signal, i think, from the irs with either things that the irs was kind of thinking are important towards good governance of an organisation and are things that the organization doesn’t have in place, even though not legally required could be advisable and recommended from governance perspective. And then also from a marketing perspective, the ninety is so widely available that potential donors volunteers boardmember sze doing due diligence, whoever’s looking at your your nine ninety e i think it just doesn’t look so good to say no, we don’t have the conflict of interest policy, whistleblower policy, etcetera. Even though the irs, even though the form says they’re not required, i think it looks bad to check off those no boxes. Yeah, i could potentially and you’re right, you know, particularly, i think funders have access to nine, nine years and we’ll take a look at them and they are publicly available document the last three years, as you noted, so again, it it could be, you know, while not legally required, it could be a signal that you have good governance policies and good governance practices in place. You do, in fact, have these policies, of course, though having a policy in and of itself is of no use if you’re not actually making sure everyone is aware of the policy and following it and enforcing it so that’s another part of what we recommend, kind of the beginning of the year or some other time that the organization designate was appropriate based on its annual calendar, but taking a look at what policies you do have in place, whether they’re working for the organization or whether any changes should be made, whether everybody actually knows where to find the policies and his reviewed copies of them, and then also whether there are any gaps in your policy so there’s something that, you know, it would be helpful to have a policy on and you don’t yet and would it be appropriate to kind of put that on your task list in terms of coming up with an appropriate policy on that topic? Ok, one that’s coming to mind is it policy and the use of private personal devices for for organizational purposes? Do we allow it? What what do we require if we do allow it? You know, etcetera, what do you feel about that policy? We don’t see that as having been adopted by many organization, but i think it’s just becoming increasingly more relevant in the way that most organizations operate today, so it actually could be advisable, particularly for larger organization with larger staffs are a lot of volunteers that are potentially using technology resources that belonged to the organization. The use of of resources also comes up, particularly in the context of lobbying activities and political activities, which for five whillans trees you know, obviously, lobbying activities for public cherries have to be an insubstantial amount of their overall activity, but political activities are completely prohibited, and even you seven organizational resource for improper campaign intervention activity could be problematic, and i think a policy could be particularly effective in that area as well. Okay, lobbying ceo compensation is one that you like to see? Yeah, sometimes it doesn’t necessarily need to be in a formal policy, but it is something that the organization often need to be aware of the importance of and make sure it’s falling some sort of i’m specific process for determining appropriate ceo compensation, particularly here in california, we have a requirement that the combination of the ceo be approved by the board or unauthorized committee when it’s first offered, when the period of employment is renewed and then whenever it’s modified, even if it’s modified data word. So there are certain requirements in place with respect to ceo compensation and then also at the federal level under the internal revenue code there’s certain requirements with respect to how you determine whether compensation amounts are appropriate for having a policy in place could be good, particularly for an organization that has significant turnover. Andi it’s in its board, where there might not be a lot of awareness of what practices and policies should be followed with respect to determining compensation. Jean and i have talked about the competition hyre the presumption, etcetera, it’s, it’s in a previous share we’ve we’ve we’ve done something on that listen, sentiments and california because i said you’re in san francisco, but what are you hearing about the suspicion succession movement? Are we going? We’re gonna be down to forty nine six for you to start off the flag. It’s going to be a balance, therefore, i think probably not in my lifetime. I don’t think you do. People talk about a lot of talk about it. Do people talk about, like, over drinks and dinners and things? The result of the election have led to many conversations over drinks in my circle. I will. I will certainly say i’m not searching me. People are christian. Too hard for succession, but it’s definitely been floated. Okay? Yeah. All right, so it does come up. Okay. Okay, forty nine is, uh i was you were talking. I was thinking to forty nine as a prime. It would be hard to be weird to have a prime number, aziz Numbers, but not a prime 7 times seven is forty, so i was wrong there, but i mean, i hope it doesn’t happen. I there, there those who will we’ll send you off. Gladly, but i’m not among them. I hope we still, i’m glad to hear that way. In your mind. We’re keeping you in the union intact. Idealware okay. Let’s see so oh, and then, you know, we haven’t talked about any fund-raising policies, but you might have a gift acceptance and crediting policy