Fully-functioning Boards Bring Together Heart and Brains

Fully-functioning Boards Bring Together Heart and Brains

December 9, 2021
42 minutes

Luke Womack · Executive Director & Pat Mullen · Board Chair, The Go Fund | Luke Womack is an Executive Director with passion while Pat Mullen is a board chair on a mission. They're channeling their inspiration and motivation into no-budget-needed actions designed to take your board from barely breathing to fully functioning.


As a nonprofiteer, you know what it means to put your heart into something. Like, you KNOW know. But when it comes to missions of the heart, your board may not see it as clearly as you do.

Today, we'll get both perspectives: Luke Womack is an Executive Director with passion while Pat Mullen is a board chair on a mission. Funraise CEO and Co-founder-slash-nonprofit board member Justin Wheeler is talking to The Go Fund leaders to discover how they found their footing together and uncover their secrets to board efficacy.

And the best part? What Pat and Luke deliver is stuff that every nonprofit can do: you don't need a big board budget to build relationships, ask the tough questions, or recruit the people who have proven their care and interest in your organization. What you need is a board who's willing to show up.

Listen as Luke and Pat channel their inspiration and motivation into no-budget-needed actions designed to take your board from barely breathing to fully functioning.


Hello, I'm Justin Wheeler, and welcome to this episode of Nonstop Nonprofit!

As a nonprofit, you know what it means to put your heart into something. Like, you KNOW know. But when it comes to missions of the heart, your board may not see it as clearly as you do.

Today, we'll get both perspectives: Luke Womack is an Executive Director with passion while Pat Mullen is a board chair on a mission. I'm talking to these Go Fund leaders to discover how they found their footing together and uncover their secrets to board efficacy.

And the best part? What Pat and Luke deliver is stuff that every nonprofit can do: you don't need a big board budget to build relationships, ask the tough questions, or recruit the people who have proven their care and interest in your organization. What you need is a board who's willing to show up.

Listen as Luke and Pat channel their inspiration and motivation into no-budget-needed actions designed to take your board from barely breathing to fully functioning.

Justin Wheeler Hey, listeners, welcome back to Nonstop Nonprofit. Today, I'm excited to have two guests on the podcast, and the conversation is going to be about the dynamics of an executive team and how they interact with the board and vice versa. And so a while back, I posted something on LinkedIn. I'm going to read that real quick just to kind of set the backdrop for today's conversation. And this is what I wrote. I'm going to say this for the nonprofit board members in the very back. Get out of the way of the executive team. Your role is not to control. And if you aren't donating expertize or money or raising funds or introducing your networks, you don't belong on the board. Stop using this as a status symbol and start adding value or make room for someone else that can. I posted this on LinkedIn. And Luke, the executive director of The Go Fund, responded, and we had a great conversation and you had a great idea to actually bring their board chair, Pat, who was also on this episode to the conversation, so we can talk about this a bit more. So, Pat and Luke, welcome to the podcast. How are you guys?

Luke Womack Doing great. Glad to be with you.

Pat Mullen Yeah, I'm doing great. Thanks for having us.

Justin Wheeler Yeah, I'm excited to have this conversation today. I think it's it's an important conversation for nonprofits and for board members alike. Before we jump into that, I'd like if you both could give us a quick introduction. So Luke, tell us a little about yourself and how you landed and became the Executive Director at The Go Fund.

Luke Womack Yeah, thanks. So I graduated from college about 10 years ago with a degree in business administration. Honestly, I always thought I would start a for-profit because when you have a business degree, that's what you do. You definitely don't start a nonprofit. I think, I don't love the terminology because obviously we still seek to make a profit. We just, you know, distribute funds to, back into the mission, not to ourselves. So in any case, that was never really the plan. But yeah, just wanted to do something with my life that that really mattered. Starting a for-profit, obviously, can't really matter a ton in the community, but saw this angle that really made sense for me. You know, given my skill set and even lack thereof in some areas, just wanted to learn how I could help missionaries get overseas to places who had no access to the Bible and, yeah, realized student debt was a major issue for a lot of my peers who wanted to do that. If you don't know about missions, work and pay super well, that's not why people get to do it. So, yeah, on average, we pay about five thousand dollars a year for missionaries, you know, looking to go places, take the Bible where it's never been. So thought it was pretty meaningful and started from scratch in 2014. And here we are seven years later, doing the same thing.

