Employee motivation strategies provide keen insights into motivating donors


managing for dummiesI was at it again. Just this morning I was digging through old boxes in my basement when I came across a copy of the book Managing for Dummies. After a few quick nostalgic turns of the page, I came across a section titled “Top ten ways to motivate employees” on page 107. My mind immediately wandered to the resource development implications of this list. So, I thought you and I could explore this question together this wonderful Wednesday morning.

Here is that list of things to motivate employees from our friends who write “the dummy books“:

  1. Personally thank employees for doing a good job — one-on-one, in writing, or both. Do it timely, often, and sincerely.
  2. Be willing to take the time to meet with and listen to employees — as much as they need or want.
  3. Provide employees specific and frequent feedback about their performance. Support them in improving performance.
  4. Recognize, reward, and promote high performers; deal with low and marginal performer so that they improve or leave.
  5. Provide information on how the company makes and loses money, upcoming products, and services and strategies for competing. Explain the employee’s role in the overall plan.
  6. Involve employees in decisions, especially as those decisions affect them. Involvement equals commitment.
  7. Give employees a chance to grow and learn new skills; encourage them to be their best. Show them how you can help them meet their goals while achieving the organization’s goals. Create a partnership with each employee.
  8. Provide employees with a sense of ownership in their work and their work environment. This ownership can be symbolic (for example, business cards for all employees, whether they need them to do their jobs or not).
  9. Strive to create a work environment that is open, trusting, and fun. Encourage new ideas, suggestions, and initiative. Learn from, rather than punish for, mistakes.
  10. Celebrate successes — of the company, of the department, and of individuals in it. Take time for team- and morale-building meetings and activities. Be creative and fresh.

I think this list is very close to being able to double as a recipe for donor engagement, but there are obviously a few tweaks here and there that need to occur. So, the first thing I did was strike-through the word employee and replace is with the word donor. Then I went through each tip and  modified things that were obviously only relevant to the workplace experience.

donor engagementHere is how that new top ten list turned out for donors:

  1. Personally thank donors for their support – one-on-one, in writing, or both. Do it timely, often, and sincerely.
  2. Be willing to take the time to meet with and listen to donors – as much as they need or want.
  3. Provide donors specific and frequent feedback about how your agency is putting their contribution to work.  Engage them is discussion along the way on how they would like to see possible future donations used to support the both their agency’s mission and vision along with their personal philanthropic wishes and dreams.
  4. Recognize major gifts donors in a manner in which they are comfortable; create and implement strategies to move smaller donors up the “resource development pyramid of donors“.
  5. Provide information on how your non-profit organization raises money, existing products/services as well as upcoming products/services. Explain the different roles in the overall plan (e.g. strategic plan, resource development plan, program plan, etc) that various donors might consider.
  6. Involve donors in decisions, especially as those decisions affect them. Involvement equals commitment. (This could be via surveys, focus groups, committee involvement, etc)
  7. Give donors a chance to grow and learn; encourage them to be their philanthropic best. Show them how you can help them meet their charitable giving goals while achieving the organization’s goals. Create a partnership with each donor.
  8. Provide donors with a sense of ownership in your agency.
  9. Strive to create a fundraising experience that is open, trusting, and fun. Encourage new ideas, suggestions, and initiative and include these things in your annual resource development plan. Learn from your donors.
  10. Celebrate successes of your agency and of individual donors.

So, there you have it. When I take a step back and look at these two lists, I see lots of similarities. Do you see the same things? What would you add to these lists? Is there anything you would eliminate?

Please scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box. Why? Because we can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

Don’t text and drive, but please use it to fundraise!


Text messaging for solicitation (or stewardship) of donors

By Rose Reinert
Guest blogger

rose1For those of you who are new to the DonorDreams blog, I’m going chapter by chapter through Lon Safko’s book, The Social Media Bible and applying his thoughts to the non-profit sector in a blog on Monday mornings. Of course, it is Tuesday morning (because Erik just returned from his five month engagement in Texas & New Mexico and he got confused).

Last week, we explored marketing yourself through SEM — Search Engine Marketing — and this week we will explore maximizing your message through using mobile.

Do you remember back in January 2010 when The American Red Cross received an overwhelming response with text message donations after the Haiti earthquake?  Well, “overwhelming” equaled $41m! The Red Cross received 4.1 million messages valued at ten dollars each, 95% of which were from first-time donors.

