Reflections on the OANO Standards of Excellence - Part II

The Ohio Association of Nonprofit Organizations hosts a class called the Standards for Excellence Series that helps organizations prepare for and achieve the Standards for Excellence Accreditation. As a member of OANO’s Council of Consultants, I decided to audit the class to make sure I knew all about these important Standards.  The indomitable Allison Black Cornelius of Blackfish Consulting taught our class.  As I shared last time, Allison, who hails from Alabama, is folksy and direct, but boy does she know her stuff! Here are three more gems from thesecond part of the class that focused on boards and governance issues among many other items.


Board phone conferences and email votes are risky.


I’ve had several clients that use phone conferences to host their meetings when the board has members across the state.  Presenting to a group by this method is very difficult but I learned that phone conferences and email votes are a risky way to operate that opens the board and the organization to legal problems.


Why? Because decisions made during phone conferences and emails don’t always hold up in court.  Allison recommends investing in the technology to get people face-to-face or restructure your board to allow for more in-person meetings.


Boards spend too much time on their fiduciary role.


Among the three main roles of the board (explained by Allison as fiduciary, strategic and generative), many boards focus exclusively on the question “how much” versus questions about the affect a decision will have (strategic) or what values the decision reflects (generative). 


In fact, Allison believes that “a pseudo-leader will go straight to fiduciary to break down the dream”.  Fiduciary issues are important but boards should focus on inquiry/board discussion of fiduciary issues versus just oversight.


Your board really does make your nonprofit job harder.


I’m sure we’ve all wondered about this issue. It seems like working for nonprofits is just plain harder than working for a for-profit.  Well Allison explained that nonprofit leadership is harder than corporate leadership. 


Why? Because nonprofit leadership is legislative leadership while corporate leadership is executive leadership.  Executive leaders can just fire someone that doesn’t agree with them.  Nonprofit leaders can’t do that as easily because of the board. 


I encourage you to take this class even if you aren’t planning on achieving the Standards of Excellence designation. It’s well worth your sacrifice and will give you so many new ideas that you’ll wonder why you didn’t take it sooner.  For more information, go to