Center for Community Futures
P.O. Box 5309
Berkeley, CA 94705

Contact Us:

Jim Masters, Consultant (510) 459-7570
Matt Klapperich, Accounting Consultant (510) 339-3801
Allen Stansbury, Consultant in Public Policy Research Analysis (707) 540-5776
Teresa Wickstrom, Head Start Consultant (909) 790-0670

Search this site:
... ...

 


[Blog: America's New Working Poor][CAA Board Members Toolkit][CAA Management][CAA Participant Surveys][CAA Salary Survey Report][CSBG][Community Leadership][Current Projects][Disaster Relief][Local Currency][Musings and Rants by Jim][NACAA Manuals][Nonservice Approaches][OEO and CSA Instructions][Opinion Papers by Jim Masters][Poverty][Program Evaluation][Social Enterprise][Strategic Planning]
Head Start: [Basic Skills Summer Institute] [Community Assessment][Events][Management Institute][Head Start Parent Survey System][Policies On Your Drive][Policy Updating][Head Start Salary and Benefits Survey Report][Review READY! E-file][Wage and Benefits Comparability Study]

 

Community Action Agency Board Members Toolkit in a Nutshell

CHAPTER TWELVE:  Reducing Busywork, Focusing More Board Activity on Community Issues

There are three interrelated problems experienced by some boards.

Problem # 1. They spend all their time focused:

                * on the past, 
                * on what staff have done,
                * on the inner workings of the agency.
                * on reports and other paperwork.

Problem # 2. Their primary role is that of a volunteer compliance officer for funders.The amount of time they spend on community issues is very small. 

Problem # 3. The board members do nothing but attend board meetings; staff are expected to do everything else.Board members are not active in the community as representatives of the CAA or in helping to implement strategies.Board members do not act as agents for change.

    Here are four tools that can be used to address one or more of these problems. 

I. Take control of the amount of agenda time focused on community issues and the amount of time focused on internal operational issues.

    Does your sponsor or program create social policy in your community?  Are the funded programs tools for you to use to accomplish big goals? The increasing professionalization of programs and the increasing bureaucratization by funders who specify all aspects of program operations leaves Board members with fewer roles to play that was the case twenty or even ten years ago. But even when programs operated by the Federal rule book, there were still local issues that you can work on in addition to managing the grant!  

Many board members say that their primary reason for joining the Board is to work on community issues. Look at your last few Board meeting Agendas. What is the percentage of time spent focused on issues OUTSIDE the agency and what is the percentage focused INSIDE.Most boards are surprised to discover that they spend about 99% of their time on operational issues INSIDE the agency.  This section provides ideas for issue-oriented planning. 

Adopt a policy that 1/4th or 1/3rd or 1/2 of EACH MEETING will be focused on community issues on which the Board Members themselves will play an active role in implementing the strategy related to that issue.

II.Develop an understanding among all parties about what is the Board’s role and what is the staff role.

Board Role:

 *  The Board decides what the organization will do. It determines the ENDS that the agency or program is to accomplish in the community.
 *   The Ends are the Outcomes that result from Board activity and program operations.
 *  Select no more than 5-6 major outcomes.
  * The Board must be active agents in achieving the desired outcomes.

Staff Role:

    The Executive staff decides what the staff will do, individually and collectively. Staff generally select the:

 *  Means
 *  Methods
 *  Procedures
  * Activities of daily work.

    HOWEVER, the Board does not just decide ends then delegate all work to staff. There are some implementation functions that are far better performed by Board members. Many of these are related to management of external relations, including public relations, advocacy for institutional change and resource mobilization. Board members have the connections, legitimacy, and personal commitment and empowerment from their Board to advocate for a better community. Board members have flexibility to act in all social and political arenas -- more than staff who are covered by restrictions on public funds. The Boards should set their own social objectives. They pick issues or projects in which they have a major role -- and go for them.  

    Some funders like for Board members to act as their local volunteer compliance officers, doing reviews with a microscope of what staff did to determine if staff are carrying out all the rules in the rule-book programs. You can't see the big picture through a microscope. You get bogged down in detail, and lay Board members rarely have the time or training to become experts on all the technical aspects of the programs. The Board member can't keep up, feels inadequate to the task, and quits. THE SOLUTION. Stop micro)reviews. Create a guideline on the amount of meeting time that will be devoted to issues that are OUTSIDE the organization (community issues) and the amount of time that will be spent focused INSIDE the organization.

