Equity in Theatre

by Jini Stolk

I was planning to write on the above topic and then discovered that it’s the name of a welcome new initiative  from Playwrights Guild of Canada and a stellar list of partners including Associated Designers of Canada, Canadian Actors’ Equity Association, and the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres.

EIT’s focus is on the under-representation of women in Canadian theatre. My thoughts about equity were sparked by learning that as of 2013, more than half of Toronto residents were born outside of Canada. According to The Toronto Foundation’s recent Vital Signs report, one in 12 of those new Torontonians arrived in the previous five years, and one-third arrived within the past decade.

This should be more than a matter of interest to Toronto’s arts and larger community: it should be a ringing call to action. It should also, of course, be a source of pride and excitement, and will certainly test our resilience and ability to creatively adapt to this new reality.

The friend who sent me this link is much involved with welcoming newcomers to Toronto, and has attended a number of citizenship ceremonies where new citizens now receive a year’s free attendance at the ROM, AGO, and the Science Centre thanks to the good work of Adrienne Clarkson’s and John Saul’s Institute for Canadian Citizenship. She suspects, however, that many will not use the passes – not because of lack of interest, necessarily, but because attending a museum is unfamiliar and uncomfortable.

This is something we can work on and we’ve had exceptional advice from Donna Walker Kuhne on how to help people build personal connections to the art and the importance of going to the communities we want to invite into our spaces, listening to what they say, and creating a campaign based on what they tell us.

Leonard Jacobs, Director of Cultural Institutions at the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, has been sharing some recent pieces related to this topic. According to the Broadway League, the average Broadway attendee is a 42-year-old white woman with a family income of over $189,000; the nonprofit regional theatres have a similar audience profile.

Diane Ragsdale, a speaker at one of Creative Trust’s audience engagement seminars, recently quoted English playwright Mark Ravenhill in her blog: “We are a place that offers luxury, go-on-spoil-yourself evenings where in new buildings paid for by a national lottery (a voluntary regressive tax) you can mingle with our wealthy donors and sponsors from the corporate sector and treat yourself to that extra glass of champagne… but we are also a place that cares deeply about social justice and exclusion as the wonderful work of our outreach and education teams show.”

If we really care we might want to think about this from Buckminster Fuller, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

Shawn C. Harris argues here that “artists as a group (individuals may vary) possess a cluster of characteristics that can make us ideal educators, activists, and organizers for gender and racial equity in the arts…What struck me was how, if I looked at the traits for a community organizer and lined them up with the traits for a theatre or dance artist, there would be many commonalities. Such as:

  • The ability to form positive working relationships with many people from a variety of backgrounds, ability, and temperaments.
  • Organization: Who does what; when and where it happens; how to get there; where this or that goes; what needs to be bought, transported, or disposed of.
  • The power to imagine a new reality and manifest that vision even with limited resources.
  • Creative problem-solving: What do you do when you have a problem that needs to be fixed in a short amount of time?
  • The courage to dream big and pursue those dreams.
  • The talent for sharing the universal through the particular.
  • Empathy for people who have radically different experiences and perspectives.
  • The ability to communicate a message in a way that reaches people in the deepest parts of themselves.
  • The willingness to experiment with new forms and content.”

Who knew? Well, actually, I think I did. Exciting times.

 

Also of interest:

The Wallace Foundation which recently announced a new $40 million audience development initiative has released an infographic on Nine Effective Practices for Building Audiences for the Arts…starting with “Recognizing When Change is Needed”. The latest in its series Wallace Studies in Building Arts Audiences is titled The Road to Results: Effective Practices for Building Arts Audiences, based on audience-building projects funded by the foundation between 2006 and 2012.

 

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Two gems

by Jini Stolk

Site visits by funders seem to be much more common in the States than they are here – although I can’t think of many better ways to gain an understanding of an organization than by visiting its work place. But if you do have a site visit in your future, this piece by my new favourite blogger, Seattle’s Vu Le, contains wise advice and some home truths (see point #4, and weep…) It’s also very funny, so be prepared to lose a few hours surfing through his posts and falling off your chair laughing.

