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Sharpened pencils, fresh notebooks, a bevy of color-coded folders - such are the early-September tools of back-to-school.

Boards, too, can use the post-summer, pre-Fall ramp-up to set themselves up for success for the year to come. The key elements of board organization - committee leaders, activities calendar, recruitment plan - can all benefit from a pre-Fall refresh.
Who's Taking It On?

The single most important element to a productive board is the clarity of its leaders. Committee chairs armed with spelled-out charters and annual workplans, who each agree, personally, to take responsibility for their group's performance, can take a lot of weight off of the board chair. Implementing a shared agenda is more manageable for everyone.

Do you have the right people in the right spots? Are the board's committee chairs proactive, able to motivate others, and accountable for their charge? If not, it may be time to move a new generation of committee chairs into place. If the politics of moving out a long-time committee chair proves too difficult, sometimes creating co-chairs works: it allows long-time chairs to save face, while providing them with partners who are less fixed in their ways and more willing to drive change.

Missing annual committee workplans? Ask each committee chair to submit annual goals for their committee to the Executive Committee. Model good follow-up behavior by calling them to encourage them to fulfill their assignments. They'll get the message, and start, in turn, to actively engage more personally with members of their committees.
When's It All Happening?

What's the board's plan of action, month-by-month? Now is the time to analyze how the board's various fundraising, program, finance, and planning obligations will unfold in relation to the program and fundraising year. Create a board calendar of every activity you expect board members to be involved in over the course of the upcoming year.

Make sure the assignments are reasonable for busy people. Shorten or spread out your list of goals if it looks intimidating - otherwise people will vote with their feet; agreeing in principle yet bailing out upon execution. Better to plan fewer activities with higher engagement than more activities to which very few board members show up.
Are the Right People At the Table?

Preparing an annual plan can help you clarify which functions your board lacks and the right people to fulfill it. Go out and find them! They don't even have to be board members; someone with nonprofit finance experience, for example, might agree to be on the Finance Committee without  coming onto the board. Other times those "half-way" roles are a stepping stone, both onto the board, and for those retiring from an active board role.

Take advantage of "taking stock" time to create an annual recruitment plan - a yearly schedule of networking and conscious search for new prospects who can become your board leaders of tomorrow. Don't leave this function to a 2-month, pre-annual-meeting flurry of the Nominating Committee, or to pure serendipity.
Start the Year Off Right

High fundraising season is right around the corner, with the Holidays not far behind. Setting a "plan-ful" agenda now can go a long way towards high performance when time gets tight. 
Brooklyn Boatworks: Board Processes That Move the Organization Forward

Brooklyn Boatworks helps young people develop life skills through the unique craft of wooden boatbuilding and on-the-water experiences. The organization's programming promotes the values of learning by doing, cooperation, perseverance and craftsmanship as it imparts science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills to New York City students, ages 10 through 16.

As Brooklyn Boatworks makes decisions about how to grow the organization, board members have had a wide variety of ideas on how the organization should proceed. With Cause Effective's help, the board chair convened a board retreat at which the focus was on connecting strategic decisions to the board's agenda for its work in the coming year, and thinking through how the structure of the board and its processes could help the organization move ahead with making key decisions on its future. For example, a discussion exploring how many schools and students would be necessary "to feel we are making a difference" helped the group clarify goals for the board's fundraising.

The board chair, Erin Shakespeare, is following this up with a good deal of behind-the-scenes discussions with each board member. Those discussions foster shared leadership - committee work - as well as cementing individual commitments. "Erin is not afraid," remarked Brooklyn Boatworks executive director Marjorie Schulman, "to have difficult conversations with other board members - and with me!" This has led to board coherence and meetings that focus on the emergent matters that need to be addressed, noted Marjorie: "When we come together as a group we're ready to delve into the larger conversations about what our future should look like, because everyone is up to speed with the background they need."
Welcome Cause Effective's New Staff!
Cause Effective Can Help

We love to work with board chairs to turn around board performance - contact us to think through the right strategy for your organization.

Judy Levine 
Executive Director  
Cause Effective Around Town
Workshops, new staff... and more! 
Workshop: Milestone Anniversaries to Take Your Organization To The Next Level
Thinking about a big anniversary bash? Think even bigger than that. Why not celebrate and reap the benefits of your anniversary all year long? Join Susan Gabriel of Cause Effective to learn how Anniversary campaigns can boost your organization's
 infrastructure, visibility, and resources well beyond what can be achieved in a single night.

Hosted by the Foundation Center Wednesday 9/27/17 9:30am - 11:30pm EST

Register For This FREE Workshop
Workshop: Finance Meets Fundraising

Good financial reporting and analysis can help nonprofit leaders understand their organization's health and monitor progress towards key milestones. Join us for an intensive workshop designed to help you improve:

- Your budgeting process, assess the scalability of your income sources

- Develop new strategies to raise unrestricted income

- Weigh your potential to raise more money from individuals 

- Engage your board in clear fundraising initiatives 

Leverage technology to improve your finance and fundraising capabilities


Hosted by SUM Innovation
Wednesday 10/25/17
9:00am - 10:30pm EST
Chicago Booth: On Board Conference

Whether you are large and established or smaller and just starting out, the On Board conference can help you build a board that best serves your nonprofit's unique needs. Attend the all-day On Board conference for tips and trends in board management and strategy. Cause Effective Associate Director Greg Cohen will be delivering a crash course in raising money, including techniques to extend your passion for the cause to make "the ask."

Hosted by Chicago Booth Rustandy Center
Friday 11/3/17
8:45am - 5:30pm
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For 35 years, Cause Effective has strengthened the nonprofit sector by increasing the capacity of more than 5,000 nonprofits to build sustainable communities of supporters. We transform people, culture and systems, coaching nonprofits to learn, carry out and sustain new approaches to fundraising and board engagement.

To learn more, please visit www.causeeffective.org.