The Case of the Graybeard’s Replacement

This is the second Sam Sector III case. If you check on a regular basis you can follow the escapades of Sam “the greatest and only nonprofit detective in the world” as he answers the questions facing today’s nonprofit leaders. Each installment will take only a couple of minutes to read, will provide you with some information, and will end in a bit of a cliff-hanger so that you will return in about 7-10 days to find out what happened. This of course is fun for me, and a different way to get information out to all of you who have an interest. Please let me know if you like it, hate it, or wish that Sam would find a real job that pays.


← Read the fourth installment

Jimmy brought a souvla, tzatsiki and pita sandwich for Jessica and the grilled octopus for Sam. After each had a taste of the food, Sam started to lay out how Jessica could help him with Social Services, Inc. “You’re right — I need your help, Jessica, in at least three ways:

  • A process to help the board assess its composition;
  • A process for the board to use in board member recruitment; and
  • Some tools for a board committee to start this process.

And, I gotta get going soon with this group, they need to have some successes fast! Got anything for me?”

Jessica took a big bite of her souvla sandwich, and chewed with relish, small blobs of tzatsiki on each cheek. “You betcha, I got just what you’ll need for this project.” Sam remembered why he liked to work with Jessica. She had been brought up in a family of non-profit types. Her father worked for years in the leadership of one of the largest service organizations in town, while her mother worked as an advocate with a smaller organization. They taught her everything they had learned, and she quickly discovered everything else she needed. She worked as a freelance consultant, and Sam contracted with her when he needed to focus on process and tools.

Jessica reached into her brief bag and pulled out some sheets of paper and handed them to Sam. “Tha irst on ish bou ocess.” Sam looked up in confusion until he recognized that Jessica was talking with her mouth full of food, but the papers were titled and self-evident. The first one was a board assessment tool. Sam had seen something like this before — it was simple but effective, and it could be easily tailored to meet the needs of each organization. (Board composition worksheet) The matrix had spaces for the names of each current board member and each potential board member, and across the top of the matrix were the screening criteria that were needed on the board.

Sam set the paper aside and moved on to the second sheet, which Jessica was pointing to with her greasy fingers, leaving traces of souvla, tzatsiki, and red wine wherever she touched. This sheet outlined a process that a board might use to recruit new members. It too was simple to read and understand and could be modified to meet the needs of almost any board (Board recruitment process worksheet), so it didn’t matter that Sam couldn’t understand what Jessica was saying. “Op tom ib rin mac top, bif lin tor ray.” She was washing down the sandwich with the house red while trying to explain the logic behind the process. Sam understood why the process was deliberate and created for the long term; however, he would need to streamline the process for the first year for his client.

The third piece of paper was a form that could be used by staff, volunteers and board members to recommend candidates for the board (Board candidate form). Sam understood that this would be a way to funnel good candidates into the Board Development Committee so that they could screen and make nominations to the board. This could be helpful in the short term to get lots of candidates into the system.

As Sam reached for the fourth sheet, a standard job description for board members and officer (Board job descriptions), Jessica started coughing, speaking and swallowing wine at the same time. At first Sam was repulsed by Jessica spraying his plate of octopus with red wine. Then, as her face turned purple, Sam realized that things were getting very serious, very fast. The spry detective leaped to his feet and jumped behind Jessica. In another minute Jessica might lose consciousness. It was years since he had employed the Heimlich maneuver. He wondered if he remembered the technique.

Read the sixth installment →

If you have ideas that can help Sam as he works on his current case, or if you have "cases" that you would like to see Sam take on, please email me.