Justin Wheeler That's awesome. I remember meeting you think I was at some event like early when you we're just getting started. And so it's been really cool to see that growth and just the clarity around your guys's direction as a nonprofit. So congrats on building it. It's not easy to build a nonprofit. It's much easier to build a for-profit. From my perspective, I've done both and I think nonprofit is just much harder. So, so congratulations there. Pat, as you're the chairman of the board at The Go Fund, wouldd love to hear your story as well, how you got involved and what you're what your role looks like on the board.

Pat Mullen Yeah. So I guess it was six or seven years ago, our friends were telling us that they were going to this vision dinner for an organization. So I thought I should rescue them from this Ponzi scheme they're getting involved in, but they kind of described it and they were like, No, you know, it's they're paying the student debts of missionaries. And so my wife and I were kind of intrigued, but both thought maybe they were selling soap or, you know, we were just kind of looking with a skeptical eye. But yeah, we went to this vision dinner and Luke got up and kind of explained the idea of this organization that was going to pay student debt. The loans of missionaries who are committed to going to these unreached people groups. And we were just super compelled by the idea. You know, they had three sets of missionaries up on the panel that they interviewed and said, Hey, if you are, you know, if you donate tonight, we're going to put that money directly towards those missionaries. So we were super compelled became, you know what the organization called champions, but just donors that night. Just continued to give for a few years and then just had a different level of interest. I guess we didn't. Yeah, I was always asking Luke, like, because, you know, the organization had this 100% model where 100% of your donations go to the actual cause. And I kept asking like, Well, like how are your, how's the actual like operations getting funded? You know, and Luke and I kind of became good friends. And so he was just like, Yeah, we try and raise that. We raise those funds separately. And so then we started wanting to give directly to the operation side of things just because it was like, well that's like the lifeblood of the organization. And you know, the organization is going to die of the operations, if the funds aren't there for that. So yeah, I think just giving through that, Luke saw we were more engaged than maybe like people who kind of come in the front door and want to give directly to the program. So he invited me onto the board and within, I think a year he approached and just said, Hey, I think you might be a good fit for the board chair position. Would you, would you be willing to do that? And I I didn't know, it was my first time ever being on a board. So let alone to, like, go from board to board chair, I was like, wow, I, I have a lot to learn. But like if you, you know, I kind of put my trust that if you think I'm going to be a good fit, like I'll give it a shot. So yeah, two years later, I'm still learning. But, you know, happy to do what I can to help.

Justin Wheeler The benefit of coming in with, you know, fresh eyes is you don't have to unlearn all the bad habits that we've created, you know, in the boardrooms of nonprofits. And so I love that you came in fresh, with a fresh perspective. Also, absolutely love that, you know, like we need more donors in the nonprofit space that look at sort of operations in the way that you described. It's the lifeblood of any organization. Organizations are going to make a significant impact, it needs to be well-funded operational. So I can already, I can see where this conversation is going to head in a very positive direction just with that type of mindset and so excited to kind of dig in here. Luke, a while ago, we talked on LinkedIn about the dynamics of a well-functioning board, and you mentioned that you have a very, very strong board. In fact, you look forward to the board meetings. And it wasn't always that way, you admitted, but you guys are in a place now where it's it's functioning the way a board should, very productively. So can you talk, unpack that a little bit for us? What do you mean by that? What does a well-functioning board look like in your perspective? If you could shed any, any light on that. That'd be really great.

