Look for Integrity in Board Members

Monday, February 9, 1998
by Marc J. Lane

Reprint permission from the February 9, 1998 issue of Crain's Chicago Business.

Lookinglass has already proved itself tough and tenacious in meeting the challenges of growth while sticking to its core creative values. And a lean, strong board deserves much of the credit.

The board has already decided that it can't and shouldn't manage the Company's day-to-day operations. Instead, the board maintains control by having selected an experienced executive director, by establishing organizational policy and by monitoring operating plans and their results. So, maintaining and continuing to build a quality board is vital to Lookinglass' success.

For that reason, new board members ought not be recruited merely because of their "deeper pockets." Integrity, a sense of duty and the capacity to contribute time and talent to the Company are the criteria to emphasize.

But many organizations find it useful to set up an "advisory" board of well-known, "big hitters" who can and will donate money and motivate others to do the same. Advisory board members don't attend regular board meetings (which, consequently, can move at a faster, more productive clip) but get together to learn about the evolving mission of the organization, identify fundraising -- and even "naming" -- opportunities and give advice about potential sources of new revenue.

Performing arts companies have done a masterful job of perfecting the fine art of fundraising. The annual fund -- bridging the gap between expenses and ticket revenues -- needs to be the first item on Lookinglass' fundraising agenda. Only with a healthy number of unrestricted, recurring gifts can the Company credibly develop corporate matching, endorsement, tribute, and other giving opportunities as well as special campaigns to fund the production of fresh, new works.

Finally, Lookinglass should leverage its opportunities. Strategic alliances are becoming as popular in the nonprofit community as they are in the private sector; and facilities and other resources may be shared collaboratively with other nonprofits. Licensing works to other companies can generate new revenues and extend the Company's creative reach. And the proceeds of a government's tax-exempt debt obligation sold to investors can be loaned to the Company at below-market interest rates to finance the acquisition, development and construction of a new home and the equipment it houses.

Marc J. Lane is a business and tax attorney and a Master Registered Financial Planner. He is the President of The Law Offices of Marc J. Lane and its financial services affiliates and an Adjunct Professor of Business at the University of Illinois at Chicago.


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Copyright © 1998 by Crain Communications Inc.

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