Misuse of state funds highlights importance of board oversight

Alyce Lee Stansbury, CFRE, Notes on Nonprofits

I am following the investigation by the House of Representatives regarding excessive CEO compensation and misuse of state funds by the Florida Council Against Domestic Violence.

The revelations have been mindboggling and will require more time to fully understand.
Without a doubt, this situation highlights the fiduciary responsibilities of every board member; abiding by a conflict of interest policy; documenting the process by which executive compensation is determined; educating board members, particularly the chair, to effectively carry out their duties; holding in-person board meetings; oversight of the CEO by the board; understanding financial statements, audits and 990s; reviewing the directors and officers insurance policy; and much more.

Fully understanding and meeting these obligations are vital to the legal and ethical operation of a nonprofit organization. If you are serving on aboard, I encourage you to ask questions until you understand your responsibilities. For me, it has re-doubled my passion for the importance of capacity building for nonprofits and the need for this column. 

Speaking of capacity building, I spoke at the Leon County Commission meeting this week to address proposed changes in the distribution of local arts and culture funding.

The commission voted to retain the current system of distributing tourist development tax funding to the Council on Culture and Arts (COCA) who in turn distribute these funds to nonprofits through a competitive grant process.

In my remarks, I focused on the importance of capacity building which is provided by arts councils like COCA. Examples of capacity building include training, strategic planning, investing in technology to capture and analyze data, board and staff education, fundraising planning, team building, and much more.

I know this isn’t the fun part of supporting or leading your favorite nonprofit, but it is vital to ensure the organization has the knowledge, leadership, and human capacity to fulfill its mission in a sound, legal, and ethical manner.
I was proud to be asked by the Institute for Nonprofit Innovation and Excellence (INIE) to lead a workshop on fundraising. Every seat was filled as we discussed key components such as a written, board-adopted fundraising plan; thoughtful ways to analyze fundraising strategies including cost per dollar raised; the importance of valuing the donor, rather than just the donation, through stewardship;  where to look for prospective donors (those closest to your organization);  and how to earn the right to ask for a gift.

This workshop is part of a series on nonprofit principles which are free to INIE members.

It was hosted by the Small Business Development Center of Florida A&M University which is a great collaboration. For more information on upcoming programs, please visit theinstitutefornonprofits.org.  

The Big Bend chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) held a social event to connect fundraising professionals throughout the nonprofit sector. If you are involved in raising funds for a local nonprofit, don’t miss future opportunities to meet and network with your peers.
My 20-year membership in AFP has been one of the best investments in my career and I encourage every fundraiser to consider joining. The next meeting is March 31 and will feature a panel of fundraising professionals, corporate representatives, and philanthropists to talk about asking for and making major gifts. You do not have to be an AFP member to attend. To learn more contact chapter President Kristie Teal at [email protected]

Finally, I attended a board meeting in which the mission statement and tagline were printed on the back of name tents for all board members. What a great way to help make sound decisions than to be reminded of the mission throughout the meeting.

I understand this was a takeaway from Building Better Boards hosted yearly by Leadership Tallahassee. This year’s event will be held May 5 and is being chaired by community dynamo Gina Giacomo. Learn more at leadershiptallahasee.com. 

Notes on Nonprofits is co-produced by Alyce Lee Stansbury, CFRE, President of Stansbury Consulting and Kelly Otte, MPA, who is on sabbatical. Send your questions and feedback to [email protected].

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