When is it Time to Hire a Consultant for Your NonProfit Board?



The role of the board in governing a non- profit organization cannot be overestimated. The board makes the difference between a good nonprofit and a great one, and can even make or break the organization. The board must ensure the non-profit’s mission is relevant and that the mission can be achieved today, and is prepared to fulfill it’s mission into the future. Organizations function much more efficiently and successfully when they are supported by a board that understands their role and supports the operations by providing the resources it needs to fulfill it’s mission

Boards need to review their performance every few years, if not annually. They need to ask themselves hard questions about their role and are they fulfilling their role. Are they making the organization better for it’s staff and the community they serve. Boards also need to stay up to date on best practices, governance, expectations of donors, and the new Form 990 and IRS guidelines.

Too many nonprofit boards have become insular, with little turnover and no real understanding of what the stakeholders want. Too many boards are detached from their true role and are dis-engaged from the staff and it’s mission. For many human services organizations where government grants and contracts have been their mainstay of revenue, boards have dismissed their role completely in fund development, or minimize conversations about creating an organization that is sustainable, and benefits from diversified funding sources.  

Boards will muddle along, year after year without taking stock of what their real role should be given the current situation. If this is happening to your board it might be time to bring in an outside perspective. A fresh set of eyes and ears can many times reinvigorate a group that still feels passionate about the mission, but is know longer sure how to govern the organization.

High functioning boards focus on resource development. Resource for nonprofits include people, staff, boards, volunteers, and committee members, money and assets. If your board meetings do not include significant time discussing resource development and resource allocation then you need help.

To determine if your board  might benefit from the help of an outside consultant ask yourself the following questions. If you cannot come up with a definitive, collective answer quickly or if you have NEVER asked these questions of yourselves, it might be time to engage in structured board development work:

1.) What size should your board be today? Do we talk about the number of volunteer leaders based on the skill sets we need, what committee structures are needed, fundraising outreach, etc?

2.) Do we adhere to term limits, what do you think about term limits?

3.) How should we set up our governance structure so board meetings are filled with issues the board needs to handle and not issues for day to day operations.

4.) Do we have functioning committees that get things done for the board and how do these committees communicate with the board? Do we allow non-board members to serve on committees?

5.) When was the last time we reviewed our mission, vision, value statements and by-laws?

6.) Has our funding increased, decreased or remained the same over the last three years?

7.) Do we have a functioning Fundraising Committee or Development Committee? Do we have a Development Director, and If so, does the Development Director feel they have the support of the board by opening doors in the community? if not, what role do we think the CEO/ED should play in fund development. Have we discussed this with our CEO/ED?  How would we backfill the operational needs of the organization if we decided our CEO/ED should be development focused and not operationally focused.

8.) Do we have a Strategic Plan that we follow? One that drives our annual operational goals and that’s shared with all stakeholders. Do we recruit people to our board based on the Strategic Plan needs and the overall goals of the organization? Or do we ask ourselves, Does anyone know  anyone who will serve on our board.

9.) Do we have a board development plan? If not-, If yes-

10.) Do we expect our CEO/ED to find board members?

11.) Is the board burned out and tired? Is less than 50% of our board disengaged? Do we have fewer than five board members and think this is OK?

12.) Are the board meetings lengthy and overwhelming? Are they boring with little outcomes or change? Do we take action from the discussions at the board meetings?

13.) Do we think we are a true partner with our CEO/ED?

14.) Do we think we are a working board or an advisory board? Does this match the needs of the organization at this point in time? 

These are a few of the questions that boards should be asking themselves. Small non-profits will often say, “We do not have money to hire a consultant.” That may be true but how long will you continue to plod along, with no increase in funding, no real outcomes, burned out or dis-engaged board members and an unfulfilled mission? If you don’t act, it may be too late and it certainly won’t get any better. 

Evaluating a board from the inside, a fellow board member or board leadership,  is hard for a lot of reasons. There are feelings and egos that are easily bruised, long term members who made significant contributions in the past, deserve a certain amount of respect even though their contribution has declined, and friendships that have been formed can be strained.   We can ask the hard questions others shy away from and will be the bad guy when delivering not so welcome information.