I’ve frequently offered grateful thanks to the Nonprofit Quarterly, which remains one of my favourite sources of thought-provoking writing, wise advice and strong progressive analysis of nonprofit issues. They’ve recently been fundraising online (and doing it extremely well, not surprisingly) and I was happy to contribute. Another of their reader-donors described it well: “NPQ is like MapQuest for my professional life.” 

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The 8-minute AGM

by Jini Stolk

Everyone gets excited about the prospect of a short and sweet (concise and incisive) Annual General Meeting. The legally required business of an AGM is straightforward, often a bit dull, and rarely adds fireworks to an event featuring activities such as donor recognition, awards, new program announcements or workshops.

An organization I chair recently decided to include our AGM within a conference program, but wrap it up in a grand total of 8 minutes. It was tremendously successful – although I have to admit that our meeting actually clocked in at 8 minutes, 40 seconds; we’re planning to cut the chat and do better next time!

As this was our first AGM, there were no previous minutes or financial audit to approve; a two-page annual report was distributed at the meeting and emailed to all members. Thanks to Cathy Taylor of the Ontario Nonprofit Network and Marg Stanowski of Operation Springboard for sharing their time-saving templates.

An 8 Minute AGM Agenda: with detailed script and notes 

1. Welcome and Call to Order

2. Approval of AGM Agenda

3. Approval of By-Law No. 1

4. Election of Directors

5. Appointment of the Auditor

6. Closing Remarks & Adjournment

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Hiring the right fundraising consultant

by guest writer Cynthia J. Armour, CFREwww.elderstone.ca

Here’s some sage advice about finding the right fundraising consultant for your organization, from a leader in the field.

Fundraising Consultants come in many forms. If you search them in the yellow pages or Charity Village you’ll find anything from chocolate bar sales to firms that drive multi-million dollar capital campaigns, and everything in between! These are all for-profit companies that can range from those driven by the bottom line to members of fundraising associations who abide by strict ethical fundraising codes of conduct. No wonder it’s hard to know who’s right for your charity.

Small organizations often have the hardest time. They are under-resourced and possibly looking for a quick fix. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. I’ve heard horror stories about third party fundraisers that offered to run an entire event and then the charity actually ended up with minimal profit or worse, in a deficit because they either didn’t have a written agreement or they hadn’t read the fine print.

Wishful thinking in fundraising usually overlooks best practices and what we know to be proven methods with reasonable returns on investment. As one of my colleagues once said “we need more backbone – less wishbone”. Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) updated its Fundraising Guidance in 2012. They state “While recognizing the necessity of fundraising, the CRA expects charities to be transparent and conduct all fundraising within acceptable legal parameters.” The cost of fundraising is an important factor they examine.

Those of us who do abide by a strict code of ethical conduct don’t fundraise on commission. This is probably the most often-asked question I get from small charities. Their revenue generation strategies have reached desperate measures and they have no funds to get the expertise they require.

Charity leaders (staff and board) need to understand that it takes money to make money and it can take three to five years to get a solid fundraising program off the ground. Without allocating adequate resources to your efforts and acknowledging the costs of business the organization could self-destruct. However, it’s hard to know where to start.

What kind of consultant does your charity need?

What’s your end-goal? Be really clear on your expectations before you go searching through the array of services offered. Some consultants are one-person-shops or just focus on a single service like special events (usually more friend-raising than fundraising), grant writing or direct mail; others may offer a full-service package on their own or with associates. It’s up to the chief executive and board to clearly articulate what’s expected as a result of retaining this consultant. Be as tangible as possible. If you don’t know what you don’t know try talking to colleagues with enviable fundraising programs. Those completely new to fundraising should research “readiness” to help identify the necessary prerequisites.

