If Board Meetings Don’t Change You, You’re Doing It Wrong

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Last week I found myself engrossed in my first read of a new year: The Power of Giving Away Power. Author Matthew Barzun offers a compelling, fresh look at a concept I’ve come to understand as servant leadership: recognizing that being someone’s boss is a privilege that affords the opportunity to … Continued

Heads Up: Why Fortified Fiscal Oversight is Key to Financial Well Being

By Melanie Lockwood Herman During the past 15 years, I’ve been honored to serve as a volunteer board member for several organizations. My first board role was for a community-based organization in the small village where I live. I had long admired the nonprofit’s historic preservation and conservation mission, and when the invitation to consider … Continued

Heads Up: Why Fortified Fiscal Oversight is Key to Financial Well Being

By Melanie Lockwood Herman During the past 15 years, I’ve been honored to serve as a volunteer board member for several organizations. My first board role was for a community-based organization in the small village where I live. I had long admired the nonprofit’s historic preservation and conservation mission, and when the invitation to consider … Continued

Risk and Resilience: The Board’s Role

By Melanie Lockwood Herman This month we’ve been fielding a variety of questions about the board’s risk role. Across the board, members of nonprofit governing teams want to support the missions they admire. Board members want to help an organization: 1. weather COVID-19, 2. bolster resilience, and 3. prepare to survive and thrive during the … Continued

What Your Board Needs to Know About Cyber Threats

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Risk is top-of-mind for many nonprofit boards these days. Board members understandably want to grasp the top risks facing an organization and have confidence that the management team is prepared to weather the downside risks it cannot avoid. And based on our work with nonprofits across a wide spectrum of missions, … Continued

What Your Board Needs to Know About Cyber Threats

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Risk is top-of-mind for many nonprofit boards these days. Board members understandably want to grasp the top risks facing an organization and have confidence that the management team is prepared to weather the downside risks it cannot avoid. And based on our work with nonprofits across a wide spectrum of missions, … Continued

Practical Tips to Inspire Board Risk Leadership

The board of a nonprofit has ultimate legal and moral responsibility for the organization’s health and well-being. To protect an organization’s mission, reputation and assets, the board must provide thoughtful risk oversight. Join NRMC for this webinar exploring how to inspire your board to embrace and live up to its fiduciary roles, including responsibility for … Continued

Is Your Board an Asset, or a Liability?

By Melanie Lockwood Herman  This week I’ve been reflecting on the role of a nonprofit board in risk management. A nonprofit board is: A line of defense, a powerful radar system that can help detect incoming opportunities as well as threats A vision magnifier, a diverse board helps the management team see far beyond the … Continued

Dampening Drama: Lessons from a Large Family

by Christy Grano I was the oldest of seven siblings, with two military veterans for parents. That’s right, seven kids, just like the Von Trapp family in The Sound of Music. We didn’t march to a whistle or live in a mansion, but efficiency, order, and education were certainly high priorities. Charts mapped out our … Continued

Risk Oversight & Risk Reporting to the Board

Quench your board’s thirst for assurance that your staff teams are carefully managing risks at the operational level. Learn to deliver a compelling risk report to your board that inspires confidence and productive conversation. Also learn about the board’s risk oversight role, and gain practical tips for engaging your board in your ERM program. This … Continued

Best of Risk Management Essentials

Explore this RISK eNewsletter filled with some of our most popular issues of Risk Management Essentials (RME), our magazine published three times each year. Visit the RME archive for more issues and articles! Manage Risk with an Eye for Ethics Ethics serves as a foundation for the risk management work initiated by many NRMC clients … Continued

Risk Leadership Resources for Nonprofit Risk Champions

November 30, 2017 Explore this RISK eNewsletter filled with risk leadership resources What Star Trek Taught Me about Risk Leadership There’s not exactly a Starfleet Academy for nonprofit risk professionals, like in the beloved television and film series, Star Trek. So how will you know when you reach the status of a commissioned officer, ready … Continued

Boards on Board: Managing Governance Risk

Volunteer boards are vital partners at all nonprofit organizations. An important aspect of any board’s role is to safeguard the mission and assets of the organization. Join Melanie Lockwood Herman, executive director at the Nonprofit Risk Management Center, as she shares strategies to help streamline risk management and compliance at the board level. Watch this … Continued