As consultants our role is to:

  • Work with leadership to plan the process and define the timeline.
  • Help drive the process without influencing the content.
  • Ask questions on behalf of the leadership team, board, or staff that an insider might not be comfortable asking.
  • Plan each meeting’s agenda, and ensure the group and the planning process stays on track.

Were here to help, call us for a free consultation to see if your organization is a good fit for our services. Beartooth Business Consulting, 406-690-5988, or by email mike@beatoothbiz.com. 

Beartooth Business Consulting is a member of the MNA, Montana Non-Profit Association

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Mission, Vision and Values

Mission/Vision/Values, the guiding principles of your organization & the starting line for your  Strategic Planning Process

These three words and their respective statements will guide your organization through its long term strategy, long term goal setting, short term objectives, and how it will conduct its business in order to fulfill the mission and ultimately reach the vision.

I recently sent an outline to a new client for their strategic planning process. The very first items to discuss with their leadership team and board are their Mission, Vision and Value statements. The follow-up conversation with the executive in charge was all about how they frame the strategic planning process. As I explained each individual statements role in the leadership and management of the business it occurred to me this conversation would be a great blog topic to share with my world.

Mission. What is our purpose, what is your reason for being, who and why do we serve. A Mission Statement should be relatively static and should be the guiding principles as to why the organization exists and why it does what it does. In the nonprofit or 501(C)-(3) world mission statements are often synonymous with the stated purpose in their Articles of Incorporation. Mission Statements can be relatively short, here are a few examples.

Expedia+ the internet travel company mission statement is: To Revolutionize travel through the Power of Technology.

The Mission Statement of the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center where I once served as Vice-Chair remains the same since it’s inception in 1976, and is still relevant 40 years later: “Our mission is is to expand the potential of people of all abilities through meaningful, educational, and inspiring outdoor experiences.”

Headframe Spirits has aligned themselves very closely with preserving the historical importance of the city of Butte, Montana where it is located , here is their Mission Statement: “To produce quality spirits, to promote responsible alcohol consumption, to create jobs in our community and to use the history and culture of Butte Montana to inform our production and product marketing. We live in a wonderful place and our craftsmanship should reflect positively upon it.”

The Mission Statement for Kampgrounds of America is:  “To make Happy Campers that recommend KOA to others”

The Mission Statement for The Women’s Fund, a non-profit organization, is brief and to the point “The Women’s Fund for the Fox Valley Region, Inc., invests in women and girls through:

  • Grants
  • Advocacy
  • Education

Vision. Companies often stop at their mission statement but the Vision Statement is what the world or organization would look like once the mission is fulfilled. The Vision Statement reflects what your organization ultimately wants to achieve. The Vision Statement can be something that is ultimately achievable or can be a dream that may not be achieved in the current staffing lifetime but is still ultimately worth striving for. Vision Statements may or may not change over time. Essential elements of a successful Vision Statement are:

  • Future oriented
  • Likely to lead to a better future for the organization
  • Fits the organization’s history, mission and values
  • Sets standards of excellence
  • Clarifies the organization’s purpose and direction
  • Inspires enthusiasm and commitment
  • Reflects the uniqueness of the organization
  • Ambitious

As an example Ford Motor Company’s original Vision Statement  was to “Democratize the Automobile”, today it is “To become the world’s leading consumer company for automotive products and services”.  

The Ronald McDonald House Vision Statement is: A world where all children have access to medical care, and their families are supported and actively involved in their children’s care.

The Vision Statement of the Red Lodge Songwriter Festival one of my companies is: Our vision is to create an annual event that brings tourists and songwriters, including hit makers, to Red Lodge each summer to share their talent and skills with the local community. Through this interaction of songwriters and their music we will create an inspirational culture that promotes creativity in songwriting, performing, and collaboration among the artists.

Values. How do we want to conduct ourselves in our business and personal life. This should be the guiding principle on how leadership conducts

themselves in their business dealings and is reflective of how the outside community views the organization. Words like honesty, integrity, caring, transparency, knowledgeable are often reflected in value statements.

I’ll use Expedia again as an example.  They call their values Cultural Norms which is a great name. If the company abides by its values statement that is what creates the culture.  