and that’s something i work a lot with non-profits and i often find an existing one is not being followed. So in terms of either acceptance, i mean there’s a lot in there that non-profits forget is in there and then same thing with crediting they, i find it’s a policy that gets created and then often ignored. So, yeah, i can often be the problem with particularly these types of policies that are kind of thought of as the core required policies. People might even forget that they’re out there. So i think having some sort of process in place where the policy they’re easy to access and everybody that needs to be aware of them is well aware of what you know what they actually say. And i think the gift acceptance policy in particular, i think there’s often this conception that misconception, maybe that every gift is a good gift, but sometimes the strings that come with gifts for gift that aren’t actually easy to divest us can you be a little bit of a curse in disguise, i guess. And so it can be important to make sure that if there is a gift that isn’t no cash and there’s something that is more complicated or difficult to get rid of for the organisation or turned into value and that there’s some sort of process, we’re reviewing that gift and just making sure that acceptance really is in the best interest of the organization. Real estate comes to mind when you suggest that there may not be great. Real estate can be an enormously valuable and wonderful gift for non-profit on the other hand, i’ve had situations where it was a disputed strip of, like, four feet wide or so maybe ride, and it ran the depth of the properties. I was like two feet wide, one hundred feet deep, and somebody is trying to give it to us, you know, because it was denied and it was easier to give it to a third party and let us a trifle hassle with it. So there’s two ends of the spectrum, it can be magnificent, but around real estate in particular that’s, real estate’s, not the only kind of risky gift. But in particular you really you got to do your due diligence before your organization name goes on the deed for that property that let’s go to aa financials. You won’t take some time in the beginning of the year to do financial oversight. What do your thoughts here? Yeah, i think particularly for an organisation on a calendar year that has just wrapped up. You know, its last its last year. It could be a good time for the board and perhaps it a rather high level. But just take a look at what financials that has access to it. You know, the beginning of the year for the last year’s performance and then think about, you know, what needs to change in the future and then how it can arrive after those desired financial changes. So do any changes to the budget that’s been adopted for this coming here need to be made based on last year’s performance? Basically, just kind of taking stock. Obviously, reviewing the financials is, you know, an important part of board service and should be done more than just once a year. But i think reviewing it kind of that year and can be particularly important, i’m gonna have a guest next week. Diane leonard is going to talk about grant program, a grant calendar for the year, and one of the things that we’re going to talk about is timing your revenue with your budget when you expect when you’re expecting in her case, the grant revenue to come and make sure that’s appropriately timed so that you’re not, you don’t find yourself with cash shortfalls and a programming grayce program management, etcetera, timing those let’s see okay, oh, another thing with the financials to tony is that often you have boardmember zor even some gym staff members, they’re coming from just a range of backgrounds and have a variety of experiences, and sometimes not, you know, it’s not in everyone’s set of skills that they understand how to actually read financial statement something you could be really important as an organization to make sure that you have a process in place for providing some sort of basic level of training on reading financial statements, particularly for directors on denny cast members who don’t have that background, but who need to make sure that they understand the financial statements well, some people do it as part of an onboarding process with new employees or new directors and other organizations will set it up it’s kind of an annual or biannual sort of training that is available for anybody who hasn’t otherwise gone through it in the past elections. If you ah, if you’re going to be doing elections in the year, you want to make sure that you’re following your policy on elections, whatever your by-laws say, yeah, absolutely and, you know, we see sometimes organizations that have just always done their elections a certain way for years and years, and they’ve never taken the time to actually look back at what they’re by-laws actually say, and then one step further to make sure their current by-laws were actually in compliance with africa ble law right now, you’re by-laws were drafted twenty years ago it’s possible that the state law that governs elections and what has to actually be in yur by allies has changed, so can be appropriate to take a good look at what the legal election procedures are the requirements under the applicable law. Make sure your by-laws comply with that and then make sure you’re complying with your by-laws and it’s also kind of ties into the board meeting calendar we’re discussing a few minutes ago and making sure that if you do have elections that are required during this year that you have them scheduled in the calendar and notice that’s required in advance