Not So Great Governance? Resolve to Reinvent the Board

By Melanie Lockwood Herman In contrast with family members, friends and staff who are devoted to their favorite teams and specific sports, I have a less loyal and more general interest in sports. And while watching live or televised events, I’m easily distracted by subliminal messages about teamwork and leadership that play out on the … Continued

Fascination with Compensation: The Executive Team, the Board, and the IRS

Presenter: Eric Henkel, NRMC When it comes to matters of executive compensation, it can be hard to create an appropriate compensation package. It can be a challenge to balance the need to attract the most qualified individuals for key positions in your organization with the risks related to compensation. This webinar addresses items to consider … Continued

Going Up? Elevator Talk, Risk Management and the Nonprofit Board

By Melanie Lockwood Herman The Board of Directors sits atop the organizational chart of a nonprofit organization. Board issues are either self-initiated or are “elevated” by staff for board consideration. Both approaches are inherently necessary to the board’s governance role. And while there are myriad definitions, governance is essentially the “means in which the leading … Continued

Dueling it Out: Addressing Common Board Conflicts with Confidence

Conflict in a board meeting is often unavoidable, and it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Opposing board member viewpoints can lead to an increase in productivity, creativity, and new insights if these conflicts are managed thoughtfully. Constructive conflict in the board room is much like a fencing match: a victory is not achieved through aggression, … Continued

Risk Aware Boards

This webinar explores the topic of governance risk. What risks arise from the work of the board? How does the responsibility of a nonprofit board differ from that of a for-profit board? What steps are recommended to engage the board without frightening members and encouraging risk-averse positions or policies? By the end of this webinar, … Continued

Succession Planning: Managing the Risk of Executive Departures

Recent studies suggest that a significant percentage of senior nonprofit leaders will be retiring in the next five years. Yet most nonprofits do not have a succession plan ready to ensure a smooth transition when experienced leaders depart. And despite the fact that the lack of a succession plan keeps countless volunteer board leaders awake … Continued

Hello Goodbye: Succession Planning 101

Countless nonprofit board members and CEOs have faced this million-dollar question: “Do we need a succession plan?” which is often followed by confusion and another query: “Do we need a successor ready now?” Attend this webinar to learn the why, what, who, and how of succession planning. Reflect on why your board and/or CEO might be shy of initiating succession planning … Continued

Calibrating Your Nonprofit’s Risk Appetite: Candid Conversations at the Board Table

Many nonprofit leaders report a sense of being either risk takers” or “risk averse.” Yet it is unusual for the entire leadership team to share the same level of comfort with highly uncertain outcomes. This webinar will explore the concept of “risk appetite” in a nonprofit organization. Topics to be discussed include: how to engage … Continued

Risk Oversight: Who, What and How

Who’s “minding the store” in your risk management program? Although many nonprofit leaders intuitively understand the need for risk oversight, designing a custom-fit framework takes time and attention. This webinar will explore the concept of risk oversight, including who exercises ultimate authority and responsibility for risk in a nonprofit, what methods of oversight work well … Continued

Conflicts of Interest: Uncover, Understand and Act

There are just two types of nonprofits: the type that chooses to manage conflicts of interest and the type that chooses to ignore them. Attend this webinar to gain a nuanced and practical view about conflicts of interest in a nonprofit organization. Join us to learn how to develop a fit-to-suit approach to revealing and … Continued

The Board’s Role in Risk Management

Risk is inherent in nonprofit organizations as in every other sector of the economy. One of the roles of the board is to ensure the systematic identification of the risks that threaten the mission and survival of a nonprofit organization. What is the board’s responsibility for risk management and how can board members discharge this … Continued

Clash of the Nonprofit Titans: Managing Board and CEO Conflicts

By Emily Wilson and Melanie Lockwood Herman Passion and conflict go hand in hand. As heartfelt passion for an organization’s mission is often the selling point that entices people to look for paid and volunteer roles at a nonprofit, it is not surprising that this passion leaves few nonprofit workplaces without conflict. Fortunately for the … Continued

HELP! I Need Somebody’s Risk Help

March 16, 2016 If you’ve ever heard the catchy Beatles tune, Help!, it might have caused you to reflect on times you’ve sought help in your personal or professional life. Here at the Center, we offer RISK HELP and risk management guidance to our valued Affiliate Members and consulting clients. In today’s RISK eNews, the … Continued