“We believe being different: We feel new ideas, different ways of thinking, diverse backgrounds and approaches, because averages can lie and sameness is dangerous. Because of this belief, our norms aren’t rules or universal at all corners of our company, But they are important to our identity and how we work together. Like our company, these norms will evolve.

  • We Lead Humbly: Our leaders serve their teams. None of us has all the answers, but we are curious and we are always looking to learn. Though our leaders take their responsibility to our business and their teams incredibly seriously, they never take themselves too seriously.”
  • We are transparent: We communicate openly and honestly, at all levels, upwards, sideways, and downwards. We surface difficult issues quickly, we act, we learn.”
  • We Organize for Speed: We seek to gather data as fast as possible, and move. Speed allows us to make mistakes and constantly improve.
  • We Believe in the Scientific Method: Everyone’s ideas are equal in the face of hard data. We use data to guide but not define our actions.
  • We Act as One Team: We look to optimize for the greater good, not just our own, or even our own teams’ interests. We are actively interested in the success of others.”

The following is the Values Statement for Women’s Fund, A non-profit Organization for Women

  • Our core values are the foundation of all our decisions and actions. We intend this statement of values to be used across the organization to ensure that our decisions and actions are consistent with and supportive of our values and beliefs.
  • We believe that in order to create a just and sustainable society, women and girls must have opportunities, unlimited by gender, to develop and use their individual talents, abilities, and skills, along with the freedom to make their own decisions, guided by their personal values and beliefs.
  • We express our values by promoting and supporting open and respectful communication in all forums;
  • Full participation of women and girls of all backgrounds, including diversity of race, class, age, religion, culture, sexual orientation, and other identities;
  • Informed, educated, innovative action designed to have a positive, measurable impact on the lives of women and girls;
  • Collaboration among organizations and individuals working to benefit women and girls.

Whether you’re a for profit or nonprofit corporation having a mission, vision and value statement will guide you through your Strategic Planning, goal setting, day to day execution and ultimately permeate throughout your organization making you a more profitable, more sustainable and much more successful.

There may be a strong person within your organization that can lead you through the Strategic planning process however using an outside facilitator can
often lead to better results in a shorter amount of time. An outside facilitator can help drive the process without influencing the content, remain objective,  and will not try to influence the conversation. Beartooth Business Consulting is well versed in the processes necessary to make your organization stronger and more efficient with Strategic Planning. Give us a call to discuss how to implement Strategic Planning in your organization. Give me a call at 406-690-5988 or email me at mike@beartoothbiz.com. Mike Booth, President



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A Special Invitation for You

Do you want to become a better leader, increase the profitability of your business, and/or overcome the challenges that are holding you back?

Over the last several months we have visited with dozens of business leaders vetting the idea of an high level group of business owners and executives that are organized with the sole purpose of theirs and each other’s success. The response has been overwhelmingly positive.

They told us how beneficial it would be to hang out with other like minded successful business people to share ideas and discuss problems in a confidential and nonjudgemental environment. They said that learning effective leadership skills and finding fresh ways to overcome problems and seize new opportunities on a regular basis with the same group members would be awesome. Most importantly they wanted the sharing, support and accountability that comes with being in a mastermind group.

So we’ve created this exclusive business group, the Yellowstone Business Forumfor leaders like you.

The introductory meeting for this group will be May 15,2017 at the Billings Petroleum Club. We have invited a select group of business people who we think will fully participate, not only for their own benefit but to support others with their expertise and experience. We recognize that leaders have different needs and will facilitate two groups, one for business owners and one for business executives. Group sizes will be small with a maximum of 10 leaders in each group.

When you join the Yellowstone Business Forum you will also be invited to our YBF Retreat Weekend, October 2017 in Red Lodge, MT. This 2-day event is a chance to learn new leadership skills and work on your Strategic Plans for 2018 with other Yellowstone Business Forum members. You will get the opportunity for a deep-dive hot seat where you can really vet challenges and opportunities with other bright minded people.

Learn more about the benefits of Yellowstone Business Forum and how to become a charter member at www.beartoothbiz.com/ybf

To join Yellowstone Business Forum or figure out if Yellowstone Business Forum is right for you, let’s schedule some time to talk about your situation and what your goals are, email Mike or Erika at mike@beartoothbiz.comor erika@erikawillisassociates.comand we set up an hour to talk either in person or by phone.