Consultants don’t walk on water

Some charities expect miracles. Despite boasting that I can do the loaves and fishes trick when unexpected company arrives at my farm, it’s only because there are always baguettes and smoked salmon in my freezer!  While I can’t feed the masses I’ve demonstrated I’m a strategic thinker and subscribe to the Girl Guide’s motto.

Successful fund development relies on strategy and team effort. In order to capitalize on your consulting investment try to identify knowledge gaps and be sure organizational capacity building is part of your mutual (and signed) agreement.

What’s your budget?

Most grassroots charities can’t afford major fundraising consulting firms. Don’t despair. There is SO much information available online that without spending anything, you can strengthen your charity’s knowledge base by encouraging a culture of learning and team growth, provided you build information sharing into your agendas.

Identify your “Trusted Sources” which include this blog, your charity’s regulator – Canada Revenue Agency Charities Directorate site, Charity Village and Charity eNews to name just a few Canadian examples.

Don’t ask consultants to write lengthy proposals without at least offering a budget range; it’s a courtesy that will save time and effort for both sides. It’s even better if you can state a figure. For instance, “based on what you know of our circumstances please provide a proposal of your recommended approach for $X amount”. When a “Request for Proposals” outlines desired end goals and a clear budget it’s much easier to compare apples to apples when you review the responses.

How to decide

The advantage of retaining professional counsel is the level of expertise provided. Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish.  The right consultant can give an objective perspective and help your charity create a realistic fundraising plan, set up the necessary infrastructure in order to succeed, train your board, volunteers and staff to work together as a development team and build your organization’s “culture of philanthropy”.

Depending on your charity’s needs there are a number of factors necessary to consider when selecting the right consultant. These include the company or individual’s:

  • knowledge of your area and local environment
  • relevant experience to your charity’s needs
  • references from similar charities the consultant has served
  • staff complement and who is designated to serve your charity (and their experience level)
  • credibility in the fundraising community
  • compatibility with those with whom they’re working and the organizational culture

For more information here’s a helpful link from a respected colleague — Kim Klein
Here’s some help with writing RFPs and assessing the responses.

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Update on accessibility

by Jini Stolk

The Air Canada Centre must be very sorry it didn’t accommodate a legally blind ticket buyer’s request for accessible seating at Stevie Wonder’s upcoming concert. The overwhelmingly bad PR for ACC and Ticketmaster highlighted just one of the reasons we want to stay well ahead of the AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) requirements.

Matt Galloway, in his coverage of the media/social media storm, noted that some of Toronto’s smaller theatres have been making progress on accessibility. Music to my ears. I think it’s fair to say that Creative Trust and Picasso PRO‘s Performing Arts Access Program helped raise awareness of the importance of welcoming Blind/low vision and Deaf/hard of hearing audiences to our theatres.

We also made it easier by producing two handbooks for producers and presenters of Audio Described and American Sign Language interpreted performances.

As to real progress, there’s been more than a little going on since our Arts Access Program wrapped up in 2012.

The Accessing the Arts Symposium at Whitby’s new Abilities Centre in June, brought together some of the key artists and arts professionals incorporating inclusive thinking into their programming, creation,  and education initiatives. Selfconscious Theatre’s Book of Judith was the centre piece and co-producer of the symposium.

Other initiatives I’ve been keeping my eyes on include: Aluna Theatre’s Rutas Panamericanas which worked with two audio describers trained by Picasso PRO/Creative Trust to provide access for Deaf/hard of hearing attenders. Native Earth Performing Arts has been a leader in the area; its theatre space was designed to be fully accessible, and the company has been actively committed to hosting accessible performances. Native Earth even took part in Accessibility Ontario’s Train the Trainer workshop, because “We wanted to train the arts to understand accessibility beyond just administration,” according to Rae Powell, former Project Manager of the Accessibility Program at Native Earth. “Canada is behind the times in accessible performance and we wanted to do the right thing by bringing more of it to Toronto.”

