Monthly Archives

June 2021

Improving Nonprofit Board Effectiveness

By | Nonprofit | No Comments

Nonprofit boards provide several important services. Boards must ensure the staff and volunteers act legally and ethically. They oversee the finances and guide the organization with a “duty of care” that extends to planning and decision making. The board must, at the end of the day, confirm that the nonprofit acts in a responsible way and manages its business affairs accordingly.

That’s a tall order for even the most dedicated nonprofit board members. Good nonprofits choose their board members wisely, but great nonprofits take additional steps to support their board members and improve their effectiveness.

Where Boards Fall Short

Boards often fall short in several common areas. For example, in a study from the Stanford School of Business, only 23% say their communication with fellow board members is excellent. Other areas that could be improved include technical knowledge, especially on cybersecurity matters and diversity.

Improving Effectiveness, Supporting the Organization

Providing support, resources, and professional development for board members isn’t just a nice thing to do. It’s a crucial way to support the overall organization. Given that the board provides guidance for the direction of the organization as well as oversight over many areas, the better the board members’ skills and experience, the better they can support the organization.

Three ways in which organizations can improve the effectiveness of their boards include:

  1. Survey the board: Ask each board member individually for their opinion on aspects of board governance and communications. For example, do they feel the current board processes are effective? How would they rate their communications level with fellow board members? These and other questions can be asked of each member and the responses collected anonymously. The collected responses can be shared in a report with action steps to follow up on areas of need.
  2. Conduct a gap analysis: Survey the board and assess their skills. Then, working with the board, make a list of skills they have and skills they believe they need. This gap analysis can be used to fill future board positions. For example, if knowledge and expertise in technology and cyber security is lacking, this critical need can be filled when a board seat becomes vacant. Knowing these skills are needed can be helpful to direct the search for a new director. This information can also be used to provide professional development to the current board to close skills and knowledge gaps.
  3. Gather frequent feedback: Feedback should be gathered not just through surveys, but through frequent feedback gathered after every meeting. For example, ask the board after the conclusion of each meeting to rate their ability to follow the agenda, communicate clearly, and resolve issues. Use a scale of 1 to 5 or similar to gather data to help directors identify areas of focus for future meetings. If they feel they didn’t follow the agenda, ask them to determine why. Perhaps a new issue cropped up that was unforeseen but urgent. If so, they may need to leave more space in the agenda to handle urgent needs as they arise.

Develop a Succession Plan

In addition to these suggestions, it is helpful to develop a succession plan for the board. As members resign or their term of service expires, it is helpful to have a plan ready to guide the search for new directors. This is where the skills and gap analysis is helpful. If you know what skills the board currently lacks, you can search for members who have the desired attributes.

Your board of directors provides a valuable service, guiding and supporting your organization as it works to achieve its mission. By giving them the support they need, you’ll be able to boost their effectiveness, and in turn, build your organization.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.

5 Tips to Improve Efficiency of the Grant Review Process

By | Grant Management, Nonprofit | No Comments

If your organization awards grants, you know how time consuming it can be to review all the applications. Then, there’s the process of narrowing the submissions to the most promising, and finally, choosing the best candidates for the grant. It can be quite labor intensive.

Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to improve the efficiency of the grant review process. With these 5 tips, you’ll not only become more efficient at the process, but you’ll have an easier time finding and selecting the best match for the grant.

The Review Process Should Be Fair and Unbiased

As an organization that awards grants, it is in your best interest to make sure the grant review process is fair and unbiased. Organizations that submit their grant applications have spent considerable time and effort preparing their application. Writing a single federal grant application, for example, takes between 80 and 200 hours. For many, the hopes for their organization rest on their ability to win you over to their cause, mission, and activities.

Making sure the grant review process is both fair and unbiased is the best way to honor both the effort that goes into grant applications and the spirit of your organization’s charitable grant policy. Follow these steps to ensure a thorough process so all the grants receive the time and attention they deserve in order to choose the worthiest among them for awards.

5 Tips to Create a Fair and Efficient Grant Review Process

  1. Create a detailed evaluation guideline. These guidelines, or rubric, should provide detailed criteria for reviewers to analyze incoming grant applications. Choose between a holistic and analytic rubric. As the name suggests, a holistic approach looks at the application as a whole and assigns the entire application a numerical value. An analytics rubric assigns a numerical value to each section of the rubric and asks reviewers to give each section a number. No matter which method you choose, apply a consistent and fair process to all applications. Do not use a holistic method for one half and an analytic approach to the other half of the applicant pool.
  2. Share the assessment criteria beforehand with applicants. Don’t ask applicants to work in the dark. Instead, give them the criteria ahead of time. This respects both their time and effort and guarantees they can provide you with complete information.
  3. Build a diverse review team. Your review team should be as diverse as the people you serve. Make sure the team reviewing the grant applications holds diverse opinions to ensure opportunities are considered from all sides.
  4. Insist on multiple reviewers. If there are only one or two awards, insist that multiple people review the chosen grant applications. This guarantees the fairest possible process for all. It also ensures that fatigued reviewers don’t just rubberstamp the application everyone likes. Bring in people who haven’t read the grant application to review it before the final choice is made.
  5. Hide the applicant’s information. Lastly, to safeguard a totally fair and unbiased choice, make sure all visibly identifiable information is hidden on the grant applications. This includes name, birthdate, location, and any other identifying information that could strike at a hidden bias among the reviewers.

Build Consensus

Lastly, aim for consensus when it comes to choosing the finalists. Use the rubric or guidelines as the touchstone for agreement. Ask open-ended questions and designate a facilitator for the ensuing discussion so everyone has a chance to voice their opinions. Discussion is both healthy and encouraged but should aim for consensus-building rather than capitulation among those who disagree.

Encouraging both fairness and transparency will help your nonprofit award grants to the most deserving among the applicants. Enacting a process like this one will go a long way to improve the overall grant process.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.