New Board Member Orientation

Are you conducting a board orientation each year for your new members?

If not, you should.

Each year we welcome up to one third new members to our boards.

It doesn’t take long (three to six years, depending on your board terms) before you have a completely new board (not counting your executive committee).

I believe it’s imperative to keep all board members on the same page and a new board member orientation is a great way to do that.

Your orientation should be prior to their first board meeting and should contain all the relevant collaterals that paint a picture of the chamber and the organizations work. Some of those materials might be:

  • Chamber Bylaws;
  • Board member job description;
  • Board minutes from the past year;
  • The chamber’s last annual report and audited financial statement;
  • Strategic Plan;
  • Dates of all upcoming board meetings and major events for the year;
  • A current list of all board members and their terms; and
  • A scorecard to measure board member involvement.

These are just a few suggestions. It’s important that you add what works best for your chamber. Setting the expectation up front concerning your board members involvement in the organization is just good business.

An informed board member will be an active board member.

Start that new board member orientation today!

For a list of best practices of board member orientations go HERE.  For an anatomy of a board orientation from Bob Harris, CAE go HERE.

And for one more great resource on board orientations by The Bridgespan Group go HERE.

Storyboarding: A Useful Tool in Strategic Planning

Do you want a tool that will allow every board member to participate equally in your next strategic planning process?

How many times do we allow a couple of people who take control of a board meeting and set a course that may or may not be the prudent thing to do.

Use storyboarding to get everybody’s participation.

The storyboarding process, in the form it is known today, was developed at the Walt Disney Studio during the early 1930s.

Simply put, storyboards are a graphic illustration of images or thoughts laid out in a sequence or prioritizing order.

One advantage of using storyboards with your chamber is that you can change and priortize your thoughts in real-time and get the reaction of all board members in a timely manner.

The storyboarding process is a great way to facilitate feedback and suggestions from all members of your board based on their vision for the chamber’s program of work and how it should align with your mission.

This process will generate a number of ideas that you may not currently have on your radar screen.

It is imperative that you prioritize your storyboard on what your chamber has the resources to implement from the strategic planning process today and in the years ahead.

Good luck!

For more information on using storyboarding at your next board retreat by Stephen Tweed go HERE.

SWOT Analysis: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats

A SWOT analysis is a very good way to periodically gauge whether your chamber is on the right path.

Done right, it’s a valuable tool that should be used during your strategic planning process.

  • Strengths – what you do well, the best part of your programs.
  • Weaknesses – what you don’t do well, areas where you can improve on your programs.
  • Opportunities – where you can make incremental or wholesale improvements to your programs to increase member value and possible growth.
  • Threats – what outside forces are having on the success or failure of your programs.

Hire a third party (current or former chamber executive you trust) to conduct a planning retreat for your board and then do the following:

  • Conduct a SWOT analysis on each of your programs (i.e., annual meeting, monthly luncheon, afterhours networking and Leadership Program to name a few;
  • Identify what you should keep doing and what you should stop doing;
  • Prioritize what you have identified that you should keep doing;
  • Assign the resources to be successful; and
  • Create a review process (scorecard) to measure how you’re doing as you move forward.

Remember, a SWOT analysis is just one tool in a comprehensive review of your programs, albeit, a very important tool!

For tips on conducting a successful SWOT analysis go HERE.

Financial Audits: Are They Worth It?

Yes. Yes, they can be expensive.

But you should conduct one anyway. It can protect you and the board. Think of it as insurance.

Get a full audit by an established accounting firm, not a financial review.

What gets executives fired in today’s environment?

It’s been said again and again, getting crossways with the board, a board member, or a financial reason. A regularly scheduled financial audit is a great way to take the latter issue off the table.

Wouldn't it be nice to have a third party make a statement that you’re running a financially sound organization?

There’s no reason for you not to do a financial audit. Get your organization’s financials in order.

Get that financial audit today!

For a great resource on financial audits for nonprofits go HERE.

Board Retreat: Set Your Priorities

Are you using your annual Board Retreat to move your organization to the future or just recapping what you’ve done in the past?

Take your Board Retreat seriously!

Do your homework, set the agenda and conduct that retreat to position your chamber for the future.

You and the Board have a chance to reset your priorities and deliver value to your members with the retreat process. Your members expect it from its leaders.

The following is a process you might want to consider before you conduct your next Board Retreat.