Luke Womack Yeah. Honestly, I did it the wrong way for a long time. Like I mentioned, I've been waiting to go on for seven years, and I would say the main thing that allows us to have a well-functioning board, it comes right back to board member recruitment. And, you know, there are a lot of different things I could talk about, but I think it's really all about recruiting the right people. And I think often well-meaning Executive Directors or CEOs get this wrong. They really want a great board, but here's what they do. They look for titles, they look for the CEOs, CFOs and the CPAs, and they try to fill their board with experienced people. Now that can work really well, but can also significantly backfire. And the reason that backfires is because you have a bunch of people on your board with a ton of success and big titles, letters in front of their name and behind their name, but they don't care about your organization. And that becomes a huge problem because you don't have their hearts, right? You have their heads but you don't have their hearts. And these are not the types of people who are going to bleed for your organization. And so what we look for more than anything else, and it's maybe a little bit counterintuitive, but first, we're going to look for people who have demonstrated over time that they have a deep care for the organization, irrespective of the title that they hold. Both is nice, but if I could pick one all day, it would be people who have a deep care for the organization. And I could think of, like five must-have qualities that we're looking for in board members. There is nice to have qualities, but the must-haves are those that, if these aren't there, there's no way we would ever let them onto our board. So here are the five, number one you have to be connected to the organization. I just mentioned a moment ago. That's kind of the overarching quality. You have to have a demonstrated interest in the organization before you're nominated. So it's not like, Hey, I'm looking for a board member role, I'm shopping a bunch of different organizations. You've been connected to us, probably for a number of years and that brings me to the second thing. This is kind of evidence of that, if you will, you have to be a current donor. Like, we don't allow anyone onto our board who hasn't been giving to the organization for at least two years. And that's really painful sometimes. Because we'll have people become new donors. They've been a donor for six or 12 months, and think, gosh, I really like them on the board, but we're looking for longevity/. People who are sticking around. So you've got to be a donor of record, at least the last two years. And there's a principle that comes out of the Bible, I think really fits here. Comes out of Matthew 6:21 and it says, where your treasure is there, your heart will be also. And I think that's really true. You know, where people put their money, that's where their heart is also and where people put their heart, that's where they put their money. Those two really connect together. So we're looking for people who invest not just with their hearts, but with their dollars as well. Third thing is availability. I know it sounds kind of silly, but you got to be able to attend meetings. I mean, if someone is too busy, too involved in their career, either they can't show up to a meeting. I get it. But you'd probably be a better personal adviser. Maybe not a good board member for valuable skill set. I mean, we're looking for someone ideally who has some skill set. Maybe it's finance. Maybe it's fundraising, operations management, something that they can bring as a gift to the board. And I'll mention this too in terms of what kind of strengths make up. I don't know if you're familiar with strengths finder, but one of the domains is strategic thinking. Like more often than not, we're looking for people who have strategic thinking strengths, right? Strategic thinking is all about making better decisions, and the board is there in part to help me make better decisions. That's one of their functions. So we're looking for someone with a valuable skill set. And then the fifth thing which is especially relevant in 2020 and 2021, we're looking for a shared ability like we're looking for people who are known as good group decision makers, which is tough. People who will show up to the meeting lay down their swords, be willing to defer to the group and express their opinion, but also do what's best for the organization, even if the board disagrees with them. So I would say those five are kind of must-have qualities. And building a great board, I think it all comes back to recruiting the right board members.

Justin Wheeler Wow. Yeah, no, those five qualities are spot on. I love that. And you know, I want to kind of piggyback a little bit on this concept of strategic thinking. Because I think this is one of the greatest contributions a board can make is around being a strategic thinker for the organization. An example of when I was running Liberty in North Korea, we, you know, we were expanding our programs. And one of the programs we wanted to expand to, there was a lot of risk. We were operating in parts of the world that it was literally life and death sort of situations, and instead of the board pushing back on, expanding in these areas, which were absolutely necessary, instead they said let's have a conversation around protocols and policies that will help mitigate sort of potential risk. They became like thinkers and helped, you know, kind of strategize. They didn't try to discourage or say no, sorry this is just too much risk for us. Right? And so that type of strategic thinking, I think, is the most, most value. And Pat, I wanted to ask you as the chairman and as someone who's been on the board, do you feel like you guys have enough space, whether it's in board meetings or other opportunities to really be strategic thinkers and partners alongside Luke and the executive team?