Judith Thompson’s RARE at the Young Centre brought actors with disabilities onstage. Tribes, a Theatrefront Production at Canadian Stage and Theatre Aquarius, was not only about characters with disabilities; it mixed American Sign Language with English onstage. A False Face, presented last year by a new indigenous theatre company, Spiderbones Performing Arts, included ASL performances. The Kitchener-Waterloo Arab Canadian Theatre/KW-ACT provided ASL interpretation in a production in July. To a Flame, with Erin Shields writing in both sign and spoken language, has undergone an extraordinary development process involving Picasso PRO and the National Deaf Theatres of both Sweden and Finland.

Last but not least, the wonderful Picasso PRO with Andrea Donaldson and the SPiLL Collective (formed “to ignite an explosion of Deaf cultural presence within Canadian arts and culture”) have been developing a Deaf-led piece called Finding Alice, which will have its first showing later this month in Gatineau.

Even with all the above I’m not yet ready to declare a revolution, but it’s a serious moment in the cultural movement and a hopeful sign of more changes to come.

A leader in ASL theatre in our community recently posed a question conveying both the early commitment to accessibility and creative partnerships needed to move things forward. From Joanna Bennett: “What if some (co- or touring productions) integrated interpretation in their show from the get go, thereby spreading the opportunity for an accessible show to be seen in many cities/theatre houses throughout the tour. To take the load off the original company, the houses that bring them in (could) share the cost…creating a ripple effect…because the hosting towns would get a taste of what interpreted shows are like and may be interested to try it themselves!”

Right on, Jo.

Physical Accessibility

Following its emergence as a major theme at the Mayoral Arts Debate at TIFF this week, physical and built form accessibility is also a growing force. Remember that Accessibility Standards for the Built Environment are coming up soon.

Employment Opportunities

Some of us noticed that the new Mandate Letter for the Ontario  Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure included a directive around “Increasing the number of employment opportunities for Ontarians of all abilities by establishing new partnerships with business and persons with disabilities.”  How about with arts and other nonprofit organizations too?

Promoting Your Accessibility

From VisitEngland: “Developing and promoting your Access Statement is essential. An Access Statement is a detailed description of facilities and services that enables your customers to make an informed choice; it’s a great promotional opportunity to reach customers with access needs too.” Check out their free online tool for more.

Accessibility Ontario also has terrific resources for accessible communications and marketing.

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Network (and other) leadership for change

by Jini Stolk

I was delighted to be asked to do a 5×5 presentation for the recent Ontario Nonprofit Network conference , although summing up the qualities of successful Network Leadership in five minutes and five slides was a bit daunting.

Basically, I said (with many thanks to June Holley’s superb Network Weaver and Liz Rykert’s exceptional workshops on the topic) that:

  • networks – widespread collaborations usually organized to deal with big and complex issues – require not better leadership, but different leadership and leadership skills
  • network leaders encourage and draw out new voices and leaders; need to be flexible; encourage initiative; weave people together and make connections
  • they encourage people to take responsibility; are open and transparent; understand and identify breakthroughs; embrace innovation and constantly share
  • they feel the joy of working to achieve real change, and communicate it to others

All very true, and quite different from standard “business book” definitions of leadership.

But wait. “Nimble, vibrant organizations will need a special kind of leadership, comfortable with uncertainty and excited by unknowns. You’ll be good at what you love to do” we were reminded several years ago by Joanna Mackie in a workshop sponsored by Work in Culture.

She said that changing leadership requires the ability to enable the leadership of others; pull together strategies to engage others in making positive change; focus on what works; make links; prepare to adapt, be flexible; ensure your thinking and intentions are understood; focus on the goal and relationships.

The Minnesota Council of Nonprofit’s Principles and Practices for Nonprofit Excellence makes many similar and important points in this great piece aimed at board, management and volunteer leaders.