Text Message Donations

Simply put, you advertise the fundraising phone number to potential donors. The donors send a text message, and 60 to 90 days later you receive the donation. Seems simple right?

There are some common frustrations that surround that simple equation, which are important to explore. Many non-profits have and are running similar campaigns as The Red Cross, but there are some large hurdles including the cost of processing.

Mobile Site Donations

As we have discussed through our journey in this blog, ensuring that your website is mobile friendly is critical. It also can provide the opportunity to raise funds. A downfall of text message donations is that there is a limit of $10. This, of course, can leave money on the table for your non-profit.

You can utilize similar methods as text message donations, but direct people to your website’s Donate Now button.

Text Message Cultivation

Beyond the usage of text messaging for the end result of raising money, you can utilize it to build your relationship with your donors to position them for larger solicitations in mind.

Send your donor a few quick messages every month (or even once a month) focused on how their contribution is making a difference. Using text messaging in this manner can keep your donors excited and engaged with your mission.

In a year-end campaign for the Humane Society, donors who periodically received stewardship messages via text contributed online with an increased response rate of 77%.

So, what are you waiting for? Let’s get texting!

I am very interested to hear your experiences (both good and bad) with utilizing text messaging for donations or engagement for your agency. Additionally . . . have you used text messaging to donate to an organization? Please share what you liked and disliked in the comment box below.
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A few tips for participating in your community’s “Giving Day”


give local americaI may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but when I get beat over the head with something enough times over the course of a year it becomes obvious that I’m staring at a trend. LOL! In this case, I am referencing an increasingly popular activity sprouting up all over the place — Giving Day.

I was first introduced to the idea of a concentrated one day push while working with a client in Valparaiso, Indiana. Their local community foundation had organized a day where local donors could make an online contribution and designate it to any number of local non-profit organizations. Of course, there were incentives such matching dollars and contests.

As many of you know, I’ve spent the last five months in West Texas and New Mexico working with 18 different agencies on a variety of organizational capacity building activities. While I was down south avoiding a brutal Midwest winter, I was once again introduced to another statewide Giving Day in New Mexico. Like the one in Valparaiso, it was being sponsored by a handful of different community foundations.

Finally, last week I returned home from my temporary assignment and started wading through a ton of mail that was waiting for me. While sifting through that pile, I came across a letter from another agency promoting their community’s Giving Day and they were asking me to make an online contribution.

As I clicked around on Google, I discovered there is a national Giving Day initiative called “Give Local America!” being sponsored by communities, non-profit organizations and an online giving portal company called Kimbia.

As I said earlier, I may not be the brightest or the quickest, but I suspect that I’m looking at a trend in the non-profit sector.  :-)

The Knight Foundation defines a community Giving Day as follows:

“A Giving Day is a powerful 24-hour online fundraising competition that unites a community around local causes. Hosted by the area’s community foundation, the Giving Day raises money through a single online donation platform. A Giving Day is a great way to build community, connect donors to local nonprofits, teach organizations to use digital tools and generate excitement about your community foundation.”

The foundation developed an online “playbook” for people who want to organize one of these events in their community. If you’re interested, click here to check it out.

online givingAs I started playing around with these ideas in my head, I’ve come to the conclusion that this doesn’t necessarily have to be a community-wide event sponsored by a community foundation or a United Way. (However, I do think a community-wide approach organized by a foundation or United Way is preferable)

I believe individual non-profit organizations can take these same principles and develop a focused day of giving for themselves. Perhaps, it is something at the end of your Spring annual campaign pledge drive focused on smaller donors. Or maybe it is a year-end giving strategy with a Thanksgiving theme done in conjunction with #GivingTuesday.

Regardless of whether it is community-focused or agency-focused, there are a few simple best practices that power the successes associated with planning these events. You can find those best practices at the other end of the Knight Foundation link (see link above). If you aren’t planning such an event, but you’re participating in one, then here are a few tips for engaging the most number of people in making a contribution in your agency’s name:

  • challenge gifts are an important part of the call to action (don’t just rely on the challenge being offered by the organizer . . . additional matching gifts from your major donors will drive even more traffic on your behalf to the online giving portal)
  • pre-event publicity is crucial to raise awareness among your donors (e.g. targeted mail, email, etc)
  • day-of-event solicitation (e.g. emails, blog posts, Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn chatter, etc) are important strategies to drive online traffic to the giving page
  • post-event recognition and stewardship for an entire year leading up to your next Giving Day build loyalty and a strong base of sustainable giving

Does your agency participate in a community-wide Giving Day? If so, what best practices have you used and found work well? Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts and experiences.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

Does your agency have a blindspot for accepting things at face value?