Here’s to all our success, Mike Booth & Erika Willis www.beartoothbiz.com/ybf

Yellowstone Business Forum A Place where Success is Accelerated

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Are Your Meetings Productive??

Over the course of my career I have attended literally thousands of meetings and planned and facilitated many of these meetings. Regularly scheduled meetings, annual planning meetings, status meetings, sales meetings, employee meetings, lunch and learns, motivational meetings, customer meetings, board of director meetings, the list can go on and on.

I have observed great meetings that created a lot of positive results and I have attended meetings that were a complete waste of time for everyone involved and wasted a lot of the company’s money. Meetings are an important part of doing business and there is nothing better than getting a group of people to agree and working towards a common goal. A productive meeting is a great tool for this. However there is nothing that wastes more time in your employee’s day or the productivity of your company than a needless or poorly run meeting.

Here are a few tips to keep your meetings on track and ensure they are productive for the attendees, achieve your objectives, and move your business forward.

A group of happy business people clapping in a meeting

Rotate responsibility for facilitating the meeting; You or the senior person in the room don’t have to run every meeting, especially in a regular meeting such as a weekly staff or status meeting. Rotating the facilitator of the meeting will keep a fresh voice in front of the group, give each person facilitating the experience of leading the group, and keep the meeting fresh and not routine. This will also make the person responsible for facilitating the meeting more prepared than if they were just an attendee.

Have an agenda; If it is not easy to create an agenda for your meeting no matter how brief it might be than it probably isn’t worth having the meeting. Knowing what you’re going to talk about, what information you want to share with the participants and what feedback you are looking for will give the meeting purpose, keep the meeting on track, and keep the time needed for the meeting to a minimum.

Share agenda ahead of time; When possible sending the agenda out before hand will allow the participants to prepare their thoughts and provide you input that is thought out and organized.

Allow for some social time but keep the meeting running on time; People want to visit about Sunday’s football game, their family outing, where their meeting after work for a beer and so forth, you get my point. You should build a little time in your meeting either before it formally starts and at breaks to allow the participants to visit and socialize with each other. As the facilitator you should keep side conversations during the meeting to a minimum. They are distracting to the other attendees and tend to make your meeting run longer than they need to. In a larger group if you have a participant that initiates a lot of side conversations with the people they are sitting next to you can as the presenter moving towards them or stand in front of them while facilitating the meeting. This will usually put an end to it or gain their attention back on you.

Put the cell phones away; There is nothing more disrespectful and distracting than participants checking email, facebook, texting or simply playing with their cell phones. I would suggest creating a standard policy in your meetings that cell phones must be muted, turned off, and out of sight. There may be exceptions if someone is expecting a call from family or a client that may take precedence over the subject matter being discussed but if so this should be stated prior to the meeting starting so the facilitator and other participants know beforehand that a person’s phone may go off and they will need to excuse himself from the meeting.

Does your meeting justify the cost; Have you ever thought about the cost of having an hour meeting with six employees? I’m not talking about the costs of the bagels and donuts or Jimmy John sandwiches, I’m talking about the cost to the company for having those six people attend the meeting rather than do the work assigned to them. If the average salary of those six employees were $50,000/year their hourly wage would be approximately $25/hour. That meeting cost the company $150 plus any other ancillary costs. Are the decisions made, direction provided, problem(s) solved worth more than $150.00?

Don’t have a meeting if there’s nothing to talk about, just to pacify the boss; As the boss are you calling a meeting to catch up because you’ve been away from the office, on vacation, working on other things or just plain out of the loop. Is the information you are looking for going to be as beneficial to the other participants or is it things they already know and are just going to be bored as each person shares what’s going on in their area(s) of responsibility with you. You might be better served by visiting with each one individually and asking questions that are only relevant to that one employee to get caught up than wasting a whole lot of your group’s time by listening to information they already know.

Businesswoman presenting to colleagues at a meeting

If you want to command attention Stand-Up; If you want to command attention Stand-Up; Especially in a large group or even with a small group of team members standing and leading the group will command their attention and focus the meeting on you, the facilitator.