I also like Jess Lee, CEO of the fashion website Polyvore, who says that she cleaves to three values in everything she does: delight the user; do a few things well; and make an impact. Great advice for all of us.

Maybe it’s the world that’s changing, not just the type of leadership we now value. I’m all in favour of new values and practices in the arts, nonprofit, and all other sectors as we continue on into the 2,000′s. What we’ve been doing up until now in this world of ours is just…messed up. (Sorry guys, but I’ve just finished reading today’s news!)

 

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Engaging your board – some great ideas

by Shana Hillman

General Manager of Kaeja d’Dance and Executive Producer of inDANCE, and former guru of programs at Creative Trust, Shana Hillman reports back on Maytree’s September 22nd Five Good Ideas session on Engaging your Board Effectively, led by Robin Cardozo in conversation with Jehad Aliweiwi, Earl Miller, and Jini Stolk. 

Jini has written extensively about boards and a huge part of our work at Creative Trust was around boards – good boards – bad boards. We hosted sessions, workshops, consulted and offered one on one facilitation in some of the roughest cases. Did I really need to attend a lunch and learn about boards put on by the Maytree Foundation?

Short answer – yes.

Something that has stuck with me since my time as the Program Manager at Creative Trust came from one of our own board members and a trailblazer in the Arts Management game, Mallory Gilbert. At some point I must have been bellyaching that a member had told me they didn’t need to come to one of our professional development sessions because “he already knew everything about Board Governance”. Mallory looked at me, eyebrow raised, and said “I’ve been doing this for 32 years and I can always learn something new.”

Now I know exactly how it goes – there is a grant report to write – a season brochure that’s late to the printer – toilet paper to buy for the office bathrooms (does the glamour never stop?) and about a hundred other day-to-day chores that you need to do as part of a small staff. Making time for 3 hours out of your day to travel to and sit through a lunch and learn is hard and it is so tempting to bail out at the last minute.

I’m so glad I made the time. I left last Monday’s session filled with new ideas, reminded of some best practices I’ve grown lazy around and energized for our next board meeting.

Props have to go to the excellent format of the Five Good Ideas series, now in it’s 5th year. I love that it is broken down into small manageable chunks – five great nuggets – perfect for our overloaded and stressed out brains with time for discussion with our peers, questions and answers and a free sandwich (I’m a sucker for a sandwich).

Five Good Ideas on Engaging your Board effectively

  1. Inspired Recruitment
  2. Thoughtful Orientation
  3. Managed Risk
  4. Meaningful Conversation
  5. Getting out and having fun!

The takeaways from this session were particularly applicable to my current work. We recently had two longtime members retire and three newbies join the team so the idea of a thoughtful orientation had special resonance for me. We’ve got the inspired recruitment covered – our entire board is made up of wonderfully passionate people who are so dedicated to our work – but I realize now that how we orientate new people to the company will set the tone of their entire board career with the organization.

It’s about more than a binder and can’t be done in a single coffee meeting. If you have one consider a facility tour, if you don’t perhaps invite them into the studio to watch part of a rehearsal. At one of my former companies during intensive creation periods every Friday afternoon the company would do a quick run through for staff and board members to see what they’d been up to all week. It was helpful for the marketing team of course but also gave board members a connection to what they desired most – access to the artists – and only deepened their commitment to the cause.

Also helpful to me as a fairly new GM was the idea of meaningful conversation. I found myself nodding along as Robin Cordozo talked about his early days at the United Way creating elaborate financial presentations for his board meetings. I just about killed myself preparing for my first GM’s report at Kaeja d’Dance. I think I used all the colour ink in the printer printing my rainbow spreadsheets and preparing my verbal report that rivaled a five year buiness plan. Nobody wants to be talked at for an hour and what a waste of six intelligent thoughtful people’s time. How much better served would I have been if I’d engaged the board in a bigger conversation of substance?