It Isn’t What It Is

By John Greco
Originally published on August 23, 2012
Re-posted with permission from johnponders blog

empathyThe regional VP and I would fly into the district office.  We would first meet with the district Director, and then over the course of the next two days the VP, the Director, and I would meet with each station manager in a series of rather intense “three-on-one” station review meetings.

This particular district was once again underperforming; it was the worst district in the region by far.  This district’s meetings were not pleasant for the district Director, and they were not pleasant for most of the managers.

One of those three-on-ones I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

Scott was a young station manager, only a few months into his promotion.  He took over a station that had a reputation for being tough, intractable; and to make matters worse, the previous station manager had transferred out amid accusations of falsifying reports to prop up performance.

Scott was cleaning up the operation; doing so necessitated firing some of the previous front-line managers who simply did not want to play straight.  That meant he was bearing the burden of being understaffed.  And because the performance reporting was now honest, Scott’s operating results were showing rather dismal year-over-year comparisons on many of the key metrics.

If the meeting were today, I’m quite sure he would have explained his situation with a matter of fact “it is what it is” but that phrase wasn’t in popular use back then…

Everybody knew the situation.  The RVP was going to test Scott a bit, but he was not going to go hard at him.

Scott was clearly nervous as he initiated his presentation, but most of the station managers were, so his nervousness wasn’t overly conspicuous.  He was doing a reasonable job explaining his difficult status and his challenging plans.

Until he said something that struck me as not quite right.  It was an innocent, off-hand comment; but, to me, it seemed packed, loaded, heavy.  I wanted to not hear about the numbers anymore.  I wanted Scott to unpack it for me.

I distinctly remember interrupting him, timidly turning to the VP and the Director, and noting that I wanted to ask Scott a question but warning that it might take us off track a bit.  The VP told me to go ahead.

“Scott, can you speak more to why you think the drivers don’t respect you?”

And the floodgates opened.

We never did get back on track.  Scott wasn’t able to finish his presentation.  He broke down; he shared that he had been working 20 hours a day; he was sleeping in his car; his marriage was in trouble; he went on… until we called a time out.

I remember the debrief afterward, and the VP wanting to talk about what we could do for Scott.  I remember the district director at one point turning to me and asking how I knew to stop and ask that question, and how I knew it might lead us to something else entirely, something important.

I didn’t know how I knew.  I just knew.  In fact, I think it was more a feeling than a knowing.  It was one of those times when feeling was knowing.

Empathy.

By me asking that question, Scott knew I knew.  Or at least he knew I knew something.  And it allowed him to release.  He needed to release.  But of course, in a leader, that is weakness…

But it isn’t what it is.

Shortly after that meeting, Scott resigned.  He didn’t see his situation as recoverable.  He may have been right.  But I’m not so sure.  Regardless; we’ll never know.

You might be thinking that this wasn’t exactly a great outcome.  You might point out that this didn’t end well, that we didn’t improve the situation with this approach.  Hard for me to argue with that.

But everyone learned something.  The VP learned that he was under supporting this young leader; he likely wondered how many other young leaders he was under supporting.  That’s a valuable lesson in my book.

The district Director learned that she had an emotional blind spot; she likely wondered what other leader stress across her district was not being recognized and managed.  That’s a valuable lesson, as well.

I learned that I had something to offer that was in short supply in business circles and that I needed to trust my instincts.  And that, without a doubt, was valuable too!

I don’t know what Scott learned.  But I want to believe he learned a lot.

I don’t know where he is now.  I’d like to think that he went on to realize his leadership potential, because he certainly had it; in spades.

It was just too much, too soon, for him.  By all appearances, he was decisive, leading, in control, taking charge.

But sometimes it isn’t what it is.

And, without empathy, we never know.

And thus, we never learn.

And thus, we can’t correct.
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How and when should a non-profit board go into executive session?


cone of silenceMore than a decade ago, I attended a BoardSource conference/workshop at Sears’ corporate offices in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. During one of the sessions, the trainer shared her teachable point of view on how often boards should go into executive session, which she explained was at the end of every meeting. I’m dedicating today’s post as a counter-weight to that practice.

If you are intrigued and want to learn more about this teachable point of view, click here to read a post written by Jan Masaoka on Blue Avocado. She does a nice job of making the case.

Of course, there is a flip side to this position.