  • Homework - work with a small set of your volunteers to gather important information on your organization (i.e., revenue, evaluations, etc. on what programs your member’s value). The more data points you have on your chamber, the better. It’s important to have good data so your board can make good decisions!
  • Set the Agenda - work with your chairman and incoming chairman to set the agenda. Outline what questions you want answered by your volunteer leaders and work it into the agenda. The key is to have a real dialogue on the important issues your board has identified for further discussion.
  • The Retreat - I personally like using a version of storyboarding in finalizing the priorities of the board, which includes input from every board member.

But first, set the stage (3rd party person to facilitate the retreat process is fine – it could be a chamber exec from a neighboring town) that way he or she will not be viewed as steering the conversation in any one direction.

Let’s get started!

Identify all the programs, products or services your chamber is currently involved in or wants to be involved in that needs review. Do this by breaking into groups of six. Each member of the group should write on a 5x7 index card a statement on the specific program of work being analyzed to determine its priority within the overall work of the chamber.

The following is a sample of program areas that you may want to review:

  • Government Affairs
  • Educational Programs (be specific – annual meeting, monthly luncheon, after hours networking, etc.)
  • Your Chamber Leadership Program
  • Etc.

The following is an example of the review process:

Let’s pick Government Affairs for our first review. Once you’ve broken into groups of six, ask each group to come up with three to five things the chamber should focus its resources on within Government Affairs. Each group should identify a spokesperson to discuss the group’s statements on what the chamber should be engaged in, as it relates to Government Affairs and then those statements are posted on the wall with a 5x7 index card.

The following list of statements is an example of what your groups might come up with:

  • The chamber should be engaged in advocating at the local, state and federal level on behalf of our business members (could be one, two or all three).
  • The chamber should create a PAC.
  • The chamber should endorse local, state and federal candidates.
  • The chamber should conduct quarterly candidate forums.
  • The chamber should create a separate grassroots website/database.
  • The chamber should work closely with the state chamber on issues affecting our business members.
  • The chamber should create a weekly/monthly GR newsletter that is sent to the entire membership.
  • Conduct a legislative fly-in at the state capitol or Washington, D.C.

Once all the 5x7 index cards are on the wall, now it’s time to ask each board member to take their colored dots (if you want the top three priorities – you give each board member three dots) and tell them to put a dot next to the initiative they feel are the most important. Once they’ve posted their dots on their top priorities, they sit down. Once the entire board votes (with dots) you’ve got your results.

Please note there should be no talking or lobbying for any initiative over the other while the voting process is going on. It will become very clear which three initiatives the board wants the chamber to focus its resources.

The beauty of this process is that everybody has an equal vote. No one board member can suck the air out of the room or dominate the discussion.

The results can be fascinating and it will represent the will of the entire board not just a select few members, or your current chairman.

Now repeat the process for each of the program areas of work your volunteers have identified with your board leadership (examples given above).

When you’ve completed your Board Retreat, it’s important to communicate your results to the entire chamber membership through multiple communication channels (direct mail, newsletter, magazine, website, social media, etc.).

Good luck!

Board Meetings: How Many Are You Conducting Each Year?

Are you conducting that monthly board meeting ritual?

It may be time to move to a knowledge-based quarterly board meeting. Your members will thank you for doing so.

In a knowledge-based board setting, you get to tackle real/mega issues that will affect the chamber and your business members for years to come.

Your board needs to be strategic, not operational. It’s time to stop counting the napkins and picking out the color of the tablecloth! You know what I mean.

A typical knowledge-based board meeting agenda will have the following items:

  • Approval of previous meeting minutes;
  • Consent calendar for committee and task force reports;
  • Mega issue as a discussion item: a topic previously identified for further review and research;
  • Full board participation to study the facts and findings of the research; and
  • Action item: vote on the mega issue.

In a true knowledge-based governance model, the board should have all the necessary information to make a decision on the mega issue right after it has been presented to the full board, presumably by a current board member with proper collateral materials on the mega issue, with staff support/input.

Move to that quarterly knowledge-based board meeting this year. Your board will thank you for it!

A great resource The Will To Govern Well.

Board Minutes: Less is More!

Are your minutes done the moment your board meeting is over or at least within two hours after you’ve adjourned?

If not, in most cases, they should be.

With up to 10 and sometimes more chamber board meetings a year, it’s important for you to have a system that captures accurate minutes in a timely matter.

Remember, minutes are official documents. They are not meant to be a running narrative on the individual discussions of board members during the meeting.