Pat Mullen Yeah, I think when I first got on the board, we, you know, I mean, our board meetings are limited time, you know, so the way ours work, 4 hours every quarter. So at first it was like, you know, the first 2-2 1/2 hours are being devoted to like kind of like updating the board on what's taken place since the last meeting, kind of getting through some of the bureaucratic sides of things. And then we'd kind of shoved the strategic thinking space for maybe like an hour at the end or or we were just filling our meetings with just a lot, just too much stuff. We'd have a list of things that we wanted to get through and it was like, Man, you know, we've gotten, we have 10 things we want to get through and we're going to rush and try and get through everything. And we weren't having, like really meaningful dialog at the beginning. So, yeah, one of our board members said like, Hey, if you can e-mail anything that can be read in advance, don't do in the meeting. Like the financial reports, like yes, we need to look through the financial reports, but send them out in advance that way we're not like digesting them in the meeting. So anything you can digest ahead of time, like do it and we can do quick votes in the meeting. And that alone, the other thing that we did is rather than starting to, like, Luke would always update the board on, Hey, this is what happened since the last meeting. And it was just it was valuable to us, but it would fill up a lot of space. And so we said, Hey, like, let's do a bi quarterly update before the meeting, like something that people can read and we'll send that out. We'll kind of get all of that out of the way and. And so now we have like three solid hours of our meeting is devoted to strategic thinking and we'll pick at most two topics. So we'll have like, you know, an hour to an hour and a half of really kind of unpacking one topic. And that has made a world of a difference in our meetings. We have so much time to just have space to think, not feel rushed to get through the topic. And everybody really, really contributes well. I try and like, I'm trying to understand who's, you know, who has what strengths inside the meeting. So sometimes I'll ask questions like, Hey, what? What do you think of that? Or, you know, hey, if you are to be devil's like if you were to be devil's advocate, like how would you poke holes in that to try and get some good conversation flowing and Luke's great at that, too? So, yeah, to answer your question like our strategic part of the meeting is like three hours and it's awesome, it's awesome conversation.

Justin Wheeler That's awesome. And Luke when you and I had talked earlier and you talked about, you know, the way sort of like it used to work was, you know, it was you talking for the most part, for the most of the time. And then like the last, however many minutes or whatever was kind of carved for like bigger conversations, which there was obviously never a time that, you know, with boards that I've been a part of, too. That's very much been the case. I think I've been on the other side of the boardroom, you know, on the executive team and we have this sort of like desire to make sure that our board knows everything, all the especially all the good things that that we've accomplished in the last quarter. Right. You know, we kind of treat board members to an extent as like donors, and we're still trying to like show our best. When we really optimize our board was when the board actually saw the underbelly of the organization, the challenges, the complications, you know, the big questions that we didn't have answers to, but at times early on, we're too afraid to bring them to the board because we were like, Oh, is this going to like going to discourage their interest in the organization? Are going to have are they going to have less confidence in the leadership? But when we, you know, we take a step back, we say, no, this is exactly what the board is for. This is exactly the expertize that we're looking for. It totally changed the dynamics. Sounds like your story is similar. So maybe if you could share a little bit from your perspective on how you identified that in your board meetings and then how you transition to this more strategic meeting approach?

Luke Womack Yeah, my top mentioned I had a board member who approached me after meeting one day a couple of years back and she said, Hey, you know, I just want to be straight with you. The board meetings are really bad and this is out of love, right? You know, faithful are the wounds of a friend. So she wounded me, but she did it for a reason. And she said, I can help you, but we got to sit down and talk about it. And effectively, it is what Pat was saying. It was a We're not here to listen to you. We're here to help you. And if you're just going to get up and talk and give us an update, send us that via email. We want that stuff, but we're here to solve problems. And so we shifted to kind of like a postmortem perspective. So you've heard about pre-mortem? I'm sorry, a pre-mortem perspective. You've heard of a post-mortem that's like, you know, someone dies. You know, you're doing an analysis of what was the cause of death. The pre-mortem is like if the organization was to die or to suffer some type of loss, why would that happen? How would that happen and how can we prevent that? So we're talking about potential issues before they happen? Instead of just reporting out good stuff that's happened in the past. So that's shifted a ton. And I think a big piece of that, Justin, is trust. So trust is simply confidence and someone else's character and their competence. And so building relationships with the board is critical. So I want to harp on this real quick. I think one of the primary jobs of an Executive Director is to spend time with individual board members. So if the only time you're seeing board members is at meetings, you're doing it wrong. My target is to visit in person or virtually if in-person isn't possible. To visit with every single board member once per quarter? And that's outside of the board meetings, so that takes a lot of time. I would say, you know, Executive Directors, CEOs need to be spending maybe 20% of their time on board-related activities. And here's what that does. When I stand in front of the board and I'm giving an update, I'm doing a presentation, I'm participating in a conversation that our chair is leading. I can be honest with them because we have a relationship. I know that they have confidence in me. I have confidence in them because we've already built the relationship outside of the meeting, not just for the five minutes before the meeting starts. So that's a big piece of it is developing good trust, so you can be honest in your reporting.