Let me start by clearly saying . . .  I believe there is a time and place for a board to kick staff out of the boardroom and go into executive session. Here are a few examples:

  • when the board needs to discuss the executive directors compensation package
  • when the board is discussing the findings of an investigation involving the executive director
  • when the board wants to hear directly from the auditor (esp. when there might be financial oversight questions pertaining to staff)

There are a few other good reasons; however, there aren’t many in my opinion.

do not enterAfter attending the BoardSource workshops at Sears as a young and naive executive director, I brought a ton of good ideas back home with me and shared them with the Board Development Committee. One of those ideas was for the board to go into executive session as a regular practice at the end of every meeting.

At first, I found this practice preferable. It sure as heck was better than watching all of the informal “meetings after the meeting” that occurred in the parking lot. However, as time passed, I discovered that executive session had evolved, and board volunteers were now having discussions that I should be a part of.

Prior to implementing this practice, we didn’t have a discussion about what was appropriate versus inappropriate topics of discussion during the executive session time period. So, without an experienced facilitator or any rules of the road, conversations wandered and devolved.

In my experience, the “going into executive session as a regular practice” became demoralizing. If the board didn’t feel comfortable including me in discussions pertaining to or impacting operations, then they needed to fire their executive director.

If your organization is looking at adopting the “going into executive session as a regular practice,” then here are two things you need to weigh against each other:

  • Is it more important to foster what the Blue Avocado post describes as: “This ‘sense of self’ is an intangible yet critical underpinning for board leadership“?
  • Or is it more important for your agency to cultivate and grow the ‘sense of team‘ between the board and its executive director?

I suspect the answer to these questions will vary for different organization. However, it is important to answer these questions before implementing such a policy. Otherwise, your agency may find itself the victim of the “law of unintended consequences“.

If you want to read more on the subject of executive sessions, here are a few posts you may find interesting:

What is your agency’s practice when it comes to executive session? Has your board governance committee discussed and spelled out when this practice should be used and what is appropriate? If so, please share your thoughts and opinions in the space below. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

Four non-profit trends pertaining to volunteerism


volunteerismYesterday, I attended my first Fox West Philanthropic Network meeting in a number of months. I forgot how much I love those networking and professional development meetings. The program topic was “Volunteer Recruitment & Management” and featured staff and volunteers from a number of Fox Valley agencies, who spoke eloquently about their experiences.

To open the panel discussion, Bob Hotz from American City Bureau shared the following four recent trends that he sees  in volunteerism:

  1. There is a trend toward wanting to help with a specific program or project.  This contrasts with just general support of both time and money.  This seems tied to wanting to experience that my contribution of resources (time or money) will have the impact I am looking for.
  2. There is a trend toward time-defined or episodic volunteering.  (e.g. a day of service or a 5K run, does not tie up months of time or commit me to something long-term)
  3. There is a trend toward contributing expertise.  (e.g. More than just time, people want to feel that their skill sets are being put to good use.)
  4. There is a trend toward incorporating a learning component into the volunteer experience.  (e.g. It is not only what a volunteer contributes, but also what they learn and get out of it.)

Bob used this framework as a springboard for the panel to jump into topics such as:

  • volunteer recruitment
  • orientation and training
  • volunteer evaluation
  • retention
  • generation differences including needs and approaches to working with these different age groups

For those of you looking for additional resources on these topics, here are a few links you may want to investigate:

For those of you who want to have a discussion about these issues, please scroll down and use the comment box to pose questions or share your thoughts and experiences on these topics.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

Is your agency like Goldilocks when it comes to online content?


goldilocksI’ve been blogging regularly since May 2011, which makes DonorDreams blog three years old next month. As with everything in life, there have been ups and there have been downs with things such as readership, content, and tech issues. I’m sure those of you who know me well, won’t be surprised to read that I tend to obsess over questions such as:

  • Is the post is too long or too short? Will people read it?
  • Is the headline going to capture readers’ attention and result in a click-through?
  • Is the email subject line going to result in a higher open rate?
  • Is the tweet too long or too short? Will it result in a RT?
  • Are my sentences too long? What about my paragraphs?

I know some of you are rolling your eyes and chalking these questions up to my obsessive personality. While this reaction is well deserved, the reality is that there is a science to how you compose your non-profit organization’s emails, tweets, blog posts, etc. And since you’re not emailing, tweeting and blogging just for the heck of it, I think it is important to understand the science behind these things, especially if you want people to read your stuff.

internet content infographicLast week, an old friend of mine from high school poked me on Facebook and posted an article from Kevan Lee at the Buffer blog. He does an awesome job of untangling the facts and figures while sharing some really great charts and graphs on this subject.