Follow these simple rules to ensure an accurate record of your meeting:

  • Document those in attendance and those who are not;
  • Capture motions and whether they passed or failed. Do not document how individuals voted;
  • Summarize any discussions that take place concerning each agenda item (again, do not attached names to those discussions as to who set what, where, when); and
  • Make sure you use a consent agenda to deliver reports of any standing committee or task force work.

When it comes to minutes, less is more!

For a great resource on board minutes go HERE.

Volunteer/Staff Partnership: Create a Memo of Understanding

I remember early in my career creating a “Memo of Understanding” between my chairman and me as staff.

This allowed both of us to truly understand our roles and how we would work together in the coming year to advance the mission of the organization.

The items below are a suggested starting point for your “Memo of Understanding.” It’s important for you to tweak it to meet the specifics of your chamber or management style.

Responsibilities of the Chairman:

  • Attend all meetings
  • Accepts and supports the board’s charge
  • Plans board meetings and agenda with chief staff executive
  • Leadership of board
  • Appointment of all committee chairs
  • Evaluates board efforts and communicates accomplishments to the board and chamber members

Responsibilities of the Staff Executive:

  • Maintain contact with the chair
  • Provide support to the board
  • Prepare meeting agendas with chairman’s approval
  • Create the minutes with chairman’s approval
  • Prepare board/annual reports to the membership at large (if/when needed)

Make sure you go over this “Memo of Understanding” document with your incoming chairman, get acceptance and make sure each of you have a copy. I kept mine on my desk every day!

This is a great tool to avoid any misunderstanding between the two of you throughout the chairman’s term. Your relationship should be a true partnership in advancing the goals of the organization.

Create your Memorandum of Understanding today.  Your chairman will appreciate it!

Board of Director Job Descriptions: Do you Have One?

If not, you should.

You were hired based on your qualifications and how your skill set fit the CEO job description your chamber posted.

Shouldn’t your board members be held to that same standard? I think so.

Here are just a couple of key things that should be included when creating your board of directors job description:

  • Leader in the community
  • Financial support
  • Intellectual support
  • Full participation in board meetings, monthly luncheons and annual meeting
  • CEO only, if possible
  • Understands the role of a board to set policy, not implement policy - that’s your job

The last bullet is key. Our boards should be made up of business leaders that are setting policy for the organization to thrive today and in the years ahead.

Worrying about the color of the napkins at the next event is not time well spent by your leadership. Sound familiar?

Sample Board of Director Job Description

Nominating Committees: Are You Part of The Process?

It’s imperative that as a chamber CEO you are fully engaged in the nominating process.

I’ve talked before about the partnership between a board and the chief staff executive.

Historically, there are two main reasons why a CEO is relieved of their duty. A financial issue or when one gets crossways with the board or a board member.

Playing an equal role in the nominating committee process gives you the opportunity to fill your board with members who are:

  • Committed to the organization
  • Support the mission
  • Understand the relationship between the board and chief staff executive
  • Allows the chief staff executive to implement the board’s policy without interference

Not being a full participant in the nominating process is something that needs to be addressed immediately.

Don’t you want to play a part in picking your next boss?

For an article by Leigh Wintz, CAE on a new model of nominating go HERE.

Discounting and/or Negotiating Dues: Don’t Do It!

Under no circumstances should you discount dues.

If you do, you are making a statement that you’re not worth the regular price of admission.

In tough times, members need you more than ever. They should fully support the organization. A weak chamber translates to a weaker community.

If you’re delivering value, members will pay the dues point.

Also, once you discount, you can never go back. Members will always want to negotiate their dues.

You don’t negotiate your principles do you? Same deal with membership. Don’t negotiate your dues points.

You want full participation from your members - their intellect, their time and their financial support.

Don’t negotiate. You’re worth it!

Two Reasons Members Join: Credibility and Recognition

There is no easier way for a small business to get instant credibility then to join their local chamber of commerce.

As chambers, we typically send a new member kit that includes the all-important “chamber decal” for the small business to prominently display in their store window or on an interior wall.

The recognition part comes from their participation in the chamber whether it be as a participant at your monthly luncheon, or volunteering on a committee.

What’s the biggest prize in the recognition area?

The Chairman of the Board.

That’s the top of the pyramid. Are you using it as a marketing tool to grow membership?

Volunteering for your local chamber of commerce is a resume builder for the small businessperson.

Make sure you’re picking the most talented leaders in your community to grow the organization and deliver the value your members deserve.

Start recruiting today!