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Roy Jones: Well, welcome everyone to the Fit Fundraising podcast. We’re so glad you joined us, and today we’re going to continue our interview with Penny Kievet. Penny is a leader really in board governance around the country. She’s no stranger to the nonprofit world. If you didn’t hear our last broadcast, I hope you’ll back up and listen to that. You’re going to learn so much about running organizations and her management experience. But Penny has really got lots and lots and lots of experience, she spent 12 years at the city rescue mission, she’s retired in 2020 and now she’s out helping other non profits around the country do some amazing things she’s worked and served on non profit boards for more than 47 years, she currently serves on the board of feeding northeast florida, safe to hope and changing homelessness, Inc. So Penny, thank you so much for joining us we’re so blessed to have you and again, I’m looking forward to continuing this conversation on board governance. 

Penny Kievet: It is such fun to be here and hopefully people will understand why I’m so excited about this thing called policy governance.

Roy Jones: It really is and it’s different to think about. I’ve served on so many boards, I’ve advised boards, and I can’t tell you how many times I walk in the room. And what I see is really a working operational board that most of them are burnt out, looking for a way to get off because they’re doing the work that the staff should be doing, and when you started to articulate the real difference between a policy governance board and an operational board, just the light bulbs started to go off in my head take just a minute and pick up where we were in the last conversation with that topic. 

Penny Kievet: Sure I’d love to, There are probably 10 different kinds of boards, but when all is said and done you really only have two choices you can either have a policy board or you can have an operational board. I mean, I think what I said during our last episode is to think about it from a CEO standpoint and perspective. If you have an operational board, you have board members that are in your business all the time. Wouldn’t any of us much much much rather say, All right, here are the limitations that the board is giving me, and now I am allowed to move that however so that I meet what it is that the board has asked me to do, and we actually call that the board’s job is to create the ends and the CEO’s job is to create the means and it’s that simple and you can get into a whole lot of wishy washy stuff that takes you down a whole bunch of rabbit holes but when all is said and done, that’s what we’re looking at we’re looking at a group of people that can come together and create the ends for an organization, and then we’re looking for a great CEO that can take what those ends are, know what the board expects and actually implement what it is that needs to be done so that those ends can be met. Does that make sense? 

Roy Jones: That makes sense. It’s easier said than done though, isn’t it? For boards to kind of let go of the reins and let the CEO they’ve hired do their job. Talk to me about ways that have been done correctly and ways that are done incorrectly. 

Penny Kievet: Let me begin by saying that there are first of all this whole policy governance thing isn’t something that somebody just made up one day It was done after a great deal of research and the person that we need to give credit to for that is John Carver, he’s a Brit, but he lives in Atlanta now with his wife, Miriam, who is now also helping and has been for many years in his continued research on the value of policy governance. He actually made that first known in 1990 with a book titled Boards That Make a Difference. I like that topic, don’t you? I think it’s a great title. And here’s what he said. He said there are 10 basic principles if you want to be a board that makes a difference. Number one, the trust in trusteeship. You have to be able to own the organization on behalf of some identifiable ownership that helps them become accountable. Now, what does that mean? If it’s a public organization, it’s easy. Good and well that it’s the stakeholders are the people that own the organization, correct? 

Roy Jones: Yes.

Penny Kievet: Different in the nonprofit world, because who our owners are can change by organization. I used to be the CEO of a rescue mission. And so that rescue mission helped serve the homeless and the drug addicted. So who were our owners? Our donors were the owners, right? Our people that we served were the owners. If we didn’t do it well, they weren’t getting the help that we promised them, correct? So that’s the kind of line of thinking that you have to go through when you talk about the trust and trusteeship Is a little different in a non-profit than it is for a for profit. Secondly, the board speaks with one voice, in other words what happens is you keep that CEO from hearing from so many people.  I mean, there are some organizations around here that have 50 board members, our local symphony board has 50 people.  So, that is really a very difficult time for a CEO. So, the board speaks with one voice, they leave a board meeting, there aren’t sidebars out in the parking lot, they discuss their policy business during the course of that meeting and everybody goes home and feels really good because they’ve actually accomplished something during that hour, hour and a half instead of being frustrated because nothing was accomplished or that they don’t like the answers that the CEO gave to them. Number three, the board decisions should predominantly be policy decisions. So what do you do at a policy board meeting? You talk about policy, right? That makes sense. So what kind of policies? We’ll talk about that here. I hope before we’re done today, number four, policies are formed like stacking, mixing bowls. In other words, if you start with the big one, 

Roy Jones: They got to fit together 

Penny Kievet: And they nest, they nest. That’s exactly right. So you’re very general to begin with, and you get more specific as you go along, and you get more specific in those policies, depending on what it is that you’re setting forth for an executive director or the organization to be accountable for. Number five, the board should define and delegate. Oh boy, this is so good, rather than react and ratify. It’s not a board’s job to react and ratify or change what an executive director brings to a meeting. Our job is to define and we do that through a board policy manual, we delegate to the CEO because we know they’re going to take a good, good job, they’re going to do a great job of actually putting the right people in place to get the right job done.