If you want your donors to read your Facebook posts, tweets, website and blog content, then this link is worth the click. Kevan even developed a wonderful little infographic to help you remember and use the content in his post. I’ve included it in this post for your review.

When it comes to evaluation strategies for DonorDreams blog, I have not been very fancy because I don’t have any money budgeted for those types of activities. The blog is just a labor of love. So, when I’ve wanted to know something (e.g. whether or not the theme formatting of the blog is attractive, etc), I’ve simply asked readers and friends for feedback. How did I do this? I went on Facebook and Twitter and asked.

Does your agency evaluate and play with content, length of content, and promotion strategies? If so, what have you found? What measurement strategies did you use? What did you do with what you learned? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below. We can all learn from each other!

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

How does your non-profit organization use SEM?


An effective way to market your agency’s website

By Rose Reinert
Guest blogger

rose1For those of you who are new to the DonorDreams blog, I’m going chapter by chapter through Lon Safko’s book, The Social Media Bible,  on Mondays and applying his thoughts to the non-profit sector. We continue this lovely Monday with Chapter 19, “Marketing Yourself (Search Engine Marketing)”. Last week we began exploring SEO, and this week we dig a little deeper into marketing yourself through SEM — Search Engine Marketing.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is one of the most effective strategies to market and advertise your website; however, there is a cost. In this chapter, Safko unpacks the idea of the idea of CPC (aka Cost Per Click) or PPC (aka Pay Per Click).

At first glance, this entire chapter seemed difficult to apply to our non-profit world. Many budgets are tight and marketing generally does not have a lot of wiggle room. However, after some additional research, I found an awesome manual that will help us explore how to apply SEM to our non-profit world.

The Non-profit’s Guide to Search Engine Marketing  is a free online manual to help your non-profit organization spread its message, cheaply and effectively, with the help of SEM. It gives great examples from real non-profits that effectively apply SEM to increase visibility, attract supporters and donations, and create awareness for their cause.

pay per clickOne great suggestion I found in this resource was to think about ways to turn your charity projects into brands (e.g. the Tap Project). It helps if the brand is descriptive, as opposed to abstract, because people tend to search for generic terms. For example, “CureBlindnessNow” could be both a brand and a search term i.e. “cure for blindness”, “how to cure blindness”, etc.

This online manual doesn’t just explore SEM, but it also provides the reader with even more topics addressing overall online presence, social media, etc.

It is a great read (as is Safko’s Social Media Bible) and worth the click!

I am interested in hearing how your agency utilizes SEM for your organization. Please share your experiences.
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Are you managing your non-profit staff or are you leading them?


It Does Not Follow

By John Greco
Originally published on September 3, 2012
Re-posted with permission from johnponders blog

leadership“You don’t manage people; you manage things.  You lead people.”

— Admiral Grace Hopper


A while back I recall being on a regional conference call with the VP, his regional staff, and his district directors.  The topic of the day was how to increase the productivity of the delivery drivers.  The region’s labor costs were over budget, and driver wages were the lion’s share of the variable expenses.  So they needed to get faster…

I was getting increasingly frustrated with the conversation.  I was hearing nothing but quick fixes; I now call them fixes that fail because they ultimately make things worse after making things temporarily better.  I kept hearing these simplistic directives that implied a measure of control that was, well, in my calculus, ridiculous.

I remember thinking to myself if they have such control, why are we having this conversation?  If they are in control, end of story, no?  Just tell them to work faster, no?

I think I said something to this effect on the call.  But it’s possible my memory is playing tricks on me.

*     *     *     *     *

Performance management is a non sequitur.

The origin of non sequitur, from latin, translates “it does not follow.”  When I hear management being practiced in terms of control and authority, coercion and force, I cringe.

Performance does not follow.

People, unlike things, feel and think!

  • They assess.
  • They ascertain.
  • They consider.
  • They project.
  • They imagine.
  • They analyze.
  • They calculate
  • They judge.

And, ultimately, they choose.

Management control is a myth.

When managed, people will — at best — comply.  Which means they are simply making the choice to accept your authority, and they are choosing to behave within the lines that you have drawn.