I did have to laugh at the last good idea – getting out and having fun! As arts organizations there never seems to be a shortage of fun – opening night parties, receptions, closing night parties. At the same time the idea of taking staff and board outside of their respective comfort zones for a retreat is something I’m considering – I’m already looking forward to our board retreat this January.

Big thanks to Maytree, Robin, Jini, Earl and Jehad for the wonderful session. I’m already looking forward to the next one!

 

About Five Good Ideas:

Five Good Ideas is a lunch-and-learn program where industry or issue experts discuss powerful yet practical ideas on key management issues facing non-profit organizations. The sessions are most useful for management staff and board members at small and mid-sized non-profits.

Each expert presents five practical ideas and explores with the audience how these ideas can be translated into action. During each session, participants organize into small groups and continue the discussion to generate the best and most relevant of all ideas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Questions

by Jini Stolk

If Leonard Cohen can take up smoking again, can I have wine and cheese for dinner three nights a week?

If Statistics Canada’s recent report on the relative economic impact of sports and culture shows that culture’s contribution to the GDP, share of the economy, and number of jobs is roughly 10 times that of sports, can we consider this competition well and truly won?

If Buddies in Bad Times is starting a customer rewards program where you earn discounts on tix to future shows with every ticket purchased, should we all stop using our Shoppers’ Optimum Cards and spend our cash on theatre tickets?

Will we all use these 10 incredibly easy, well-tested design tips to make our online donation forms easier to read and fill out, resulting in increased donations? I hope so.

**Canada’s Creative City Network, including Toronto, have banded together to sponsor regular Canadian Culture Satellite reports, based on up-to-date StatsCan findings; congratulations to them on such a useful collaboration.

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Crowdfunding: let the people decide

by Jini Stolk

Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts launched a crowdfunding campaign this summer for a new city-wide ARTS APP -  an easy-to-use, on-the-go way of finding out who, what, where and when performances are happening. Good on them – I hope it works.

Their initiative uses the Toronto Fringe’s fabulous Fund What You Can (FWYC), a national platform for Indie Artists that allows artists and producers to create and manage their own crowdfunding campaigns. Kudos to The Fringe and to the Metcalf Foundation for providing start-up funding for a new idea that could make a big difference.

l love the emergence (with a bang) of crowd fundraising. I love Hot Doc’s crowd campaigns for new documentaries. I love Centre for Social Innovation’s Catalyst partnership with HiveWire, a platform supporting new projects for a better world.

When crowdfunding works it’s an entirely new way to reach out, well beyond the usual suspects, for support. The growing number of Toronto-based, home-grown initiatives means it’s going to be easy for the folks running these initiatives to monitor, compare, contrast and get together to discuss what’s working best, to ensure that their users have a great shot at the success they’re looking for.

For anyone thinking about getting started in this field, HiveWire, a CSI tenant, and one of the leaders in Canadian online fundraising, does periodic seminars ranging from Crowdfunding 101 to advanced workshops. Upcoming sessions are posted here and are held at the various CSI locations in The Annex, Spadina and Queen, and Regent Park. There’s also a Meetup Group .

There’s an art to doing crowd fundraising well.  Andrew Taylor just wrote about As it turns out, language matters a recent study of successful and unsuccessful Kickstarter campaign language that analyzed 45,000 Kickstarter campaigns and found that language choice accounted for up to a 58 percent variance around success. Campaigns that reached their targets used language that put value for the donor front and centre, and conveyed a sense of unique excitement, a rare and fleeting opportunity, and a chance to get in on the ground floor of a guaranteed success. People are people, online or in person.

How profound a change is crowdfunding bringing to our sector? An interesting discussion in the Nonprofit Quarterly raises the question of whether the democratization of nonprofit funding will produce better or worse results than funding decisions left to experts in venture capital or grantmaking organizations! I bet you’ve never pondered questions like: how will the decisions differ? what will be the social results of those differences?” A fascinating paper, entitled “Wisdom or Madness? Comparing Crowds with Expert Evaluation in Funding the Arts,” (by Ethan Mollick of the Wharton School and Ramana Nanda of Harvard University) found that the crowd is more willing to take a chance on innovative arts projects, “meaning that the crowd expands the number, and potentially the type, of projects that have a chance of success.”