Roy Jones: Well, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a CEO say to me I can’t do that the board might overrule me or the board this kind of pressure that’s created without even saying it. That anything they do, it could be questioned. 

Penny Kievet: That’s a really a hard one because that’s exactly what ends up happening. For instance, I have a board right now that I cannot convince them it is not their job to approve the employee handbook. It’s an internal issue. It is not a policy issue. Now there might be internal policies in that employee handbook. There probably are. How many days do you get vacation? What are the vacation days that are available or the holidays that are available, insurance, those kinds of things, but it’s an internal piece, it does not belong in a board meeting. Now, can it become part of an addendum to the board policy manual if you want an exhibit A, B, C, D? Sure, it could but do they need to have that? No. What they need to do is make sure that it’s being done by the CEO and that she or he is aware of exactly what’s happening with it. 

Roy Jones: Yeah, it’s interesting because it really is kind of the strategy or strategic, compared to the tactical or the operational and staying in the right lane.

Penny Kievet: How many boards put somebody to chair the gala event from the board? And I’m always perplexed why? With that organization is paying good money for someone to actually chair that. Does it mean that as a board member, I can’t put my volunteer hat on, which I can do, and I can sit on one of those committees if I’d really love to, because I just love doing galas. Yes, I can do that. With my volunteer hat on, not my board hat. Very different, very different situation. Number six, ends determination is a pivotal duty of governance. So describing and making sure that the CEO knows what the ends are is critical and in fact, Carver tells us that the very first area of four that we’re going to deal with in the board policy manual is called ends. 1.0 is going to be ends. Number seven, the board’s best control over staff members is to limit, not prescribe. So I already mentioned that our job is to prescribe as a good board, not prescribe. Number eight, boards must explicitly design their own products and processes. Why is a staff member taking minutes at a board meeting?

Roy Jones: Good question. 

Penny Kievet: Why is a staff member doing the agenda for a board meeting? We can go on and on about why is this path doing that? No, no, no, no, no boards must explicitly design its own products and processes. Number nine linkage with the CEO has to be empowering and safe. Don’t you love that much? Please know that I am so serious, that so many boards that I’ve served on, that is not the case. So part of the discussion that we have to have as we put out policy governance is how do you make sure that happens. And number 10, performance must be monitored rigorously. Oh, keyword monitored rigorously. Keywords to.

Roy Jones: Yes. 

Penny Kievet: So part of policy governance calls for the CEO to provide monitoring reports at every board meeting about very specific policies. 

Roy Jones: And that’s key, right? I mean, you have to determine what success is, and what are the measurements for achieving success? 

Penny Kievet: You got it. And there’s a bigger piece to that too, because a lot of people will say well, how do you know if they’re doing it? We’ve told them what they can and can’t do, but how do we know? Well, we do, we know because of their monitoring reports and that’s going to become a critical important for their overall evaluation. There is a calendar that when I work with a board and help them do their policy manual, we actually put a piece in the policy manual that takes us through however many board meetings I have policy governance says there shouldn’t be more than six if you’re meeting every month, then you’re in operations. It’s a real simple litmus test, so that’s first thing we do is move them away from every month meetings but if we’re good, and if we’re doing what we should be doing then what happens is that we can use that calendar so policy 2. 3 and policy 3. 4 are going to be monitored at the december meeting of a particular board that i’m serving on. And I even create the form for them that shows them what is a monitoring report? It’s what is the policy? What is your definition of the policy? How are you interpreting that definition of the policy? And where’s the data that shows you’re either in compliance or not in compliance for that particular policy? Now, is not in compliance a bad thing? Maybe, but it might not be either for instance, one of the boards I’m on right now was expecting a federal grant to come through. It did not. Which kept them from being able to be in compliance with the policy that we were monitoring as a board that month, and so that was part of the data and the explanation. She changed that after the money came through so that then she was in compliance. So it is not a punitive thing at all. What it does is it allows us to know, and there have been times where people will say, here’s how I interpret that policy and as a board, then we can come back and say, I don’t think that that was the intent of that policy when that policy was actually set forth. So let’s talk a little bit about that and maybe that’s changed or the circumstances have changed, whatever the case might be, but let’s make sure that we’re all clear on what we’re talking about when we talk about policy 3. 5 or whatever that policy, right? 