is also scheduled in the calendars that you’re not missing any deadlines, the risk there that he has some sort of disgruntled director or them voting membership organization and disgruntled member. If you don’t comply with the requirements of your by-laws or with law, then you could have potentially the decisions of the board or the or the members subject to challenge, and that just isn’t a good position to being from the organization we have just one minute left, aaron so let’s, let’s get teo, you want to review the articles and by-laws and are our purpose and mission statements? Yeah, and this is one of those things again that, you know, congested, good to counter for the beginning of the year. It was a good reminder. Take a look at what your articles say. The organization’s purpose is make sure whatever the bylaws say, it’s purposes is consistent with what’s in the articles and then take a look at what the organization is actually doing and make sure it’s still complies with the stated purposes. If the organization’s purposes have shifted somewhat over time, then it may be the right time to take a look your articles and by-laws and maybe make some appropriate revisions necessary. Okay, we’re gonna leave it there, aaron, thank you very much. Yeah, thanks so much for having me. Don’t you have a great day? I pleasure. Aaron bradrick, senior counsel at the non-profit and exempt organizations law group, she’s at aaron bradrick, and the firm is at neo law group dot com, and her boss is jean takagi at g tack. So if you want to comment on aaron, all good comments, of course, then you could you contact gene. Thank you, erin, thank you for any happy new year. So long. Thank you again by this year’s border treat with greg cohen is coming up first. Pursuant, they can train you in a thoughtful plan to reach your twenty seventeen fund-raising goals. It’s a. What they have is basically a map to your best prospects. Strong relationships. It’s, a four week webinar, siri’s there’s one a week, and it’s called fund-raising like a boss. I’m going to skip the kick reference this week, not that i was asked to skip case germans, i mean, it’s, my show, i do whatever i want. I just i’m choosing not to make the cake reference this week, and this siri’s fund-raising like a boss, starts on january eighteenth, voice cracked again. If you can’t make the live webinars they have you covered, you give access to their archive of each of the four you’ll find the siri’s fundez like a boss at pursuant dot com quick resource is training and then webinar siri’s. We’ll be spelling spelling bees for fund-raising it’s fun philanthropy. I like that philanthropy, it’s corny, but i’m not even sure i thought of it. It’s. All these things are only good when you think of them otherwise, thes puns are distasteful and hated, but if you think of it, you know it’s it’s genius, i’m not sure if i came up with this with a, i’m not sure that i saw it on their site, anyway. Philanthropy. It’s spelling bee plus comedy plus concert plus dance plus philanthropy that equals we be spelling. So that means spelling bee plus comedy plus concert plus dance equals we be spelling minus philanthropy if you move it over let’s change sign, but we’re well, we want to solve, for we’d be spelling, so keep over everything, everything else over on the left side, so don’t move it over so those things equal, we be spelling. Check out the video, the video there. Three minute video explains the whole thing highlights one of their fund-raising events. The video is at we b e spelling dot com now for tony’s take two, all right, i’m wagging my finger a little bit. Ah it’s an occasional admonition that i make around charity registration, which aaron and i touched on. I wanted to say a little bit more about your need to be properly registered in each state where your solicit donations it’s a morass, it’s awful. I wish it didn’t exist lots of people we should did exist, but it does it’s a morass because every state has its own forms and timetables and fees and definitions of what’s a solicitation, whether it talking, email or texting or u s mail, etcetera. So i’m just urging you to stay. On top of it, it is work that i do if i can help you, let me know, but it can be managed internally as well. However you do it, stay on top of it, please, because you don’t want to be the next headline. The trump foundation had a lot of problems with that. I did a video on that bunch of months ago, like, was that october november trump foundations very embarrassed that you don’t want to be the next headline. Stay on top of that and that is tony’s take two got to send live listener love the live love goes out tio, new york, new york, multiple new york, lovett, multiple new york, new york ah, union, new jersey red across the the river’s over there, the hudson river, staten island, new york. Right across the other way, actually, union and staten island. You could get to union through staten island. If you go across the verrazano and then staten island, then you go across the outerbridge, you get to union, so i don’t know if you all do. You all know each other just because you’re connected by bridges and i don’t know, stat now. Is with us, and so his union, the u k is with us. We don’t know which country and uk or it zing gland it is england, sam says, is england? We don’t know the city can’t see it korea’s with us on your haserot but we can’t see your city, but we know you’re with us. South korea always very generous. Thank you. We got hoochie minh city, vietnam and grow now germany! Good dog live listen love also to oakland, california, new bern, north carolina and, oh