If you’re not there to solicit the input of the others in the room don’t have the meeting; If you don’t want to hear what the other people in the room have to say or care about, write a memo. It will more than likely accomplish the same thing. In my experience, it is impossible to get buy in from your team unless you truly listen to their concerns and ideas. The purpose of your meeting should be to share your thoughts, directions and ideas and then enrich them with the thoughts, directions and ideas from your team. After all you can’t accomplish your company’s objectives unless you get the buy-in and participation from your team.

Communicate and send Follow-Up on action items; In any effective meeting there should be tasks or action items that require follow-up by one or more team members. Sending out an email or written memo restating the purpose of the meeting, the important decisions that may have been made during the meeting and any action items that require follow-up will reinforce the importance of the meeting, encourage team buy in and ensure any follow up that is required is completed in a timely fashion.

Hire an outside facilitator; When you plan a meeting for Strategic Planning or other focused purpose do you as the Business Owner, President or CEO run the meeting? Have you ever hired an outsider, one who is a professional at planning and facilitating meetings? If you have not used an outside facilitator you are missing some of the strategic benefits of doing so. Whether it’s a small group of business partners or a large group of employees, having an outside facilitator for your meeting can often provide the positive results you are striving for.  From the most senior manager to the most junior administrator each member of your team can provide you insight into your business’s inner workings and the inner relationships between employees, vendors, ownership, and most of all, your customers.

An experienced facilitator will bring these thoughts and insights out for your benefit. An outside facilitator will bring an open-minded perspective to your meeting. They will keep the discussion focused, keep the process on track and will encourage your team members as equals in the process. In my own personal and professional experiences,

I have witnessed better outcomes when an outside facilitator is brought in. Meetings are sometimes a necessary evil of doing business. However if done right every meeting is an opportunity to encourage and motivate your team to accomplish the objectives necessary to grow your business.

asset-1442456070552If you need help with making your meetings more productive, call or email Beartooth Business Consulting, we can help. 406-690-5988, mike@beartoothbiz.com.  


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Event Management, Details, Details, Details

RvsdLogoOnlynogloMy buddy Cory Johnson and I just got done putting on the Inaugural Red Lodge Songwriter Festival last weekend. This was an idea that started eight months ago over a couple of beers, which evolved into nine performances in six venues over three days. It was an enormous undertaking that took the cooperation and efforts of a lot of people, some paid but mostly volunteers. The success of this event and others like it can be attributed to the talented artists that performed, but mostly it was having a good plan to start with and managing the details leading up to and during the event.

Every event has literally hundreds of little details that need to be planned for, budgeted for, and eventually executed on. If your event is a first time event work very hard at anticipating the unexpected. A friend once said “Murphy was an Optimist” and when it comes to event management I believe that rings true.

In the early planning stages of your event build an event resume and begin to write down and account for everything that will happen and influence the successful outcome of your event. In the case of the Red Lodge Songwriter Festival it was things like:

  • songwriters-2016-_0251Travel Schedules
  • Transportation to the event
  • Transportation during the event
  • Welcome baskets for songwriters
  • Lodging
  • Sound systems
  • Ticket sales
  • Fundraising
  • Advertising the event
  • Team management
  • Graphic Design/Printing
  • Media
  • Budgeting
  • Public Relations
  • Seating configurations
  • Ticket distribution
  • Communications
  • Point of sale systems
  • Storage
  • VIPs
  • Signage
  • Wifi at the venues
  • Photography/Video
  • Staging
  • Sound technicians
  • Meals
  • Caterers
  • Etc., etc., etc.

This is by no means a complete list and there will always be things that you did not anticipate happening that you need to be alert for. Having a good team around you that are willing to roll up sleeves and get the work done is a big plus as well. Everyone wants to be involved with events especially if they are fun events. Your team should be made up of people you can trust and will get things done when they say they will. There is nothing worse than to rely on someone who says they did something only to fall back on you at the last minute because it didn’t get done. It’s OK to have a small team of doers and tell others thanks for your offer but we have it covered.

songwriters-2016-_0321Beartooth Business Consulting can help you plan, manage and execute your event whether it is an industry event, fundraiser or corporate function. Please call us at 406-690-5988 or by email at mike@beartoothbiz.com   

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