Meanwhile IndieGogo, one of the leading crowdfunding platforms to kickstart new initiatives/projects recently raised $40MM to fund its continual growth, so crowdfunding looks like it’s here to stay.

Is the crowd always right? Consider that an online fundraising campaign on the GoFundMe crowdfunding site on behalf of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson collected $234,910 from nearly six thousand people, for the man who shot and killed African American teenager Michael Brown. Many of these donations were accompanied by racially derogatory comments aimed at Brown, his parents, and the population of Ferguson.

As Churchill said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

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Engaging your board, effectively

by Jini Stolk

If you haven’t registered for Maytree’s September 22nd Five Good Ideas session on Engaging your Board Effectively - led by Robin Cardozo, Chief Operating Officer of SickKids Foundation, in conversation with Jehad Aliweiwi, Executive Director, Laidlaw Foundation; Earl Miller, Board President, West Neighbourhood House; and myself, as Chair of the Ontario Nonprofit Network – you should probably act quickly. I hear that seats are filling fast for this evergreen topic, a facet of the complex, challenging and essential skill of board management.

In my experience, the many challenges of knitting a group of diverse and well-meaning volunteers into a powerful force working on behalf of a nonprofit organization require a life-time of learning, questioning and openness to growth and change. I’m very much looking forward to hearing my colleagues’ experiences and advice on building their board members’ sense of engagement and commitment.

I wonder if some of what they’re planning to say might be negatively mirrored in this piece on 12 Reasons Why You Should Gracefully Resign from a Nonprofit Board which offers a comprehensive check list for anyone losing their drive or passion as a board member. Certainly if “Your conduct at board meetings is viewed by the majority of other board members as disruptive” and “You’re unable to work collaboratively with the other board members in a productive manner” – and you recognize that fact! – that’s a loud signal you should step down.

A larger number of board members would want to consider whether they’re missing a significant number of meetings and are unable to fully participate in board planning, deliberations, and actions; or are not contributing money, time, connections, or other valuable resources to the organization; or are not spending time thinking about how the organization could be more effective at advancing its mission, and helping it do so.

If anyone IS unhappily involved in a situation with a high level of internal strife, this piece about the resignation of the entire 20-member board of the Minnesota Dance Theatre is really a must-read. The MDT is described as “solvent and successful” but obviously rent by bitter disagreement about…vision? direction? leadership style? I’m not sure I want to know the details, but the point of the story is that this amount of board drama damages the organization and the individuals concerned. It talks about the need for careful and honest communication with stakeholders and the public to rebuild trust and reputation, and makes the point that recovery can be slow and painful. (A good case in point is Susan G. Komen’s Race for the Cure, the world’s largest breast cancer fundraising event, which is still struggling to bring in donations at the high level they enjoyed before their extremely controversial 2012 decision to defund Planned Parenthood.)

Much better to seek professional intervention and counsel before things reach that state, and if needed to take a look at Maytree’s recent Five Good Ideas about Successful Board – Executive Director Relationships with the Chair of the Board and President and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Toronto. I missed hearing this one in person, although the online video shows a helpful dialogue about the importance of shared vision and values; defining and recruiting Board members around the diversity and skills you need to help achieve your vision; building trusting relationships; defining roles and responsibilities; and enabling Boards to focus on the big picture and the long view.

Of course, if you’re determined to do an outstanding job of fulfilling your leadership responsibilities as either staff or board you should also sign up for Engaging your Board Effectively. I’ve been reading some great and thought-provoking resources whose ideas I may share with our attendees on September 22nd, but rather than steal Robin’s and mine and the other panel members’ thunder, I’ll write more on these following our session!

 

 

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