then go in south into obregon, mexico live listener love to you and the other live listeners podcast pleasantries over twelve thousand now. Yes, it’s the new year we’ve gone from ten, two thousand twelve thousand it’s happened. I’m ready to say it it’s it’s often enough that i’m calling it twelve thousand over twelve thousand podcast listeners each week pleasantries to you. I’m glad you’re with us and there’s affiliate affections to our am and fm station listeners throughout the country let your station no, please, that you’re listening whenever they fit us into your schedule throughout the week, i’m glad you’re with us affections to our affiliate listeners and i’m also glad that i can welcome back greg cohen he’s, a senior associate at cause effective, where he has trained and coached on fund-raising and governance for the boards and staffs of hundreds of non-profits since two thousand six, for over thirty five years, he’s been helping non-profits, including starting up and leading many he’s at greg cause the organization is at cause effective and that cause effective dot or ge. Greg cohen, welcome back to studio. I’m so happy to be here. Thank you. Cool topic. You brought it up to me late last year and i love it because we haven’t focused on this board retreats, border treats this can be valuable if you do it correctly and it could be a disaster if you screw it up that’s, right? So let’s talk about doing it right first they got don’t do things, but but just a little motivation. What can we get out of these if if we do them correctly what’s going to happen for our board? Well, this really fouls well from erin’s comments about shaping. You’re bored with intentionality. This is show has prepared, you know i’m gonna it’s it just happens and it’s beautifully coincidence, yes. So there it was on the menu. Okay, thank you. Start interrupting. So what you can gain if you think about your board is forming a high performing team? A zahren said for many of the things that she talked about, there isn’t time within the typical board meeting, particularly for areas that require reflection like let’s. Look at if our mission is still relevant to the activities of the community that we’re responding to. Maybe you’ve added knew board people and you have members who haven’t really gotten to know each other, like on any team you want people to bond, you want them to have a shared conception of their purpose, and you wanna have some ways of operating together might be the agreement on that schedule, that board calendar for the year of how we’re going to conduct our business, and what do we want to accomplish relative to the needs of the organization? So the retreat is about taking more time to reflect without the daily pressures on those key areas of governance and on how the board should perform itself as a team. Take out the bigger picture all these bigger picture items that aaron was referring to. Absolutely being more strategic and less, you know, in the in the in the forest stuck, and i’m stuck in the woods, right? It can range from how has our community changed other new populations and needs? It could be what changes in our revenue mixed dewey anticipating that’s going to be on the minds of everybody with a new administration in washington. And how do we get ahead of the possibilities and plan in advance and planning in particular as a governance function is best done at a remove from the monthly board meeting where you have a lot to accomplish in the agenda? How do you like to do these offsite weekend? How long? Give us a little flavour for right? Well, so it all depends, of course, on how much you want to accomplish and the availability of of your board. Ideally, i would say offsite someplace nice, relaxing that supports the conversation and people can into relate comfortably and there’s room for breaking out in smaller groups weekends, because that gives you blocks of time and i think it’s hard to do retreat in less than half a day. And many retreats actually go a whole day. Some organisations are extraordinary and devote a saturday in a sunday to a retreat. That’s a little unusual, but i think the more you remove it from the day to day constant context, the more you’re going to encourage people to interact and think differently. Okay? She liked to see a weekend day, right? You’ll also avoid people calling into their office checking email, you know, i mean, they you know, yeah. There’s. More of those distractions. You can control the circumstance of the meeting. That air offsite, it’s. Just a wifi ofthe exact it, of course. Those other access, but okay. All right. So what you want fairly distraction free, right? I mean, this is important. This is important time. Okay? Of course. That’s also going to depend on budget you have to spend for this. Maybe a board members home. Have you seen that? Can that work? Yeah. First for a relatively small group that can work very nicely. Okay. If there’s place tio sit around and actually deliberate, you need something like a conference table set up, but home can work very nicely. First board on the smaller side. Okay, okay. Um this, uh, could have some value around orientation for new board members. How we hardly fit that in? Yeah, absolutely, from okay, a number of perspectives, usually during a regular board meeting, there isn’t time to set context for the items under discussion. A retreat allows senior staff and bored leaders to explain a little history to put an issue into into context for new board members so that they get a better map of the environment in which the non-profit is working. Secondly, it’s really important that board