Justin Wheeler No. Yeah, that's good advice. I think a lot of times board members, you know, they kind of get the assumption from the leadership team can often be other. They're pretty invested like they sitid on the board. So I don't need to cultivate that. These relationships, like I would maybe with some other, you know, major donors and so forth. And so but again, like when you have the opposite of a well-functioning board can be a detriment to the organization. It can slow the organization down. It can slow its growth. And so, you know, it's definitely developing a board that's high functioning is definitely a growth mindset. It's going to help the organization grow and pat. So from your perspective on the board. What do you see in Luke or other leaders that gives you the confidence to continue in your duties, right? Because I think like there are times when like it could be hard for a board member to either leave an organization, maybe when they lose confidence or lose faith in, like the leadership. What is Luke and his team do that instills confidence? You've been around for a while, you start off as a donor and have continued to get more and more involved. So what is it about Luke's leadership that gives you and the rest of the board a lot of confidence? Keep on. Showing up to the board meetings and going above and beyond.

Pat Mullen Yeah, I'm trying to think back like just from starting out as a donor, like what? What attracted us to the organization to begin with? And it was, yeah, Luke was so intentional about number one, spending time with the people who are connected to the organization, whether it was even just like a small connection, you know, a small donation or something like more significant. He would personally reach out to everyone that was getting connected to the organization. You know, if you sent a donation and it was like, Man, he's on the phone with you. Oh my gosh, thank you so much. It's a card in the mail. Thank you so much. Like a handwritten note like my wife and I have given to other organizations, you know, just because we're like, Wow, you know, that sounds like a great mission that they're doing. We never hear back from anybody. Nobody ever contacts us from the organization. So it's like there is so much intentionality of connecting that with everybody who's a part of the organization. And it really makes you feel like, wow, you're in this big family together, and we've never had that experience with anybody else. So, yeah, I would say that's probably the largest thing is just his ability to connect with people. But then, yeah, secondly, he takes criticism so well, he's hungry for criticism. So, you know, it's not like some CEO who kind of has a hot head and says, Hey, I got this ship taken care of. Like, Don't worry about what I'm doing, you know, kind of stay out of, like he is constantly like, Hey, where are the flaws in this thinking? Like, poke holes in it? Like, Let's put the idea over here and let's all attack it with our best shot and see if it can withstand. So he's not getting offended at the criticism. He's really welcoming it.

Justin Wheeler Yeah, it sounds like, you know, a lot of leaders that I've talked with and have worked with, you know, that like the fear of that vulnerability can be perceived as a weakness, right? And so a lot of leaders just kind of like, you know, I've got it figured out, you know, I'm leading the ship, I'm going to make the calls, that type of thing. But really, it's just like, you know, leading with humility is, I would argue, one of the strongest positions you could lead from. And it looks like that's exactly what's happening here. As as you know, most of our listeners are nonprofits are Executive Directors, CEOs, we do also have board members that listen as well. And so for those that are listening and are thinking about as we go into 2022 or, you know, as we think about the next year, we want to really develop and optimize our board to be, you know, the best functioning you that it can be for our success. So any like last tips that you would share or any advice that you would give to help Executive Directors and board members alike just to be able to drive the organization through a better, well-run board? Luke, I'll let you go first and then we'll end on Pat.