Fear Not: Understanding the Risk of Personal Liability

By Melanie Lockwood Herman The risk of personal criminal or civil liability on the part of individual public entity leadership members is small but difficult to quantify. And it is important to note that exercising poor judgment, relying on an expert whose advice is later determined to be faulty, or making a decision based on … Continued

Magnify Your Mission: Inspire Customers for Life

By Melanie Lockwood Herman An article titled “Inspiring More at Gap Inc.” featured in the March 2015 edition of HR Magazine begins by describing the goal of the Gap’s founders, Doris and Don Fisher, to “do more than sell clothes.” According to Gap’s senior VP of HR, Dan Henkle, Gap is more than an employer: … Continued

Inspiration, Not Perspiration: Risk Reporting and the Board

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Today’s public entity leadership cares deeply about the risks facing the organization. A Board wants to know that its leadership team has thoughtfully considered the risks that threaten the mission and objectives of the organization. Boards also want assurance that the leadership team has developed plans to keep the entity’s home … Continued

What Do You Know About D&O?

This issue of Risk Management Essentials is devoted to exploring nonprofit insurance policies and coverages. While there are many different policy types and forms with which risk leaders should be aware, one of the most talked-about and valued policies for nonprofits continues to be directors and officers liability insurance, commonly known as D&O. Question #1: … Continued

Big Thoughts in Small Talk: Context Matters

By Erin Gloeckner When NRMC moved into a historic house at 204 South King Street in Leesburg, VA in 2014 we threw a party for clients, Affiliate Members, and friends from the Metro DC area to show off our new space and our incredible team of dedicated professionals. Before the party began, I had a … Continued

Popcorn Anyone? Risk in the Movies

By Melanie Lockwood Herman and Erin Gloeckner This week we read a wonderful article published by the American Bar Association about how trial stories are sometimes inspired by movie plots. It caused us to reminisce about a few personal, “ah-ha” moments while watching films on the big screen. Here are a few favorite film quotes, … Continued

Knock, Knock: Purpose Calling

By Kay Nakamura This Friday, I’ll accompany my son as he roams our neighborhood dressed as a caveman. It won’t be NYC’s famed “Fashion Week,” but I’m looking forward to seeing what the “in” costumes look like this year. Like many kids, my son ventures out on Halloween with a clear purpose: to score as … Continued

Term Limits are a Convenient Crutch

By Melanie Lockwood Herman During the last three weeks I’ve attended three board meetings and joined several board committee conference calls. These meetings have reminded me of the wonderful benefits—as well as the significant time commitment—associated with serving on boards. The friendships I’ve formed and governance lessons I’ve learned have been priceless. But from time … Continued

Liability and the Board: What Governing Teams Need to Know

By Melanie Lockwood Herman With more than 1.5 million registered, tax-exempt organizations in the U.S., it’s likely that many times that number of Americans currently serve on nonprofit boards. Board service involves a commitment of time, attention, enthusiasm, and in many cases, a personal financial contribution. When you serve on a board you’re likely to … Continued

Leadership is Hard

By Melanie Lockwood Herman This week I’ve been reading “The Hard Thing About Hard Things,” by Ben Horowitz, the former CEO of Opsware, whose company was acquired by HP for $1.6 Billion in 2007. What practical advice might a Silicon Valley tech executive turned venture capitalist have to offer nonprofit CEOs and risk champions? Brutal … Continued

What Basic Insurance Coverage Should a Nonprofit Consider?

By the Nonprofit Risk Management Center  The first issue for any nonprofit seeking to purchase insurance is to find an experienced, trustworthy insurance agent or broker who understands and specializes in serving nonprofit organizations. Nonprofits are different from commercial businesses and public agencies, and are best served by an insurance professional who appreciates those differences … Continued

So How Are We Doing?