members get to know each other on a social basis and interact, particularly if they’re deliberating on hard issues. It’s really good if you’ve had the chance to talk to someone more informally, you know, a little bit more about their background, what they do about their family, personal time, that makes for a stronger team, and you want to build team building activities into a retreat to make sure particularly there’s integration of those new members into what might have been, you know, a pretty cohesive group beforehand. It’s hard for the newest person to break into a club where everybody seems to have special knowledge way don’t have to do ah, walking over hot, broken glass. I love that you do? Yeah, i’m talking about what is it like? It was drew people to our board. What am i doing wrong? No, but i mean there’s, no question, a cohesive team. And you want to have interpersonal relationships that go beyond the business that’s conducted in the two hour board meetings every however often month, quarter, whatever you want to get to know each other exactly. And that’s one way not everybody is very forward and offering their opinions to establish some safety in the room for a really meaningful discussion of an issue. If i don’t really know how i’m going to be received by the person across the table haven’t built up trust, i’m probably going to be a little inhibited, particularly as a new boardmember from from knowing that i can speak my mind. Yeah, comfort with comfort level with that. Is there any favorite exercise? You have that the around team building and he, uh, like you play a little game? Yeah, all the classic ice breakers that involve won a lot of interaction between the board members and to some revealing at revealing some. Aspect of someone’s personal life that one wouldn’t ordinarily discover in the board introduction. I cross dress, you know, friends. Exactly. Exactly. That could be something. Could be a great accomplishment. I want philip boardmember to know exactly. Okay. Alright. Eso bringing drawing people out of right there. Business. And what do you do for a living and having them seeing in their full personality? Not just there. Jacket and tie image at the table. Okay. Okay. Um, let’s. See what else? What else? What else could we could we do around these do in this? Well, so retreats offer an important opportunity to develop leadership among the board, and we think planning is really important. So i know when i was an executive erect the first time i did a retreat, i waited too long. And then i realized g i need someone to run this. And the week before, i called someone who was a facilitator and said, can you run my board retread on saturday? And he said, well, what do you want accomplish? And i said, well, that’s, what i’m hiring you for and i really i recognize how unfair that was now that i look back. Because with a good border treat, you think you you wantto builds a common idea of what you want to accomplish during the day. So we like to form a planning committee of board members and staff and then a sine preparation roles so that many of the board members, if not all, get a chance to lead a part of the discussion and ah, shared leadership. Yeah, exactly. And that models the kind of back and forth and deliberation that you want to teach your board meetings. So this is a chance in a plan fashion to say each of us can have a role in guiding the discussion among our peers. So, like you rotating facilitators, friends, well, it might be on topic. So you have each chair, the chair of finances going toe provide an overview of how we did last year in finance and what the challenges are coming up in this year and that might be heavily supported by a staff person. But the key thing is it’s a boardmember who’s articulating it and the message below the the direct messages each of us can master this you like to see a facilitator? I was ah, instead of the board chair running the retreat, you don’t want to see that. I’d like to see every member of the team be able to participate in a full way without having to do that facilitator role of kind of looking down in saying how’s, this whole group interaction going that’s very demanding. Okay, we want full participation of the executive director and the board chair in discussions and save them from the facilitation role. Okay, facilitator is an outsider. It could be i mean, sometimes for the staff person broke, you know? Could be yes, it could be a fourteen year old like me. Okay. Ah, of course we a cause effective love it when people hyre outside facilitators. But if you had it a skilled staff person but that person could play that role too. I usually for the team building. If i’m working with an organization that uses that in their program, i have a staff person coming and running exercise like the ones they run with their clients. For instance. I see. Okay, we’re going out for a break. Greg and i are going to keep talking about this year’s board retreat on. Ghost. Gonna ask him to talk a little about what cause effective. Does stay with us? Like what you’re hearing a non-profit radio tony’s got more on youtube, you’ll find clips from stand up comedy tv spots and exclusive interviews catch guests like seth gordon. Craig newmark, the founder of craigslist marquis of eco enterprises, charles best from donors choose dot org’s aria finger, do something that worked neo-sage levine from new york universities heimans center on philantech tony tweets to he finds the best content from the most knowledgeable, interesting people in and around non-profits to share on his stream. If you have valuable info, he wants to re tweet