Thursday, February 6, 2014

Governance Part II

Once your foundation is established and you have a clear mission statement with a vision statement that guides you, the role of the board as a governing body becomes evident.  But what is that role?  You have your vision and a specific mission for the foundation, what does the board need to understand about its collective and individual roles?  What does the job description include?

Every good organization takes time to plan both for the long term and strategically.  Spend time thinking about what you want the foundation to have accomplished at the end of five years.  What are the goals and objectives for this year that will lead you to long term success.  Planning should be an ongoing process, with formal strategic planning at least once a year.  You should have measurable plans.  What events are you going to have? Are these to raise money or to raise friends for the foundation?  Are you planning for how to thank your donors and those who contribute to the success of the organization?  What are the programs you have planned?  Do these programs fall within the mission of your foundation?  Staying mission driven is the key to good planning!

Every board member should be an enthusiastic advocate for the foundation.  They should engage the boarder community in the foundation’s work.  Who are the constituents that need to be kept informed?  The school community, certainly, along with parents, but are there others on whom you depend for the success of your mission.   Do you individually carry your enthusiasm so it can become contagious, insuring that it infects others with your commitment to the work of the foundation and the students that you serve.

Fiscal Steward
Good management of finances is your responsibility!    You need to be accountable for the current needs, and plan prudently for future growth and future needs.  First—every board member should give!  Even a small gift, if that is all you can afford, is important.  You are responsible for securing the resources that will make the project a success and that means contributing yourself first and foremost. 
In addition to your personal gift, you should know the financial plan, the budget, how funds are managed, how endowments are managed, and the safeguards against fraud or malfeasance.   You do not have to be a financial wizard for this role.  As someone who makes a gift to the organization, you want to ensure that the funds are secured, kept and managed safely.  Do not be afraid to ask what may seem like simple questions if you do not know the answer. 

Board Development
You don’t want to be in the role forever.  There should be a balance between stability and constant rejuvenation.  One way to ensure this to have board terms that are long enough for stability, but that require everyone to roll off and new blood to come on.  While always looking for new members, be sure there is a clear job description for the board.  What are the prerequisites for potential new board members?  Do you have an orientation plan once you have elected people to the board?  Is there a board grid that shows the age, sex, race, professional background, and current committee assignments so you can “fill gaps” that develop when older members move on?  Do you have a buddy system, so new members have someone they can comfortably go to with questions about their role and the history that has preceded them.  Board development is an ongoing process.  You should always be looking to the future so the organization stays vital and connected to the community you serve.

In the future we will discuss some of the legal and ethical issues that every board faces.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Governance—A call to action

By Caroline Boitano

Every nonprofit organization needs three essential elements to succeed in any venture.  The first is the program that is designed to fulfill the mission of the organization, the second is a strong financial base to support the program and the third is the governance structure to ensure that the organization endures over time.  These are the legs that hold up the “stool” of any successful endeavor.  The mistake that most volunteers make when working in a nonprofit organization is that they pay a lot of attention to program and finances yet assume that, if all the paperwork is completed and filed, the governance will take care of itself.  Nothing can be further from the truth.

Good governance is the foundation that insures the success of most ventures.  Every strong organization begins with a strong board who understands what is required to govern, and what is required to lead.  A call to governance is one with profound implications.  Let’s spend some time here talking about the basics of good governance for any board of directors for education foundations specifically.  It is a conversation that we will continue in the future.


Every board must clearly understand the mission that the foundation was founded to fulfill.  That mission is usually stated as a prologue to the by-laws of the foundation.  And that mission is usually infused with a vision of how the future will look if the mission is accomplished.  Mission and Vision can be confused with each other.  The Vision is what you want when you are done.  The Mission is what are you founded to do! 
Below is how CCEF has crafted its Vision and Mission—it has been combined into one short statement:

The vision of CCEF is to ensure that there are adequate resources to deliver a high-quality education to every child in California. CCEF’s mission is to enable all local education foundations to have the knowledge, capacity, and resources to effectively support education in their communities.

This is the groundwork of good Governance and every program that the foundation offers should refer back to these statements.  Does this support our mission?  This is the question every board member should be asking when new ideas and programs are proposed.
As an example, your foundation has as its mission to provide a well rounded music program for the school district.  A local company has asked you to run a golf tournament to raise money for scholarships for high school seniors who choose to attend a local college.  The company promises to raise awareness for the foundation in the community.  They are asking you to build the volunteer team to organize this effort.  These scholarships are not just for students who want to go on in music, but are for students with the highest overall GPA.  As a board the foundation should ask—Does this support our mission??   If the answer is not a resounding “yes,” then decline.  Your mission should be what determines whether or not you go forward with a program—even one designed to raise money!
In the future, we will talk specifically about the roles and responsibilities of a board member and highlight some best practices.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Is California the State of Philanthropy