By the Nonprofit Risk Management Center When was the last time that the CEO/executive director of your organization received a performance appraisal? If you answered, “I can’t remember” or “a few years ago” your organization may be in good company, but missing a significant opportunity—and facing unnecessary risk. A recent report, “Boards of Midsize Nonprofits: … Continued

Managing Risk in Challenging_Times

By the Nonprofit Risk Management Center Team  In the past weeks, the financial markets have taken us on a wild ride. At the Center we’ve counseled several organizations coming to grips with the impact of this changing financial reality. As each of us braces our organizations for the anticipated, yet still unknown effects of the … Continued

Fiscal Responsibility and Oversight: Empower Your Board to Lead

By Melanie Lockwood Herman (This article is excerpted from the Center’s brand-new book, Financial Risk Management: A Guide for Nonprofit Executives. Order your copy.) While it is rare in a mature nonprofit for a board member to perform day-to-day bookkeeping or financial management duties (such as making journal entries or signing checks), board members exercise … Continued

Fact Sheet on Board Minutes

By the Nonprofit Risk Management Center Accurate board minutes are an important resource to governing and advisory boards of public and private organizations. Minutes also support sound risk management by providing a written record of board deliberations and decisions. Board minutes provide evidence that a board has exercised care in decision making. Board minutes also … Continued

The Role of Resilience in Risk Management

By Melanie Lockwood Herman As consultants to diverse organizations we encounter dedicated leaders and the nonprofits they serve at various stages of their respective risk management journeys. On one day we may consult with the board of a nonprofit considering the risks and rewards of a significant change in governance or structure (e.g., a merger … Continued

Governance Matters

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Strengthening the governance practices at your organization requires more than a checklist or handbook touting “do’s” and “don’ts.” Leaders who want to inspire good governance must take the time necessary to look beneath the surface of often complex governance issues and commit to remedying issues that stand in the way of … Continued

Halloween, Unmasking Risk and Your Nonprofit

By Melanie Lockwood Herman You’ve probably heard it from others or perhaps have even uttered it yourself: Halloween isn’t the same as it was “back in the day.” When I was a child Halloween costumes began as grand concepts that morphed into wearable works of art over a period of days or weeks. And the … Continued

Truth Be Told

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Truthfulness is an important value in the nonprofit sector. We see ourselves as people with integrity and we encourage and expect that our staff, volunteers, clients and other stakeholders will be truth-tellers. We recognize the critical need for truthfulness when issuing financial statements, reporting on the use of grant funds, filing … Continued

Meet Me in the Middle: Compromise in a Risky World

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Compromise and consensus are common themes in the nonprofit world. When debating controversial issues we are eager to discount “extreme” views and look for middle ground. Compromise—“the middle way between two extremes” is intuitively appealing. But another definition of compromise—“settle by concession”—offers a hint of the downside of our compulsion to … Continued

What Do You Know? Are You Certain?

By Melanie Lockwood Herman There is a powerful visual that forms the basis of the expression “the fabric of society.” When a wrong is committed, the fabric is torn. Sometimes the wrong amounts to a snag, sometimes a hole is created. In both instances the fabric is damaged. And in some cases it becomes entirely … Continued

Your Questions Answered by the NRMC Staff

By the Nonprofit Risk Management Center  Our Favorite Recent TA Question — We’ve selected our favorite recent technical assistance question (and our answer) to feature in this and future editions of the Center’s eNews. Q: Do we need a Code of Ethics?   A: There is no legal requirement to have a Code of Ethics unless … Continued

The Culture of Reflection: Lessons Learned from Recent Headlines

By the Nonprofit Risk Management Center Team  While it’s human nature to want to look away or think “this couldn’t happen to me” when you witness or read about another nonprofit’s misfortune, dedicated leaders should commit to adopting a “culture of reflection” that embraces the lessons in unfortunate events. At the Center we’ve been asked … Continued

People Who Need People: Are you feeling lucky?

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Nonprofit management experts often direct “nonprofits” to take specific steps to improve their governance, internal operations, strategic planning and fundraising activities. But as we well know, the “nonprofit” itself is incapable of “doing” anything—it’s the people behind the desks, on the other end of the phone, and seated around the board … Continued

Perspective: How Do You See Your Nonprofit?

By Melanie Lockwood Herman As we reach the home stretch in our preparations for the 2009 Risk Management & Finance Summit for Nonprofits all roads lead to Austin, TX, the site of the event… except, or so it seems, the road I happen to be traveling this week! I am driving across the beautiful state … Continued

Influence Matters: Stakeholders and Risk

By Melanie Lockwood Herman What is a Stakeholder? One way to define the concept of “stakeholder” is a party who has a “stake” in control of the nonprofit because he or she is in position to exercise influence over the organization’s conduct. Another definition is individuals and groups who can affect and are affected by … Continued