Luke Womack Absolutely. I would say a couple of things. Number one, clarity on roles. I think one of the main reasons that the Executive Directors and boards get in trouble is you don't know who's doing what. So here's a deal, you have the same objective. It's called the mission right. You just have different roles. It's like a coach and a quarterback, right? The coach never actually steps on the field, even though he wants to win the game, right? But he and the quarterback are meeting on the sidelines talking about the game. But then they have different roles, you know, once the clock starts. I've heard it said before about board members that they to keep their noses in the business and their fingers out. And that's really how Pat operates and how our board operates. They're kind of sniffing around to see, you know, what is it that could go wrong? You know what is it that maybe already is going wrong? But when it comes to operations, and getting your hands dirty, they let me and they let the staff take care of that. And that's really refreshing and it builds a lot of trust. So in terms of, you know, the board and the Executive Director relationship, I'm really that liaison between the board and the staff. It's really an hourglass structure where the boards at the top, you know, I'm in the middle and then the staff reports to me, and they really respect that. They're not jumping down and talking to the staff. The staff isn't really talking to the board. You know, sometimes that happens just for relationship building, but there's a lot of clarity there. So I would say this, in terms of the functions of each role, Pat has really helped me see this, and he's offered clarity in the relationship. But board members really do three things. They number one, protect the mission. Number two, they hire and evaluate the executive director. That's me, and they ask tough questions, right? So as we're sitting down in a meeting, their primary thing they're doing, the protecting the mission. Is this on mission? Is this mission drift? They're evaluating me. They're asking me really tough questions. Like Pat mentioned, if I'm resistant to that, that makes their job really hard and then the evaluation of the executive director is going to be, going to be pretty bad. If I'm not listening to them. On the other side, the main functions of an executive director, I'm in charge of building a team. Raising resources and fundraising. I'm ensuring the operations are excellent and smooth and helping to fulfill the mission. And once Pat and I saw, hey we have actually distinct roles that are both important. I mean, it really helped smooth the years for organizational growth. And in terms of my relationship with Pat, we should be spending more time together than I spend with any other board member. So how did I meet every other week? So that's what twenty-four meetings a year. And yeah, we're walking through, you know, board agenda, preparations. He's checking on me personally, seeing how I'm doing, asking about unique challenges in the organization. So Pat knows more about the organization than anyone besides our staff. I mean, he really is in tune with what's going on day to day, not because he's getting his fingers in it, but he wants to be able to report back to the board on what's going on and lead the conversation well. And I'll finish with this, I've heard it said that the number one threat to an organization is, and this is going to sound peculiar because you would think of one hundred other things before this, but I think there's something here, the number one threat to an organization very well could be lack of communication between a board chair and the Executive Director.

Justin Wheeler Hmm, that's good. That's, I mean, I definitely have seen that the breakdown of that happen on boards that I have been a part of. And so that', I've never heard of that, that saying before, but definitely I can see, I can definitely see the strength of it. The other thing I wanted to comment on was just the thing you mention at the top of the response, which was around clarity of roles, right? And this is something like about two years ago, a board that I sat on, we went through this like this consultation process on how to better serve the organization. And one of the biggest sort of like takeaways was this whole notion of clearly identifying each board member's role, whether it's committees or a specific function. And what happened after that was established is the board started meeting outside of board meetings, right? To like talk about the specific things that they were working on. And so when board meetings came, it also allowed board members to be much more collaborative because they were having conversations on the side that were sparking, you know, other conversations and questions and so forth. And so the clarity of roles is so important. It keeps the board on track, in their lane, if you will, to really operate the way they should. Pat, I'll give you a few minutes as well to respond to that question. Any additional insight that you have.

