Michigan Women's Foundation, 17177 North Laurel Park Dr., Suite 445, Livonia, MI 48152
telephone: (734) 542-3946; fax: (734) 542-3952; http://comnet.org/mwf
Center for Women, 25 Sheldon Blvd., SE, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49503
telephone: (616) 742-2389; fax: (616) 459-8460

Michigan Women's Foundation
Women's Road Map
The Newsletter of MWF's Management Assistance Program
October - November 1991


Don't Dump -- Delegate: The purpose and benefits of effective delegation are often lost because managers engage in indiscriminate "dumping".

Here are some problems associated with dumping:

  • Dumping is typically done on the spur of the moment. "Here, Pat, take care of this for me" or "I forgot about that meeting. Go and tell me what happens."
  • Dumping usually does not take into account special skills, abilities and interests. The bottom line then is resentment on the part of the person selected.
  • Dumping ignores the need for information, coaching and preparation for the tasks involved. It's a sink-or-swim approach -- and the drowning rate is high.
  • Dumping usually reveals an anxiety to get rid of a problem by simply giving it to someone else.

    To delegate effectively you should:

  • Carefully select the person to whom you delegate an assignment.
  • Assign the authority -- and the support -- to get the job done.
  • Agree on standards of performance and establish checkpoints.
  • Delegate the "what" not the "how."
  • Assess the risks and provide for them.
  • Encourage independent action.
  • Give recognition when deserved.
  • Take action when things go wrong.

    Source: Dr. Roger Fritz, Roger Fritz & Associates, Inc., 500 Technology Drive, Suite 104, Naperville, IL 60563, cited in communication briefings.


    Grant Applicant, Where are You?: We recently completed a preliminary review of over 80 letters of intent from organizations seeking grants from MWF. One mistake that a surprising number of applicants made was failing to give a mailing address and phone number for their organizations.

    MWF staff usually manage to get this contact information one way or another; however, last year, we were never able to notify one applicant of our decision regarding a grant. WE cannot give an application serious consideration, when we have no way to contact the applicant to ask questions, to get further information or to arrange a site visit.

    This mistake seems to happen most often in two circumstances: the application is made on plain paper rather than agency letter head, which normally carries both the address and phone number; or the agency is a women's shelter, which commonly leaves the address off the letterhead for security purposes.

    Before you send your next grant proposal off to a potential funder, make sure that the funder will know where to ind you to give you the good news or the bad.

    Board Development

    Nonprofit organizations of every size and purpose share common questions about how to make board membership a mutually satisfying experience for those who volunteer and for the organization itself. Every organization needs to take the time on a regular basis to see how (and sometimes if) the board is working. If, as is often the case, there is room for improvement, there a re some fairly simple things that can be done.

    When the MWF staff consults with women's nonprofits around board issues, the most common concerns are:

  • confusion over the role of a volunteer board of directors
  • The need to recruit more board members
  • what to do about inactive board members
  • how to involve board members more effectively in fund raising.

    The Role of the Board: There is no reason to expect people to understand what it means to be a board member of your nonprofit organization unless the job is defined clearly. Some new board members may never have service on any board; and others may have learned things on other boards that are incorrect or that don't work well in your organization. Ask your board members to work together to develop a one page job description that spells out:

  • The organization's mission and a statement in which board members are asked to support the mission and develop policies to help carry it out.
  • The approximate monthly time commitment expected of the board members. Include the board and committee meetings, telephone time, fundraising and any other commitments you can think of. In most cases, the average time commitment will probably be 6-10 hours a month. Spell out how often the board meets and how long meetings last. Do you have an annual board retreat? Is everyone expected to attend special events?
  • Expectations about committee service. In many organizations, board members are asked to serve on at least one committee in addition to attending board meetings.
  • The board's understanding about personal financial contributions. The amount expected need not be specified, but it is important to include some understanding that every board member is expected to contribute money as well as time and expertise. (A total dollar goal for board gifts should be the first line item in your fund raising income budget each year.)
  • The clear understanding that all board members will participate in fund raising in addition to their personal contribution. (More on this later.) You board job description may include other commitments (such as being a supportive voice for your organization within the community, which means being sufficiently familiar with goals and programs to be an effective advocate). You may wish to write the description as a contract, in which the organization promises certain things (timely information, ongoing training, recognition, respect) in return for the board member's commitment. The important thing is that the document reflect the real commitments needed from board members, and that everyone agrees to take such commitments seriously.