It’s Almost, Never

By Melanie Lockwood Herman The subject of “being late” has a starring role in literature, popular music, and every day conversation. Despite the fact that we spend a lot of time worrying about being late, we often wind up behind schedule. Many tasks and journeys take longer than first anticipated. As a result, we apologize … Continued

Buyer’s Remorse

By Melanie Lockwood Herman In a thought-provoking “CEO to CEO” feature article in the September/October 2010 edition of Associations Now magazine, four CEOs were asked: “If you could take back one business decision you’ve made in the last five years, what would it be?” Three of the four answers revealed regret in the area of … Continued

Salty and Sweet

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Recently I’ve noticed an interesting trend in restaurant desserts: the addition of salt as a prominent ingredient. Experienced home cooks know that a small amount of salt is typically present in even the sweetest desserts. But the trend of featuring salt in the name of the dessert and prominently in the … Continued

Transparency, Not Whitewash

By Melanie Lockwood Herman When cleaning out a desk recently, I found several dated vials of “Wite-Out®,” a brand of correction fluid, the opaque fluid used to cover typing errors in typewritten documents. Although I haven’t used it recently, I recall that correction fluid was sold under various product names (e.g., Liquid Paper®) and it … Continued

The Right Stuff

By Melanie Lockwood Herman The Tom Wolfe book “The Right Stuff” chronicles the lives of a group of navy test pilots as well as the early years of the U.S. Space Program during the late 1940s to mid 1960s. The film version of the book reinforces the theme that while decidedly human, these pioneers of … Continued

Mastering the Basics

By Carlye Christianson I thoroughly enjoy the NCAA “March Madness” series of tournaments which began this year on March 17. This year’s line-up includes 65 men’s teams and 64 women’s teams playing in single elimination games. The tournament concludes on April 6th with the final match-up. NCAA tournament games provide some expected results, some storybook … Continued

Near, Clear and Substantial

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Human beings are more generous with their time and money—and more willing to help victims who are in close proximity, with whom they feel a sense of kinship, and when they feel that their generosity will be more than a “drop in the bucket.” In contrast, we tend to be less … Continued

Busting Myths

By Melanie Lockwood Herman During a typical holiday visit with my family the conversation often turns to news of the latest medical, scientific or commercial “myth.” During this year’s July 4th celebration the conversation quickly turned to the recent study on the positive health effects of coffee consumption. Family members offered mixed reviews on the … Continued

Listen While You Work

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Earlier this month I had an opportunity to hear a keynote presentation on leadership by Dr. John C. Maxwell. During his thought-provoking address at the 2010 General Assembly of YMCAs, Dr. Maxwell discussed “levels” of leadership and the reasons why we follow others. He pointed out a common error made by … Continued

Brain Freeze

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Once again I’m intrigued by and caught up in the latest research and analysis on the human brain. I’ve been re-reading “The New Science of the Teenage Brain,” featured in the October 2011 issue of National Geographic, and I’ve begun reading Michael Shermer’s new book, The Believing Brain. Both publications offer … Continued

Be Thankful… By Getting Ready

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Countless Americans will take time this week to pause and give “thanks”—for healthy families, for regular employment, and for a beautiful meal prepared with skill and love. During these reflective moments many of us will think about the nonprofit sector organizations that improve our lives, brighten our communities and give us … Continued

May I Have Your Attention Please?

By Melanie Lockwood Herman This week I’ve been reading Daniel Kahneman’s terrific book, Thinking Fast and Slow. Many readers will recognize the author as the past recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences and recall his ground-breaking work—with Amos Tversky—on the subject of decision-making. Kahneman begins Thinking Fast and Slow by reminding his reader … Continued

In Search of the Perfect Swing

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Many years ago I signed up for a series of golf lessons with an instructor who insisted on the series approach to learning the game. He explained that golf was a “process,” and one needed to start at the beginning, with the grip, and continue step-by-step through the follow through before … Continued

What Not to Do

By Melanie Lockwood Herman It’s finally that time of year when new episodes of my favorite TV shows will be ready and waiting for late-night viewing. Like the nonprofit sector, Hollywood is adapting and learning to do less with less. The dramas we enjoyed during the eighties and nineties have been replaced with “reality” programs … Continued

Finding Danger in What Lies Beneath

By Melanie Lockwood Herman While I agree with the saying, “you can’t judge a book by its cover,” I’ve discovered that books with clever titles* are often great reads. I’ve been reading a fascinating new book this week titled “Slow Death by Rubber Duck: The Secret Danger of Everyday Things,” by Rick Smith and Bruce … Continued