Pat Mullen Yeah. So I want to I wanted to give like a few really tangible things that I feel like your listeners might, might be able to glean from. So number one, I would like meet bi-weekly with your Executive Director, if you're in the board chair seat. Like that relationship is so critical. So the more often that you can meet as the board chair and the Executive Director, like form that relationship. Like Luke and I are good friends outside of the organization, which helps, it helps immensely. But if you don't have a friendship necessarily with the Executive Director like meet, meet often and form a relationship with that person. Secondly, I would read this, it was so huge for me, The Board and The CEO by Peter Greer. That is where I got, I mean, Luke was the one that suggested it, but it's where we found, Hey, what are the three functions in the board? Because being on the board, I'm like, What do I do? Like, I've never been on a board before. Now I'm in the board chair position like I don't know what value I'm supposed to bring to the organization. And he makes it so clear that it's those three things. It's protect the mission. At all costs. So like anything inside a board meeting like that is our focus. Is this mission or what like what is the mission about? Yeah. Hiring and evaluating the CEO and asking the tough questions. So during that strategic discussion, like really poking holes. So that's at the top of our agenda, that's what we put as, hey, here are the three things that we do here in this board meeting. And so we need clarity on that role as the board. Yeah, I would say to your listeners, like evaluate your agenda. If you're not enjoying your meetings, take a look at your agenda and figure out like, what are we spending the most time on and what's really wasted and how can we get that out of the meeting and maybe in some sort of like a month, you know, a quarterly update? Or maybe it's an email that people can just respond to, but try and get like as much waste out of your meetings as you possibly can, so you can focus on strategic discussion. And I'd say the last thing, and this is something that Luke has come up with, but it's been amazing tool, it's been an amazing tool, is he, he comes up with his own scorecard and he says, here are the things that I am going to get done this year. And it's it might be a list of 10-20 things. You know, it's Hey, I'm going to meet weekly with my executive team. I am going to meet monthly with 20 donors and have a personal relationship with 20 key donors. You know, so he has a very tangible list of here are the things that I'm going to do this year. And at the first meeting of every month, we go through his scorecard, Luke and myself, we look line item by line item at that scorecard, and I put a zero if he missed it in an X, if he got it. And so every month we're tracking, Hey, are you getting done, the things that you've committed to the board that you're going to get done? And we get to keep him accountable. And that makes it, you know, at the end of the year, we get to reward him or, you know, give him a slap on the wrist. And fortunately, we haven't had to do that. So yeah, so if you can come up with a scorecard like what are you going to get done as the executive director and submit yourself to be accountable to the board, I think that would go a long way.

Justin Wheeler That's great advice, great advice. The accountability that, what I love about that, obviously, is just the accountability to the goals that have been set. But what I also love is that, you know, Luke, I would imagine it with your team are setting those goals and it's not the other way around. We're like the board who doesn't have like the day-to-day knowledge of like what's going to be the most impactful, right? Because I've seen this a lot of times boards will set goals for the executive team and they're just not aligned with internally where the organization is actually going, which is a problem in and of itself. But I love that the ownership still falls on the executive team to make the goals. To understand this is what's going to drive us closer to the mission and the board's there to support and offer help and so forth. So that's great advice. All right, so, Luke, another question that I've thought about and I think we discussed this a little bit as well, but the role of the board chair, right? I mean, there's all sorts of different roles that board members play, but I think the board chair is obviously a very important role. And so can you help us understand why that role is so important? And also like what makes a good board chair? Like what, what are their core responsibilities from your perspective?