    Recruitment: The job description, together with a good basic package of background materials including by-laws, financial information and program descriptions, will help to recruit new board members and will demonstrate your organization treats board membership seriously. It will also help to avoid misunderstandings later. (Sometimes, in their anxiety to recruit new members, volunteers and even staff downplay the commitments. How many directors does your organization have who were told, "Oh, you won't have to do much..."?)

    Before setting out to recruit, the current board should make a list of what attributes they want new board members to possess. While belief in your cause is important, it isn't enough to qualify someone as a board member. What skills do you need? (Examples: law, finance, personnel, education.) What age groups and ethnicities should be included in your board? What parts of your community do you want to connect with? (Examples: political leadership, the business sector, health organizations.) Be proactive in your recruitment and be selective. Interview community leaders for suggestions and don't forget to talk with human resources professionals, who often have the best overview of the talent in the organization and who are not yet committed to a lot of other volunteer activities. You want people who will make your organization their principal cause, not people who sit on every other board in town, no matter how famous they are.

    Don't leave recruiting to chance. Make appoints to discuss your organization with prospects and be sure they are comfortable with the commitments you are asking for.

    (Note: This is Part I of a two-part article to be continued in the next issue of Women's Road Map. Part II will address "Inactive Board Members" and "Boards and Fundraising").

    Fund Raising

    For More Compelling Fundraising Letters: When writing a fund- raising letter...

  • Peg your appeal to a current news item if possible. Readers will contribute more readily if they feel they can help solve a pressing problem covered by the news media. Also, your appeal will gain believability and urgency.
  • Come up with a "villain" that will anger your readers. Let them vent that anger by contributing. Caution: Avoid personal attacks on an individual. Instead, attack the perceived bad policy or program of your opposition.
  • Find an emergency your readers can respond to. But don't create a false one, because they'll see through it. Effective emergencies usually contain deadlines that give people a reason to "act now." Example: a piece of legislation that will be voted on by a certain date.
  • Be sure your readers will feel their contribution will help solve the problem you've outlined. Don't overstate your case and give the impression that no solution is possible. People want to get behind winning causes.
  • Reward your readers for taking time to read your letter. Share some inside information. Offer some new facts. Make the letter interesting or fun to read.

    Source: Maximum Gifts by Return Mail, by Roland Kuniholm, Fund Raising Institute 12300 Twinbrook Parkway, Rockville, MD 20852, cited in communication briefings.


    Donated Computer Software and Other Products: Gifts in Kind America is a clearinghouse not only for very low- or no-cost computer software but also for many other products of interest to nonprofits, including personal care products, building supplies, household items and office supplies. The program is currently the sole distributor for donated software from the Lotus, Aldus and Microsoft companies. In the near future, the program will become a distributor of clothing donated by apparel manufacturers. All products are available on a first come, first served basis.

    Nonprofits can take advantage of this program in one of two ways. First, contact your local United Way, which in amy areas of the country is the distribution point for the Gifts in Kind program, to find out how to access the program through that agency. Second -- if you have no local United Way or it doesn't participate in the program -- you can apply directly to Gifts in Kind America for membership to the program. A modest fee is involved, ranging from $50 for agencies with budgets below $1M to $200 for agencies with budgets above $3M.

    For further information, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to: Attn. Mefula Fairley, Gifts in Kind America, 700 N. Fairfax St., Ste. 300, Alexandria, VA 22314, or call 703/836-2121.

    Financial Management

    Helping Your Board Understand Financial Statements: A new booklet entitled Understanding Nonprofit Financial Statements illustrates basic financial concepts that all board members should understand. The 25-page booklet, by John Paul Dalsimer, is available for $6.25 plus $2 shipping, from the National Center for Nonprofit Boards, 2000 L Street, N.W., Suite 411, Washington, DC 20036 (202/452-6262).

    Need Help?
    Do you have questions on fund raising, infrastructure, financial management, grantseeking, legal issues, personnel issues, leadership or other management issues? Drop us a line and we'll do our best to find and publish the answer.

    Women's Road Map is a publication of the Michigan Women's Foundation. Published bi-monthly and free of charge as a project of MWF's on-going Management Assistance Program, this newsletter is designed to improve the management of women's organizations and, thus, enable them to compete more successfully in the nonprofit world. 1991 publication is made possible through a grant from the Chrysler Corporation Fund.

    General Notes
    MWF was founded in 1986 as a way to increase support for programs and projects that empower Michigan women and girls . In addition to the Management Assistance Program, MWF uses donor's contributions to make grants to a variety of women's organizations and works to increase public awareness of the needs of Michigan women and to encourage other foundations, individuals and the corporate community to increase their support of women's programs.

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