The Long Shadow

By Melanie Lockwood Herman If you had an opportunity to tune into your local or national news yesterday you’ve probably already heard the news. When Punxsutawney Phil emerged from his burrow he saw his shadow. According to the legend associated with the world’s most beloved groundhog, the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club and, “If Punxsutawney Phil … Continued

It’s a Right Brain, Left Brain World

By Melanie Lockwood Herman During a long plane ride to Seattle last Thursday I made additional progress on my journey through Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, the latest book by religious historian Karen Armstrong. In the preface to the book Armstrong cites the research of Roger Sperry of the California Institute of Technology on … Continued

Beneath the Halo

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Author Duncan Watts’ discussion of “The Halo Effect” in his book, Everything is Obvious Once You Know the Answer led me to reflect on the halos that hover above nonprofit organizations. The Halo Effect is in essence a form of cognitive bias that alters our perception of people and things. The … Continued

One Enchanted Leader

“Not every enchanting person has your best interests at heart. Resisting enchantment, therefore, is a valuable skill that requires avoiding tempting situations, looking far into the future, and finding a devil’s advocate.” — Guy Kawasaki, Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions By Melanie Lockwood Herman I was pleased to learn that some … Continued

Getting Social

By Melanie Lockwood Herman As our team worked to put the finishing touches on the agenda for the annual summit we’re releasing today, we found ourselves incorporating themes from the thought-provoking book two of us have been reading: The Social Animal. In the chapter titled “Attachment,” author and journalist David Brooks discusses the correlation between … Continued

Money Matters

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Savvy nonprofit leaders recognize that the availability of financial resources is key to mission advancement. Money—plus appropriate human resources, strong stakeholder support and a compelling vision—add up to a nonprofit with places to go and problems to solve. And attracting financial support is only part of the picture. Today’s nonprofit CFO … Continued

Less Worry, More Happy

By Melanie Lockwood Herman While visiting family this week the subject of Bobby McFerrin’s song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” came up in a conversation about traffic on Cape Cod during the high season for visitors. “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” was released in 1988 and became the first a cappella song to reach #1 on the … Continued

The Perfect Ride

By Melanie Lockwood Herman “Riding on a motorcycle can make you feel joyous, powerful, peaceful, frightened, vulnerable, and back out to happy again, perhaps in the same ten miles. It is life compressed, its own answer to the question “Why?” — Melissa Holbrook Pierson, The Perfect Vehicle: What It Is About Motorcycles. On Sunday, September … Continued


By Melanie Lockwood Herman When a member of my family questions my somewhat eccentric father about a recent purchase, Dad’s standard response is “normal is boring.” Family members have learned that there is no point questioning any acquisition—whether it’s a vintage motorcycle found on eBay, or a fiberglass sailboat from Craigslist that is in desperate … Continued

Leadership Lessons from the First Century, BC

By Melanie Lockwood Herman On Christmas Eve I had the opportunity to watch Jon Meacham interview Pulitzer Prize winning author Stacy Schiff on the PBS program Need to Know. The less than ten minute interview peaked my interest and I took a short break from holiday preparations to order a copy of Schiff’s new book, … Continued

That Time of Year

By Melanie Lockwood Herman It’s “that time of year.” You know what I’m talking about. It’s the time of year when it is often hard to find an empty parking spot near the door of the neighborhood fitness center. Church attendance is up and restaurant menus are offering an impressive number of “light and fit” … Continued

Let’s Get Civilized

By Melanie Lockwood Herman This past weekend I had an opportunity to share my thoughts on the “Top 10 Risks Facing Nonprofit Organizations,” at a conference of dedicated staff and volunteer leaders. What makes a presentation on this topic fun for me—aside from the sheer impossibility of predicting the wonderful questions I’ll get from the … Continued

Is Your Board Ready for a Crisis?

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Last week I had an opportunity to speak about “Leading During Times of Crisis” at an event sponsored by Independent Sector, Georgetown Law and the Internal Revenue Service. As I prepared my remarks I reflected on the countless calls I have received over the years from board leaders seeking advice about … Continued

Are You Too Important to Fail?