By Susan Sweeney, CCEF Executive Director
Not quite as much as the nation as a whole, according to a new study released by the charitable research company Atlas of Giving. Californians gave more to nonprofits and charities last year than they did in 2010, but still lagged behind the national average. All states experienced growth in philanthropy during 2011 with a total of $346 billion given nationally. Donations to nonprofits posted an overall 7.5 percent rise from the prior year, the study said. In California, charitable giving grew by 7.1 percent.
But did it feel like a 7% growth factor for most local education foundations in the Golden State? Maybe not.
The report should be viewed with guarded optimism, according to Ruth Blank, executive director of the Sacramento Community Region Foundation, in an interview with The Sacramento Bee. SCRF is the largest local overseer of charitable funds established by individuals, families, businesses and organizations in the region. A recent study by SCRF found that the average annual contribution per donor household in Sacramento was $1,990 compared to the national average of $2,355, a rate that would translate into an extra $250 million for charitable organizations locally.
Blank noted that Atlas of Giving, a new firm in the charitable giving research field, is using a new analytics and algorithmic approach to crunching data and forecasting.
In the Atlas report, one of the most significant gains was made in the education sector – an almost 10 percent increase. "There are a lot of programs that are not supported in public schools anymore, so private dollars are going there," Blank said.
However, higher education may have skewed the averages for yearly giving to education, according to Stacy Palmer, editor with the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Universities typically are the recipients of large gifts – and 2011 was no exception. USC received a $200 million gift and Stanford University received a $150 million gift in 2011. UC Davis saw a $10 million gift toward construction of a new art museum on campus. Since philanthropy tends to be tied to economic conditions, last year's stock market gains may have been a factor in freeing up funds that had been held back by large donors in prior years.
Palmer explained that while some groups were doing a lot better, others were doing worse or staying flat. Groups that get money from the middle class seem to be the ones in trouble, she said. Like schools, religious organizations and churches rely on large numbers of small personal donations that have fallen off as unemployment remained in double digits. This is significant because in many California communities, LEFs rely heavily on middle class families and small businesses for their financial bottom line. As big ticket donors give more to public education, they may be inflating the overall average as the smaller donor is less able to give in an uncertain economy. In viewing this new study, most LEFs in California should presume that a 10% growth factor in 2012 is unrealistic.
Is the funding future getting brighter? One indicator may be Fidelity Charitable, the third biggest nonprofit in the country (behind United Way and the Salvation Army). In 2011, the organization raised $2.9 billion, more than it had collected before the recession.
Staying flat may be the new up as LEFs struggle just to keep even.

Plan to attend the 2012 CCEF Annual Conference
The changing paradigm in education philanthropy will be the topic of our keynote speaker Kay Sprinkel Grace at the CCEF annual conference, held as one-day events in Anaheim (Feb. 16th) and at Stanford University (Feb. 14th). Call (650) 324-1653 or go to to register for this upcoming event.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Power of Networking

In today’s complex world one simple fact remains absolutely true . . . we work better when we connect and collaborate with each other. As we all try to stay even in a rapidly changing world, there is more to know and more to do than ever before. Our primary role as leaders in the education foundation movement is to connect our local communities with their public schools. But sadly, there never seems to be enough time to connect with each other.

CCEF has been focusing on this dilemma in recent months. We consistently hear from our members that they need quality opportunities to share ideas, frustrations, and techniques with their peers. At our workshops and conferences attendees repeatedly tell us that a chance to dialogue and problem-solve together is extremely worthwhile and beneficial. Networking is a learning experience and a powerful way to stay current with the best practices and evolving policies that affect us as professionals and volunteers.

Last spring, I met with foundation leaders in the San Mateo/Santa Clara and was impressed with their willingness to share ideas and approaches to help make foundations more effective. Foundations in Marin have been coordinating a joint publicity campaign with the county office of education to raise funds and awareness about common concerns facing their public schools. Last year, colleagues in the Sacramento area held a series of gatherings to provide mutual support and information. These are all great examples of how networking contributes to foundation success.

Beginning this fall, CCEF is launching an ambitious Regional Networking Program to better reach out to LEF leaders across the state and link them to each other as a powerful force for public education. Members of the Consortium’s Board of Directors are personally calling LEF officers and educators in their area to invite them to get involved and engaged with their colleagues through the CCEF Network.

Plans are underway to sponsor a statewide Webinar in October as the inaugural event to bring LEF officers, volunteers and educators together on a regional basis. We will present topical information and then offer breakout sessions where you can share your thoughts and ideas in a local setting. In the coming weeks we will be announcing details of this exciting new outreach program.

To find out more about the CCEF Network access our web site at

By Susan Sweeney, CCEF Executive Director

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

New Insights & Ideas for Education Foundations

Welcome to the new blog from the California Consortium of Education Foundations!

In the comings months, CCEF leaders will be posting short articles to challenge your thinking about the role and impact of educational foundations in public education. Whether you are an educator, policy maker, government official, parent, or foundation leader we encourage you to bookmark this blog for the latest valuable “Insights & Ideas” to improve and enhance the capacity and effectiveness of education foundations. If you have questions or topics you’d like to see discussed in this blog please post a comment or email CCEF Executive Director Susan Sweeney at Check out the new CCEF web site for more information.