Honoring Board Members

Three Ways to Cultivate a Positive Board Culture

If you have ever been involved with a nonprofit organization, you know the impact of a positive culture among the Board of Directors.  How does a great organization keep positive, productive board members?  Here are three ideas for your consideration.

Present board members

Let them participate. Plan board meetings to include plenty of discussion time.  Humanitarian Social Innovations (HSI)Portrait of business people discussing a new strategy at a seminar started a tradition of also asking for closing comments at each board meeting.  Before the final gavel, each board member in turn shares observations and thoughts that were unspoken during the meeting, but are for the good of the order.  This reinforces that each member’s perceptions and ideas have value for the whole board.

Future board members

Let them test the waters-Make opportunities for potential board candidates to volunteer on a committee.  Your organization gets to know a potential board member and that person gets a sense of the organization.  If you are lucky, these future board members will give you some great feedback along the way and will grow in anticipation of the time when they can contribute as an elected board member.

Past board members

Let them stay connected-A beloved, tenured college professor who can no longer teach becomes a professor emeritus. At HSI we apply this concept to our Board of Directors. Active board members in good standing may, at the completion of board service, be nominated for the Emeritus Board. These honorary, nonvoting board members may attend board meetings or committee meetings if they like, or stay on as committee members. They may serve in many other ways throughout the organization. The positive cultural message is that their service was meaningful and appreciated, and the organization would like to keep them close by.

How do you keep a positive culture on your Board of Directors?  Share your ideas!


Upcycled Business Cards

IMG_3975These business cards are unique! If you are an entrepreneur who has faced a networking event hoping you and your new venture will be noticed in the sea of networkers, you may want to give this a try. Or perhaps like HSI, your business uses sustainable processes wherever possible.  Either way, these upcycled business cards get the job done.


Whether these cards are upcycled or recycled is a discussion for another post.  For now, we will use the “u” word.

Yesterday’s Discards, Today’s Cards

These cards are printed on the inside of discarded record album covers. Each album cover provides stock for about two dozen professional-weight business cards. Like snowflakes, there are no two exactly alike. At networking events they can allow the bearer to connect with others quickly.  You may find that people will come across a room to ask for your card.

IMG_3976The best part is that the back of the card becomes a conversation starter. You do have to use some discretion in professional settings. (This card is better saved for a friend.) Once you connect with a person in casual conversation, it is easy to transition the conversation to the great idea coming to fruition in your new enterprise.

Caution-Printer Nerdspeak Ahead

The printing process itself was fairly simple.  We converted our logo and important contact information to a one-sided design using a single color.  I think black works well and gives a nice contrast to the natural color of the inside of the album sleeve.  Finding a printer who would tackle the job took a few days.  The printing process, letterpress, is no longer used by most commercial printers.  Specialty shops and printing aficionados are your best bet.  These cards were printed by Robin Cook at Artisan Letterpress.  (trceoj@gmail.com) Robin developed a die on recyclable plastic and cut the album sleeves into a size that could be used as a printing medium. If you live anywhere near the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania, I highly recommend his craftsmanship!

Give upcycled cards a try, and let us know how it works!

The Importance of Core Values

Identify your organization’s core values.

Is this just one of the boxes on the business start-up checklist installed in the entrepreneur’s thoughts by well-meaning friends, professors or small business development office folk?  Or is it a vital step in developing a thriving organization?

DeathtoStock_Desk2All entrepreneurs – take a note from the name of the task. Core values are the center, or core of the organization. Too many entrepreneurs skip the process of intentionally developing these concepts that anchor their new organization.  After all, the reasonable founder has a good internal sense of values. It is tempting to put off the task until the commotion of startup activities settles down a bit.

Dont’ do it! Before the entrepreneur takes on board members, writes a mission statement or even begins to develop programs, he or she must take a moment to ponder these values in order to have a depth of focus on which to build all else.  So what are core values, and how should they be exhibited within the organization?

Identify your core values

There are three tests to determine whether the values you are considering can be elevated to the stature of the core value.  The value transcends time.  Will this value be just as important 100 years from now? The value transcends the organization. If you leave your organization and found another, will this value still be important and relevant to you?  The value transcends economic considerations. If someone offers you a large amount of money to betray this value, will you refuse the offer in favor of this value?

Define your core values

IMG_0383Once you have identified your core values, be sure to define them and consider the behaviors that members of your organization should have as a result of that value.  For example, at Humanitarian Social Innovations our first core value is respect.  We have defined respect as “Having a high esteem for the worth of each person’s qualities and abilities, no matter how like or different we perceive them from our own.” Two behaviors that stem from this core value are consistently assuming positive intent from others, and always thanking when assistance is given.

Use your core values

So get to it!  Roll up your sleeves and write those core values, entrepreneur!  Or maybe you just want to look up those old core values and test them out to see how core they really are to your organization.

Once you do, you are ready to build your programs, your culture, your staff, your board on the core values you have identified.