Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Portable MPA

So, you know how there's all these really nice books called The Portable MBA or MBA in a Box (I actually looked at that one and it was pretty cool, if steeped a little long in theory). Well, I guess what I'm doing with this blog is coming up with my own Portable MPA. You know, I've looked at programs around town. I checked out American's program and talked with the folks and everything. I was very impressed. Trouble is, I need another degree like I need a whole in the head.

Still, I've decided to do Georgetown's Certificate Program as soon as I have the time and money. I feel like I need the ooomph of some formal training. Additionally, that ought to prepare me for the CAE examination which I plan to take.

In the meantime, this blog is reflecting my attempt to get my literature in me, and so I'm going to take the opportunity to record recommended reading I've found which I can then link to later. Yesterday I mentioned Stephen Block and I was trying to locate him online since I was impressed with the book Why Nonprofits Fail (like, it's easy to understand why the topic appeals when I'm overhearing my boss get of the phone with an INSANE board member who has no ethics whatsoever). I found a syllabus for a class that he teaches and I'm going to record the reading list recommendations below. The course is called "Nonprofit Boards of Directors and Executive Leadership," from a graduate-level class at the University of Denver where he teaches.

Stephen R. Block. Perfect Nonprofit Boards: myths, paradoxes and paradigms. Needham Heights, MA: Simon & Schuster, 1998. – Required

Stephen R. Block, Why Nonprofits Fail: Overcoming Founder’s Syndrome, Fundphobia, and Other Obstacles to Success. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2004. - Required

Already reviewed

John Carver. Boards That Make a Difference : A New Design for Leadership in Nonprofit and Public Organizations. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1997. -Required

Already reviewed

Robert Herman & Richard Heimovics. Board-Centered Leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1991. - Optional

Need to read

Cyril O. Houle. Governing Boards. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1989. (Or newer printing) -Required

Need to read

Here is the course synopsis, or "purpose of the course" which is useful too:

Governing a nonprofit organization requires leadership from individuals willing to oversee the execution of a complex set of responsibilities and assume, without compensation, legal liability for the actions of the organization. The important role and responsibility of a voluntary board of directors and the process of governing is often misunderstood. This course will focus on the special powers and responsibilities of a nonprofit board of directors and will distinguish the Board’s role from the leadership and management position of the executive director. The exploration will include an examination of the concept of governance, policy development, board composition, executive leadership, and other fundamental issues such as board meetings, liability, effective committees, executive leadership, the board's role in fundraising, and other relevant issues.

The other thing I notice about the syllabus is that he recommends that students go observe board meetings of two different nonprofit organizations (which is a fabulous idea), using the following questions to evaluate their experience:


Assignment: Describe and contrast the similarities and differences that you observed among the Boards of two different nonprofit organizations.

1. How many Board members were present? How many Board members were absent?

2. Where does the Executive Director sit in relation to the Board Chair?

3. What type of interaction was there between the Board Chair and Executive Director?

4. Did the meeting start on time/end on time?

5. What style of meeting management was used: Informal, formal, parliamentary?

6. How would you describe the composition of the Board?

7. What was the tone of the meeting and the interaction?

8. What nonverbal cues/communication did you observe during the meeting?

9. Did the Board agenda include items related to the organization’s strategic plan/issues/direction/Mission?

10. Was information distributed at the meeting that would have been better sent beforehand? Explain.

11. What type of leadership styles did you observe?

12. Who seems to have the most influence during the meeting? Explain.

13. Is the level of discussion meaningful?

14. Did it appear to you that board members were prepared for the meeting?

15. What involvement did the agency staff have during the meeting?

16. How were differences of opinions handled?

17. Was there any social time built into the meeting?

18. How would you characterize the relationships between the board members between each other and with the executive director?

19. Using the management roles adapted from Mintzberg (Chapter Four in Block, 1998), what roles were evident during the meeting?

20. Were there reports from Committees? If so, how were they received?

21. Were there a financial statement report? What types of questions were asked?

22. Did everyone participate during the meeting? Were some people silent? What did the Chair do to engage discussion?

23. How would you characterize the Board/Executive Director dynamics? Board Centered? Hierarchical? Explain.

24. What were you able to learn of the board’s governance practices: recruitment, planning, bylaws, etc?

25. What do you think were some of the motivating factors for some of the board members’ participation?

26. If you were to apply a motivational need among any of the board members,
what would that need be, and if you were the Executive Director how would you focus on that need?

27. Describe the competencies and challenges you observed in the executive director and/or board members.

28. What occurred during the meeting that surprised you?

29. If you were their board consultant, what advice/direction would you offer?

30. What policy discussions took place? Using Chait and Tailors 6 policy levels, what level policies were dealt with during the meeting? Was it appropriate for the board to be dealing with these policies at the Board meeting? Explain.

31. Was there involvement from the founding Chairperson, founding Executive Director, or members from the founding Board of Directors? If so, did they influence the content and process? Were there any identifiable issues with the use of power, control and privileges?

I will go and do this and record my experiences here. I don't know exactly whom I can go observe, so it may take me awhile, but I think it is a good exercise.