you during the show. You can join the conversation on twitter using hashtag non-profit radio twitter is an easy way to reach tony he’s at tony martignetti narasimhan t i g e n e t t i remember there’s a g before the end he hosts a podcast for the chronicle of philanthropy fund-raising fundamentals is a short monthly show devoted to getting over your fund-raising hartals just like non-profit radio, toni talks to leading thinkers, experts and cool people with great ideas. As one fan said, tony picks their brains and i don’t have to leave my office fund-raising fundamentals was recently dubbed the most helpful non-profit podcast you have ever heard. You can also join the conversation on facebook, where you can ask questions before or after the show. The guests were there, too. Get insider show alerts by email, tony tells you who’s on each week and always includes link so that you can contact guests directly. To sign up, visit the facebook page for tony martignetti dot com. Lively conversation. Top trans sounded life that’s, tony martignetti non-profit radio. And i am his niece, carmela. And i am his nephew, gino. And i am the doting uncle brillo head sometimes called tony, at least over the dinner table. Um all right, i want teo, have you explain what cause effective does greg as consultants and non-profit itself? Because it’s an outstanding organization, i refer people to you when they ask questions that they and they need help that that i can’t give, i refer them to cause effect of what you people doing over there? Great. So first of all, we have been around for thirty five years, as you say, we’re a non-profit but were organized like a consulting firm and that we have specific engagements with clients, and we work together to find a way to fund that our focus is primarily on helping groups learn how to be more effective fundraisers in the area of relationship based fund-raising so not so much grantspace ship from government or large foundations or large corporations, but more that one to one kind of fund-raising typically when on organization wants to start raising money from individual donors, and that hasn’t been their emphasis, because maybe they got most of their funding from government of foundations. Now they want to diversify, they didn’t recruit aboard for that purpose and the board is saying, whoa, that wasn’t in our contract that’s when we step in and starting from where each organization is paint the dance steps on the floor that lead them to becoming effective in reaching out and building a sense of community among perspective and other donors that’s the most common type of referral that i’ve sent to you is someone is basically asking, how do we get to the next level? We’re all event driven, and we want to have individual donors, how do we do it? I send them to cause effective great. The other area that relates particularly board retreats is that we think boards are the vanguard of that individual relationship based fund-raising and the best motor motivation for a boardmember to go out and fundraisers to be is to understand the needs of the community and the mission and be driven to raise money. So the group has the resource is to fulfill that mission in the fullest way. So to do that requires really connecting every boardmember to the conception of the potential for the organization to realize its mission if it found the resource is cool. Thank you. Talk to them that you you do. You only work in the greater new york city area were primarily focused on new york city region because our work involves a lot of coaching and being in place. We like to say we embed ourselves with a client. So were present at board meetings that staff meeting staff trainings and there’s. A lot of trust building. So the work has tended to be done best when we are local within the tri state area. Okay, i don’t know what to say for the rest of the country. There are there are we do go out and speak and share our methodology at national conferences. Okay. Everything from the junior league. Teo bi annual conference for social change. You also have an excellent newsletter that i get that julie levine, the executive director, puts out. So, you know, you can sign up for the newsletter. This is all you’ll find. Because if that door okay, exactly. All right, let’s, circle back to the border, treat staff roll what’s the staff role in supporting this. You mentioned they might. They might be facilitating or maybe not facility, but leading cem. Session more supporting the board members to do that to lead those sessions. So i think staff always in relation to board is providing the legwork and context to board members to carry out their governance work so it might be collecting data and might be helping the board members identify what are the most important issues to be discussing in a retreat. Now, particularly exactly the partnership between the executive director and the chair is is always key. But you know, the development director might work with the head of the fundraising committee to say, what is it that’s going to be most helpful to emphasize? To get the board members particularly jazz for fund-raising in the coming year or get him ready for the gala are whatever are the key challenges in each area of governance for the year in the appropriate staff person who provides support to the board members in those areas, i will say, generally speaking, most board retreats on ly include senior staff there. Ah, sometimes there’s a portion where there’s joint board staff as portion of a retreat but really, i believe boards need their own time, so and their own focus. Oh! I’m not in favor of