Roy Jones: Right. Wow. I mean, those policies, it’s really interesting. I hadn’t thought about it before but I’m moving forward after this meeting. The next time I get asked to serve on a board, the first question I’m going to ask is, how often do you meet? Because you’re right, if they’re meeting every month, they’re involved in tactical operational things that really aren’t dictating policy. 

Penny Kievet: Well, let me take a step further for you, Roy, for the next board that asked you to be a part of it. I do an assessment for the board. That’s one of the very first things I do when I know that the board is serious about moving to policy governance first, there has to be a little bit of conversion there, we need to make sure that they understand the benefits of moving to a policy board, right? But the next thing, or in tandem with, we need to always look at a self evaluation and here’s what I evaluate on. Foundations of the board structure and process. Is there a clear vision, mission. There’s like 17, 20 questions that deal with that. Executive leadership, there’s another 10 questions on that one. We have a clear definition of the type of CEO that’s needed for our mission and the future of our organization. We have mutually agreed upon, now this is an evaluation that’s done by each individual board member. So much better than saying, here’s what we’ve done last year and boy, are we ever good. This is saying, what do we have and what don’t we have that we need to have? Then I look at board committees. Now under Carver, he says, you shouldn’t have more than two committees. One should be a finance committee. They don’t do the finances. It’s not the CFO that does that, but they oversee and they work with the CFO and in the budgeting process, they are the ones that will say, I think you need to take that back to the drawing board a little more let’s see if we can’t shave off a little bit more in the area of X, Y, Z or they might say, you know what? Good job, and we’re ready to move forward with that but they are also responsible for the audit. If you look at most nonprofits, that’s not the case. Either the CFO is hiring that person? Or the CFO is hiring that person and that is such a no, that should never be the case, that is a board fiduciary responsibility so the board needs to be sure and take that on as their own.

Roy Jones: Very interesting. I hadn’t thought about that before, but you’re right. You want it to be an external set of eyes and conduct that audit process.

Penny Kievet: And selecting who the auditors are going to be,

Roy Jones: Because otherwise 

Penny Kievet: June’s best friend, 

Roy Jones: Right? Otherwise, it’s not really independent. Is it? 

Penny Kievet: You got it. So board committees, board meetings, what happens in a board meeting? Do people feel fulfilled? The number one reason why people right now they’re using zoom as an excuse is because we train them to do that during the pandemic, but the reason that people aren’t coming back to board meetings, it’s less than 15 percent are showing up in person everybody else wants that zoom call. I tell them get away from them No, that’s number one and number two I’ll guarantee you what we’re gonna see on this survey is that there’s not a reason for them to be there, they’re not getting anything from the conversation that’s happening during that board meeting, strategic planning and budget planning, fundraising and then there’s some others that I stick at the end because I didn’t fit into any of the other categories, but it’s a very thorough, very complete, very revealing, and it always, I have never had it not show up that, you know what, let me tell you how you can solve all those problems very quickly, and that’s moving to policy governance.

Roy Jones: Yes, it really is. This whole conversation excites me so much because it truly can transform an organization. I mean, it’s a total shift and will be a real reason organizations see explosive growth in programs as well as income. I’m so excited about what you’re doing and the thing I wanted to tell our listeners today: “If anyone hires Fit Fundraising to help them with training or development in 2024, if there’s a monthly contract involved, we’re going to bring Penny Kievet in at our expense to spend a full day of training with you and your board,  training on board governance. I believe this is so valuable. Penny Kievet will be part of Fit Fundraising’s program offerings in 2024.”  We’re so honored to have you part of our offering and we want people to get to know you better.  If somebody wants to reach out to you, contact you, what’s the best way to reach you, Penny? 

Penny Kievet: I’m going to give my phone number and an email address. So those are the two best ways. First, the email address K I E V as in Victor E T P E N N Y at gmail. com and phone number 904 545 9985 and I am the one that’s blessed, Roy, for being able to be here with you today and to be able to serve and help any board that would like to have further conversation. So thank you. 

Roy Jones: Well, we are honored again, please call Penny Kievet. If you have any questions about board governance, about really nonprofit management as a whole, she is a wealth of information, a great resource for you, Penny, that number one more time, your phone number one more time, please. 

Penny Kievet: 904 545 9985. Jacksonville, Florida.

Roy Jones: Call Penny and I’m telling you, you won’t be sorry. Penny, thank you so much for joining us today. It means so much to us and we’re looking forward to working with you and putting you in touch with our clients around the country, again just so honored to work with you again, all of our listeners thank you so much for joining us here at the fit fundraising podcast. Stay tuned, stay informed and truly, truly, truly stay plugged into what we’re doing here. You’re going to learn something new. I promise.

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