    E.g., “We now spend 95% of our time on internal operations and reviewing reports of past activity. We want to spend no more than 65% of our time on those activities and we want to spend 35% of our time on community issues.”

III. Limit the amount of time spent on routine approvals of required reports.

    The Board can review all existing information that now flows through them. The Board decides what it will review and how much time it will spend on each TYPE of item. You have the opportunity to re-prioritize all items.

1. Look at your past agendas. List all, topics, data elements and other items from inside the agency that are now reviewed by the board.
 
2. Sort into these 5 categories:
 
  a. Outcome measure or info needed to determine or understand ENDS or outcome.  (Board review and discussion time for progress on each measure: 5 minutes)
 
  b. Whatever is needed to validate a management system (fiscal, personnel) is in place and is working.  May need onsite review by Board member or by hired expert, e.g., auditor, CPA, etc.  The REPORT is limited to "the system is in place, or system is not in place and should or must  be put into place."  This is fundamentally different from trying to judge the merits of transactions that occur in a system. Time ?? Minutes.
 
  c. Consent Agenda. This includes most items required by funders.  (Like your local Zoning Board, batch process these items by the dozen.  The assumption is that everything will be approved unless a board member asks that the items be removed from the consent agenda in order to receive additional attention).  Approval time: one minute.
 
  d. Drop rom review all MEANS, which belong to staff.  FIGHT OFF temptation to review means.  Some staff like Board to approve means because then they are off the hook for results.  "I did it like you said..."  Board should not micro-review activities at the individual staff person level.  This is the supervisor’s role.  The rule-book procedures are very relevant to the staff role, not as relevant to the Board.  Time: No minutes.
 
  e. There is always the exception to the rule. There may be an "X" factor issue that the Board does want to consider. Time: ?? Minutes.
 

IV. Focus more Board attention on community issues by using the following six steps for Board-driven social change.

1. Formulate social policy statement on issue/s.   Your vision....
2. Identify specific outcome measures on each issue.  How will you know you are making progress or have succeeded?
3. Formulate action plan.  What do you want different groups or individuals to KNOW?

Desired Outcomes in Community

 

1

2

3

Stakeholder    Group 1

BMN*

BMN*

BMN

Stakeholder    Group 2  

BMN

BMN

BMN

Stakeholder    Group 3

BMN

BMN

BMN

Stakeholder    Group 4

BMN

BMN

BMN

Put a BMN (board member name) in each box. Maybe two or three people are involved in the activity, but one person must be the lead person who makes sure it happens.

4.  Identify specific institutional changes needed.
                ·   What do you want different groups or individuals to DO?
                ·   This is the (small p) political coalition building.  

Institutional Changes

 

1

2

3

Group 1

BMN

BMN

BMN

Group 2

BMN

BMN

  BMN

Group 3

BMN

BMN

  BMN

5.Resource mobilization. Go after the resources you need to achieve each vision.

Sources

 

1

2

3

Time

R/BMN

R/BMN

Resource needed/R/BMN

Money

R/BMN

R/BMN

 

Other

R/BMN

R/BMN

 

Board members must do most of the persuading of other individuals, agencies and groups to support the desired ENDS.

End of Chapter Twelve Quiz

1. What are some negative behaviors that boards may slip into?
2. What are four steps the Board can take to work out of this rut?


Answers to Chapter 12 Quiz

1. Problem # 1. They spend all their time focused:
  * on the past, 
  * on what staff have done,
  * on the inner workings of the agency.
  * on reports and other paperwork.
 
     
  Problem # 2. Their primary role is that of a volunteer compliance officer for funders.The amount of time they spend on community issues is very small.
 
  Problem # 3. The board members do nothing but attend board meetings; staff are expected to do everything else.
 
2. Are there other issues or problems your board should address?  
  a. Take control of the amount of agenda time spent on community issues and the amount of time spent on internal operational issues.
 
  b. Develop an understanding among all parties about the board role.
 
  c. Limit the amount of time spent on routine approvals of required reports.
 
  d. Focus more attention on community issues. Use the 6-step approach for Board-driven social change.
 

   

Toolkit Home    Chapter 13

Center for Community Futures. www.cencomfut.com 
This page was last modified 4/17/2013 at 3:25 p.m. Pacific Time.
For questions about this website please contact our Webmaster.