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Many nonprofit organizations are created for the noble mission of serving others. But sometimes even the most giving organizations find themselves catering to a need that no longer exists. What then? Do you high-five your colleagues, shutter your doors and send your volunteers home? No. If you suspect that your mission … Continued

To Lead

By Melanie Lockwood Herman I am blessed to be able to witness the work of and work with many great leaders. Few days go by when I don’t learn from a member of my own board, from colleagues with whom I sit on other boards, or from members of the management teams and boards I … Continued

Inspired at the Front Line

By Melanie Lockwood Herman Front line leaders are key players in the delivery of programs and services in a nonprofit organization. With daily client contact, employees working in branch offices, chapters, local affiliates, community-based service sites or field offices work hard to bring the mission of a nonprofit to life. Those on the front lines … Continued

7 Risk Questions for the Board

By Melanie Lockwood Herman “Carpe diem . . . . The saying implores you to seize your pleasure, seize the pleasures of the world while they are still available to you. In this spirit, this effort to live in the moment, not the spiral of the past or the maze of the purely speculative, I … Continued

Risk and the Board: What Could Go Wrong?

By Melanie Lockwood Herman During my career I’ve reported to and served on some terrific nonprofit boards. And something I’ve learned first-hand is that no two nonprofit boards are exactly alike. From size, to focus to meeting format, nonprofit boards are perhaps best compared to snowflakes: each is different in some respects from the others. … Continued

It’s Hard to Talk about Child Abuse

By Erin Gloeckner and Melanie Lockwood Herman Child sexual abuse is so repulsive, that it is truly difficult to talk about. It is painful to admit that any person would harm a child in such a vulgar, intimate way. The sad truth is that we need to talk more about child abuse in order to … Continued

Risk Oversight: Who Dunnit?

By Erin Gloeckner When I first heard the term risk oversight, I imagined a risk manager following clues in a deerstalker hat like Sherlock Holmes. I thought risk oversight meant chasing down the villain who allowed the risk to materialize. But risk oversight is not about blaming people when downside risks materialize. Those responsible for … Continued

3 Risk Resolutions

By Alexandra Ricketts and Melanie Herman The beginning of a new year is a wonderful time to begin tackling a fresh set of goals. Whether your list of goals is personal, professional or related to the vision and mission of your nonprofit, we all have hopes and expectations for the coming year. In the paragraphs … Continued

Don’t Be Superstitious about Risk

By Melanie Lockwood Herman I’m a compulsive calendar checker. I no longer have a black, spiral bound desk calendar, but I consult my electronic calendar at least a dozen times throughout the workday. With the Ides of March approaching, I was reminded of the role that superstition plays in risk management. For example, during a … Continued

Set the Story Straight with a Financial Dashboard

By Erin Gloeckner Take yourself back to college math class; perhaps you studied statistics or calculus. You may have been one of the lucky few who aced every exam, but more likely, you had trouble staying awake during lectures. Numbers can be boring, confusing, and overwhelming when you’re not a math whiz. Still, nonprofit leaders … Continued

New Resources Emerge from Collaboration

A recent collaboration between ChoicePoint and the Nonprofit Risk Management Center has led to the creation of a Risk Management ToolKit for customers of ChoicePoint’s state of the art background checking services. As part of the company’s continuing efforts to help nonprofits effectively manage risk, ChoicePoint has launched a new Web site and toolkit. The … Continued

New Electronic Filing Requirement for Small Tax-Exempt Organizations

New Electronic Filing Requirement for Small Tax-Exempt Organizations Annual Electronic Notice — e-Postcard (Form 990-N) Striving to comply with local, state and federal laws is a first step in managing risk well. Acceptable excuses for noncompliance do not include: “I didn’t know.” The penalty for noncompliance may be financial, or in the case of a … Continued

Key Questions: Evaluating CEO Performance

Attorney Eileen Morgan Johnson has developed a list of key questions for the Board and the CEO that can be helpful in a CEO performance review process. Questions for the Board Did the CEO meet the goals that were agreed on between the board and the CEO at the beginning of the year? In what … Continued

“Let’s Work Together” – The Sweet Sounds of a Board-CEO Partnership

by Melanie Lockwood Herman and Erin Gloeckner On paper nonprofit boards and CEOs are required to work together. Typical CEO position descriptions include items such as: Keeping the board apprised of issues impacting the nonprofit’s mission and necessary to govern, Reporting to the board at regular meetings and other times as necessary, Executing contracts per … Continued