Things, on the other hand, don’t feel and think.  They can be managed!  Goals, processes, procedures, tools, resources, budgets, reports, timeframes, work flows, measurements …

Leaders manage things; and they lead people by influencing.

Influencing requires an understanding that control is a myth.  It requires an awareness that people have choices and make choices.  Influencing also requires leaders to trust that their people really do have the capacity to engage and make the choices that are necessary for the high functioning of the organization in its pursuit of its mission.

Manage things; lead (influence) people.

For now, let’s grossly summarize leading as providing a meaningful business aspiration; communicating clear and timely information regarding the who/what /when/where/how, involving them when problem solving and implementing change, and supporting them with sufficient tools, technologies, and other resources.

*     *     *     *     *

That conference call ended as most do; action items with little leverage.  But the VP was slowly clarifying his philosophy.  It was a work-in-progress for sure, especially in terms of its execution, but I remember its five parts distinctly —

  1. Grow the business.
  2. Serve the customers.
  3. Lead the people.
  4. Manage the numbers.
  5. Support the community.

People follow when leaders lead.
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When should your non-profit board NOT vote by email?


email votingIn a recent conversation with a friend about their non-profit board, it came to light that board members used email to take an important vote because scheduling a special board meeting was too difficult with everyone’s busy schedules.

After hanging up the phone, I couldn’t get this conversation out of my head because the issue this board had voted on was really contentious and there had not been very much consensus coming out of the previous board meeting. The question that kept zipping around my head was:

When is it not appropriate for a non-profit board to use email to vote?

So, I went to Google and started clicking around. The answers I found might surprise you!

The first article I found in The Nonprofit Quarterly was titled “E-mail voting: A Simple Trap for Nonprofit Boards” immediately raised red flags for me, especially when I read:

“The busy schedules of nonprofit board members make face-to-face meetings seem like a luxury. Consequently, a new trend has surfaced that may run afoul of the law—the vote by e-mail option.”

The words “RUN AFOUL OF THE LAW” jumped off the page.

As I continued reading, I learned another interesting fact. Many states prohibit non-profit boards from voting by proxy and email is seen by courts as being akin to a proxy vote. The Nonprofit Quarterly does a nice job of explaining why:

“The theory behind this prohibition is that the discussion and interchange of ideas that occur at board meetings are essential to the informed exercise of the directors’ fiduciary duty to the corporation.”

In other words, the government doesn’t want to enable busy people to take an easy way of meeting in-person to discuss important issues and perform their governance and oversight responsibilities. Huh? That makes sense to me!

Since I am a resident of the great (and bankrupt) State of Illinois, I started clicking around Google to see if my friend’s board had just broke the law. I quickly found that they had not because the state recent changed the law. Here is an excerpt from a publication on Venable LLC explaining the change:

The new law, which becomes effective on January 1, 2010, amends the General Not For Profit Corporation Act. Regarding the use of electronic means of communication, the bill:

* States explicitly that notices to members and directors may be delivered by electronic means to an email address, fax number, or other appropriate contact listed in the records of the corporation or approved by the organization’s articles of incorporation or bylaws.

* Allows members to act without a meeting by voting through mail, email, or other electronic means, where the old Act only permitted members to act without a meeting through the written consent of all members entitled to vote.

* Removes certain notice requirements associated with actions taken by the members through unanimous written consent.

* Provides that any action required to be “in writing”—by either the members or the board of directors—may be taken by electronic means, unless actions by electronic means are explicitly prohibited by a corporation’s articles of incorporation or bylaws.

So, do I have you concerned yet? If you’re outside of Illinois, do you find yourself wondering if your agency has been breaking the law? Are you starting to wonder — like I did — when is it and when is it not appropriate to use email to record a board vote?

If you are asking these questions, then GOOD . . . my job here is almost done.  ;-)

board discussionThe following are just a few suggestions you may want to consider:

  1. Do some research on Google (or ask an attorney) if email voting is legal in your state.
  2. If it is legal and you want to add this governance tool to your toolbox, add language to your bylaws specifically authorizing email voting.
  3. Engage the entire board in a governance discussion about when email voting is appropriate and when it is not appropriate . . . build consensus and codify these decisions in your bylaws.
  4. Use email voting sparingly . . . don’t get in the habit of using it.
  5. Discourage the board from using an email vote for issues that aren’t routine and lack consensus (in other words, issues that need to be discussed and where consensus needs to be built).

Has your board ever taken an email vote where it felt wrong to do so? Please use the comment box below to share when this has happened. Why? Because we can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

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