bringing in a lot of staff to a country of their own retreats. Or they might come in for a session exactly on dh, support that somehow and then depart. Yeah, that shouldn’t be here, right to have staff come in and talk about successes in their programs, to give boardmember sze in a nice taste of mission and to get to know a key staff person better even bringing a client for that purpose. But they come, they do their piece, and then they leave. Okay, okay. If we do this on a weekend saturday or sunday, do you like to see a dinner afterwards? Should we be asking people hang around for dinner or are people more likely to just leave when the business is concluded and not stay for the dinner? I i’d like to pull the board because if you have a board that has young children, for instance, they’re the boardmember probably less eager to skip dinner with the family on a weekend. If you have a board that’s older, they may be willing to devote more time and it’s lovely to have to finish with wood dinner together that i said, check in and see what the majority of the board feels. Okay, okay? You have some ideas about things that we want toe stay away from things teo avoid in our in our retreat buy-in you don’t want people doing a lot of reporting when that stuff that they could be doing in a regular meeting, right? So that’s a tendency to say, alright, this, as i say, we want to bring people up to speed and be on the same page, so we’re going to say the same thing to all of them in the room, but what happens is that they sit as passive recipients of that information, so better as you say, provide a report and then figure out how to structure a discussion that that brings in the latest information that you want people to absorb but make them do a little reading and then use that information in deliberation during the the retreat, i will say there’s an exception, there’s a portion of it of a retreat where providing information is appropriate, which is if you’re training for a new skill. So aaron mentioned more you mentioned providing the ability to read financial statements or something for us it’s typically fund-raising techniques like doing a practice, ask for money or practicing an elevator speech where there’s a piece of training involved and we’re really conveying information that’s appropriate for retreat, but for bringing people up to date on the daily activities of the organization. Save that for report and use the time when you’re reporting for the bigger stargazing issues. Okay, you also want to be judicious about what you include so that you’re not packing too much into the day and nothing gets adequate time. Exactly so ah, common issue is we didn’t do strategic planning this year. We need to get the strategic planning process done when we have everybody together, because we’re not gonna have together again in a room for five hours for the rest of the year, so let’s do fund-raising governance, strategic planning and, oh, by the way, we’ve got a bunch of other governance things that we didn’t do, i’m going to put it all, and then people feel overwhelmed and they don’t take away the key lessons well and everything. He’s done sloppy then examine those air such big issues, any one of them could could be a five hour planning planning session. Exactly. Okay, so so you got a pair it down to just a couple. So everything gets the attention that that’s, right? And i think some key years, their touch on touch on mission, touch on fund-raising touch on how the board is functioning in its overall governance, and then you can pick some issues that are specific to the group to focus on, even have a guest speaker who relates to ah, the area of mission for part of it. And the thing is to keep it lively, have it very participatory. I like to say a successful treat is one where people are disappointed that the day has come to an end and they say, why don’t we do this more often? Cool. Let’s. Wrap it up. We just have, like, thirty seconds left. You like to see good food? Absolutely. And wine to have wine, not overload the end. Yeah, absolutely wanted to paint at the end to celebrate the success is no that’s cool. Yeah, yeah, but if you’re bringing piela people giving their time on the weekend, you want to reward them with a with a pleasurable experience. No booze at lunch. Great going, senior associate itcause effective. You’ll find him at greg cause and again, the organization is cause effective and also at cause effective dot org’s. Thanks very much, greg. My pleasure. Good to have you back next week. Digital inclusion furthers your impact and your annual grants plan it’s with diane leonard. If you missed any part of today’s show, i beseech you, find it on tony martignetti dot com. We’re sponsored by pursuant online tools for small and midsize non-profits data driven and technology enabled and by we be spelling supercool spelling bee fundraisers. We b e spelling dot com. A creative producer is claire meyerhoff. Sam liebowitz is the line producer. Gavin dollars are am and fm outreach director shows social media is by susan chavez, and this music is by scott stein of brooklyn. Thank you for that, scotty. Be with me next week for non-profit radio. Big non-profit ideas for the other ninety five percent go out and the green. What’s not to love about non-profit radio tony gets the best guests check this out from seth godin this’s the first revolution since tv nineteen fifty and henry ford nineteen twenty it’s the revolution of our lifetime here’s a smart, simple idea from craigslist founder craig newmark insights orn presentation or anything? 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