New Audit Standards May Feel Like a Foreign Landscape

Has your auditor given you a call about the new audit standards under Statement on Auditing Standards, No. 112 (“SAS 112”)? Officially known as “Communicating Internal Control Related Matters Identified in An Audit,” the new requirements will be unfamiliar to many nonprofits that receive a management letter identifying “significant deficiencies” or “material weaknesses” in internal … Continued

Financial Sustainability: The New Frontier

By Melanie Herman and Jessica Say Ensuring that adequate funds are available to support the mission of a nonprofit may be the ultimate challenge facing today’s nonprofit sector leaders. The clarion call to “diversify” an agency’s funding sources is often heard, but ultimately hard to achieve. Uncertainty about the ability of a nonprofit to finance … Continued

Friends, Not Food

Friends, Not Food By Melanie Lockwood Herman There are a host of memorable quips and conversations in the 2003 film Finding Nemo. One of my favorite moments in the film involves the strangely lovable shark, Bruce, and his epiphany about friendship at sea. Bruce reflects on the need to change his image by changing his … Continued

Happy Endings

By Melanie Lockwood Herman As another calendar year draws to a close, the subject of “endings” comes to mind. Every day across the U.S., nonprofit leaders experience endings of one kind or another. The departure of a long-time employee, the retirement of a board member, and the decision of a small commercial vendor to narrow … Continued

I Have a Complaint!

Let’s face it no one’s perfect, including nonprofit organizations created to support individuals, improve lives, and strengthen communities. Even with a dedicated leadership team and hard-working staff, mistakes are made, egos are bruised and things go wrong in the life of every tax-exempt, nonprofit organization. From time to time, individual stakeholders may be inspired to … Continued

Enforcing Board Member Responsibilities

By Melanie Lockwood Herman It’s impossible to be too grateful to a member of a nonprofit board. Volunteer board members donate countless hours to the causes and organizations they love. And many of the tasks for which the board’s attention is required seem distant from the compelling mission at the heart of the organization. Yet … Continued

Dysfunctional Characters Often Sit at the Board Table

By Eileen Morgan Johnson The character types described below are from “20 Dysfunctional Board Member Character Types,” by Eileen Johnson, Whiteford, Taylor & Preston, LLP. Reprinted with permission from the author. Board Chairs Dictator — The Chair as Dictator does not believe in seeking advice or input from fellow board members, staff or consultants because … Continued

Avoid Transition Trauma with a CEO Succession Plan

by Melanie Lockwood Herman and Erin Gloeckner CEO succession planning can be a touchy subject. Members of a nonprofit board may fear the risk of insulting a CEO by suggesting the topic as an agenda item. Some CEOs may feel disinclined to raise the subject because it could send mixed signals about their intent to … Continued

Big Bucks or Big To Do About Nothing: CEO Compensation in the Spotlight

by Melanie Lockwood Herman Published stories about salaries paid to nonprofit CEOs often include scathing comments from individuals who take offense at what they regard as too-rich pay for charity leaders. And it’s not only donors, journalists and casual onlookers who take offense to what they perceive to be exorbitant pay. Recently several state governments … Continued

What’s the Board Got to Do With it?

What’s the Board Got to Do With it? The Vital Link Between Good Governance and Risk Management By Melanie Lockwood Herman During my trip to Australia this summer I was surprised and delighted to see that risk management tops the list of key agenda items for a typical nonprofit board. At a conference for board … Continued

Have You Renewed Your Nonprofit’s Corporate Status?

Have You Renewed Your Nonprofit’s Corporate Status? Most states require nonprofit corporations to file an annual report with the state in order to maintain the nonprofit corporation’s good standing in that state. If you fail to submit the annual report, the state is unlikely to remind you. Instead, you may discover down the road that … Continued

Resources for Developing or Revising Conflict of Interest Policies

Resources for Developing or Revising Conflict of Interest Policies The following resources may be helpful in developing or revising a conflict of interest policy: Instructions to

Fiscal Responsibility and Oversight: Empower Your Board to Lead

By Melanie Lockwood Herman (This article is excerpted from the book, Financial Risk Management: A Guide for Nonprofit Executives. While it is rare in a mature nonprofit for a board member to perform day-to-day bookkeeping or financial management duties (such as making journal entries or signing checks), board members exercise overall responsibility for the fiscal … Continued