Luke Womack Yeah, you know, I think there are really a couple of different stages of organizational growth. There's kind of the movement stage where the board works for the Executive Director, and that's pretty typical. That's how most organizations start, you know, the Executive Director is this visionary and they're kind of sharing about the organization and selling at board meetings in some ways, but then it shifts to less of a movement and more of an established organization where the board is working with the Executive Director. And that's a stage in which I think everything shifts and you really can run mature board meetings. And for me, the primary shift that happened when we kind of moved away from the movement stage into the organization stage is instead of me leaving the board meetings as the Executive Director, the board chair was leading the board meetings and I was showing up as a participant. Like that shifted everything because it communicated to the board that the board chair is the leader of the board and the Executive Director is the leader of the organization. And that really helped me be accountable to the board. It really helped the board to drive board-centric initiatives like developing a board policy manual. And how can we work with the CEO, not simply work for him, if that makes sense? And I would say a couple of things that are unique about Pat, our board chair, that really helped me to lead well and serve the board well is primarily he's empowering. Pat is a wonderful leader, and the main reason is he's empowering. So he's not like trying to control me. He's not getting his fingers in the business. He gives me a ton of space to do what I think is best for the organization. And man, his default answer is yes. So when I share ideas and thoughts with him, he does everything he can to say yes, and obviously, he says no. Sometimes the I don't think that's a good idea or that's high-level enough we should take it to the board. But he gives me a really long leash. I would say he's empowering. He's also really teachable, doesn't claim to have it all figured out. He's constantly growing, rapidly applying feedback, listening to input. So at the end of every board meeting, we do a board meeting rating, so every board member goes around and rates the meeting 1 to 10. And that's primarily an evaluation of the board chair because he's leading our meetings. And you know, when we started doing that, you know, he was getting, you know, sixes and sevens and now most, most board meetings, now that he has, you know, a bit of experience, is getting nines, I think he got to 10 the other day. And so kind of putting these in place, applying some of these practices, he leads stellar board meetings that people actually love to be a part of. And I will say the last thing that makes Pat a really good board chair is that he's really confident and self-assured. It never feels to me like he's competing with me for attention, and he's fine letting other people be the hero. And he's certainly not like seeking an identity in his board chair title, but he really cares about the organization deeply. And that's one of the things that makes him not just a great board chair, but a great board member as well.

Justin Wheeler That's great. Pat, what would, real quick here, what's the difference between a 6 and a 10 board meeting? What like, you know, how do you go from 6 to 10? Like what? What's the secret?

Pat Mullen That was it was not feeling, not trying to crowd the meeting space with like so much garbage. I mean, might be important stuff, but it was like, you know, I had like the six meetings, you know, it was I filled the space so tightly that there was no room to breathe. And the 10s are I reluctantly pulled all of that stuff out of the agenda and said, it's not super important. Like maybe it is important, but like maybe we'll accomplish it through some emails. And I took so much out of the agenda where it was a little bit uncomfortable, like, wow, we're going to probably wrap this meeting up in like an hour and we're going to have three hours and people are going to think it's a waste. And those have been the best meetings when we've taken so much stuff off the agenda and focus, maybe, on one or two big strategic topics and just had a ton of breathing room for people to think, not feel pressured, to move to the next item. And those have been awesome meetings.

Luke Womack Pat, I would say the jump was from for you as tactical to strategic. So previously, the conversation was tactical. Those are like low-level questions, action steps. It's like, Hey, what financial appeal should we make at this conference or what venue should we pick for, you know, a meeting? It was less of that, and it shifted more to big-picture strategic issues like should we add another program or how should we align strategically with an outside organization? Or do we need to change our mission statement like those are two to three-hour conversations? And any time he leads, I would say the bigger, the strategic topic that he's leading, the higher the meeting writing is at the end. Like, that's what board members want to talk about is these big-picture strategic conversations. And he does such a good job of bringing those in and leading the conversation.

Justin Wheeler That's, that's great. And I think those conversations are easier to have in that type of setting, to your point when the chair is leading it. Because they're not going to be like so inundated with the day-to-day of the organization. That's not what's on top of mind. They're going to be thinking in one year, two years, three years out. And so it's just going to it's going to be a lot more conducive to those types of conversations. The best and I think about like my experience on a board, the meetings that I walk away from, I'm like, Man, that was like, that was the best meeting we've had. It's when everyone is participating, when everyone is talking, when everyone's collaborating, right? I've been in plenty of board meetings where it's been the opposite, where it might just be the ED talking for the majority of the time. And so that definitely resonates from my own experiences as well. And that's super practical feedback. For those listening, I would really encourage you if you're an editor or CEO that's running your board meetings, give it a shot. Like talk to your chair. If you don't have a chair, nominate a chair and have your chair take on the meetings and see how that changes the dynamics of your board meetings. Again, Luke and Pat thank you so much for your time. It has been such a pleasure speaking to both of you. Good luck with taking the organization to the next level, and I look forward to seeing the growth in many years to come.

Pat Mullen Thanks, Justin.

Justin Wheeler Have a great one.

Pat Mullen You too.

Justin Wheeler See you guys.

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