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Hot Topics in the Nonprofit Community

By: Patton McDowell

While fundraising is always part of the conversation, I’ve found two topics rising to the top of the list as I meet with nonprofit staff and board leaders: board engagement and staff development.

patton-mcdowellThe issue of board engagement is often not a question of talent or dedication on the part of the individual board members.  The question is how to effectively and efficiently utilize the time and talent board members have to offer.   Unfortunately, we see a lot of individual disengagement – board members come to meetings (sometimes), listen to staff reports, and go home.   Or, they fancy their role as one of management, and entangle themselves in the details of the organization’s operations, driving both themselves and the staff crazy.

It’s become a bit of a personal mission for me to help bridge this gap between board and staff, and find effective and efficient ways for talented board members to be meaningfully involved.  It’s why most of our projects now feature an element of board engagement as a critical “deliverable”, and why we’ve been able to focus on four key elements of successful board engagement.   Interested in learning more?  Check out the “presentations page” on our website – we would be happy to discuss tailoring a presentation on board engagement for your nonprofit retreat or association conference.

The other topic I hear all too often is the concern for adequate and applicable professional development – code for “what do I do to keep my best staff members?” or “what do I do to get out of here?” – sad realities for an industry that is plagued by turnover.   As a firm we’ve studied the topic extensively, and have coached dozens of individuals and organizations around ways they can help their individual and collective efforts to improve professionally.   There is of course some risk in helping staff improve as they might be more likely to advance in their career (and leave), but often a positive professional development culture encourages them to STAY. And, if not, it makes your nonprofit a more attractive option for other talented professionals to join.

We’ve identified 10 skills and experiences that all nonprofit professionals should consider as they develop a plan to advance their career, as well as action items managers should consider providing to assure continued skill development (and better morale) at their nonprofit.   Check out the presentation, “Keys to Advancing Your Nonprofit Career” and let us know if you have questions or would like to schedule this presentation as a staff workshop or at a conference within your sector.