Nonprofit Boards: Meeting the Challenge of Intentional Care

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Nonprofit boards are a unique reflection of their corporate counterparts.

In a volunteer setting where everyone brings different perspectives, leaders must ensure that everyone stays motivated and aligned with their mission.

Lizette Corro, President & CEO at Corro Nobil Associates and member of six nonprofit boards, shares what she’s learned during her extensive volunteer work.

Join us as we discuss:

- The vital role of board development in nonprofit governance (3:29)

- Humanitarian efforts in the Ukraine crisis (9:09)

- Focusing a nonprofit board’s diversity of efforts (17:22)

Craving more? You can find this interview and many more by subscribing to C-Suite Blueprint on Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, or here.

Today we learn how to manage boards, how to wrangle them, why you need to say the obvious things out loud all the time, and how do you manage balance while also addressing the urgency of now. Today, I'm joined by Lazette Coral. Lizette is the CEO of Coro Noble Associates, which is strategic plan and consulting, but she also sits on six boards. She's a very busy woman, full of insight and inspiration. She sits on the board of the World Central Kitchen, National Museum of Women, Art's Light of Healing, the Hope Foundation, Museum of America's Youth, Orchestra of America's and the Spy Museum, amongst many others. Lizette really give some insight on what the heck does the board do? How do you get the value out of that board, and how do you wrangle them, and how do you balance that between those efforts in life. Please welcome Lizette. You're listening to c Suite Blueprint, the show for C suite leaders. Here we discuss no boys approaches to organizational readiness and digital transformation. Let's start the show. Lizette, thanks so much for joining me. Of course, I'm happy to be here. Thank you for having me. So you've had a long, successful career and now you sit on an incredible amount of How many boards are you in right now? Right now? I'm on six volunteer my volunteer boards. Yeah. You know what I think is interesting about the volunteer boards is UM in it in UM, let's say, more of a traditional corporate board. Everyone on the team is incented by financial reasons UM. And on these volunteer boards, how do you keep the team motivated? How do you keep yourself motivated? And how do you stay aligned to the mission. Interestingly enough, what you just said is the answer, aligned to the mission and that really is up to the nonprofit itself to make sure that the board is motivated and excited, inspired, engaged. Each one that I'm part of is different. I have a cultural board. I have a board that help young Latinos. I have a board that UM of course, World Central Kitchen that is disaster relief, so I International Spy Museum. So I have a lot of different missions that they need to keep me engaged and they need to keep me inspired and vice versa. I need to use my talents to help them move forward as well. So it really is an alignment of of our talents, and it really is important for these nonprofit organizations to understand the value of their board members individually as opposed to a governing body or a fiscal body. So the more they understand each individual board member, the more they will be um the more we can help them move forward. So it is, it is, It is really a team effort on all parts. Interesting, Yeah, So to not view them as just this vague blob of control that sits in a smoky room, you know, And how do these organizations do that? How do you best extract the value and get to know the board members individually. It's all about relationships. It's all about one on ones. It's all about making sure that your board members are appropriately on boarded. They understand the mission, they understand their role, they understand why they're there. And we're all there for different reasons. In my case, I'm there because my expertise is fundraising and board development, so that I can see how the development office is working and how as a board member, rather than scrutinize them, help them constructively on moving the mission and then moving the programs and moving the money forward with them with the funding forwards. So so I have a very specific role and if the board that I'm on does not identify that that, I'm just therefore vote which is not is not enough for me to be active and for me to be inspired. So they have to figure this out with each board member.

And the chair of the board is also very important, by the way, just to let you know that that person is key because they are the the They are the negotiator between the actual organization and the board. So depending on their activity will also depend on the momentum and motivation that board members have. Mm hm yeah, real make or break role. So the role of board development. A lot of people probably don't know what that is. Can you expand on what that role is? It's uh, it's what it is. Is. Twenty years ago, I would be on a board and I would say to my cousin, to my friend, to my colleague, Hey, I'm on this board. Joined me. It's fun. And those days are long gone. The nonprofits need us desperately for governance and for fiscal responsibilities. What that means is that in many cases we have to rotate off the old ways of thought and and rotate on those that understand what their real role is. Again, it goes back to onboarding. It goes back to making sure that the organization, usually the executive director of president CEO, has been able to identify the talents of each board member and work with that board member to move it forward on behalf of the organization. So bringing in new blood that's freshly motivated is that a big part of it. Freshly motivated and educated that they understand what their role is. So we can be motivated as much as we want, but if we don't know what we're motivated for, it doesn't it doesn't work. So so basically it's making sure that we are educating our board members as to what their responsibilities are. And it's not just every quarter. It really is constant communication, building that relationship, building that that foundation of trust and negotiation between the organization and the board. Because what the board really governs the organization through the chair and through the executive director. So that in itself is sometimes a surprise, but it is that that is supposed to be what the five H one C three represents. Mm hmm. Let's talk about some real stories about how you you're not just you know, aligned to the mission, but continually aligned because I love the fact that it is always a continually aligned Naively, one might just think, well, of course our mission is obvious, and of course we're all aligned to it, that's why we're here. But that's never really the case. And and so I'd love to hear some stories from the trenches and how do you do that? I will say just a general statement is that nonprofits feel that their mission is imperative. It's obvious that you would want to participate, but unless you're communicated as to why it uh, it sometimes loses its effect. I'll give you an example with World Central Kitchen, that is disaster relief. So what happens with that at is that every disaster we're communicated on what is happening, what is needed, how it's transpiring, and of course the progress of the full activation. So we are always always told about pulled. I don't mean told, but or communicated. This is what we need, this is what we're here for, and this is our success story or this is what is not successful and this is what we need to correct. Another example would be the National Cherry Blossom Festival. I mean, what could be happier than cherry blossoms in the spring, yet we have to raise the money for it, so it's not The back office is basically, how are we going to raise millions of dollars to make sure that we can satisfy everyone's incredible enthusiasm for cherry blossoms in spring in Washington, d C. And with that, we have benchmarks, we have the parade, which is really important. It's very clear as to what we're doing and what we need to accomplish. So it's a whole different...

...story than the disaster relief, where we don't know when we're going to have the next volcano eruption, the next hurricane, the next human disaster. So so so we're we're working on just two different paradigms totally, but the basis is the same. Inspire, engage, keep that relationship going. Inspiring and engage, and you know, I'm interested to explore things like the disaster relief where you know, the overall mission is the same, but the specific needs of the day are always changing and flexibility is needed and you need to make not just big pivots, but a lot of probably little pivots, I would assume, And how do you make that a success? Innovation constant, using technology, using software. We are now involved in a war UH in Ukraine, which we've never been involved in the war before, so that all that we had to pivot to make sure that we were being successful and if it's in what we were doing, um, safely, I guess this is an important word there as well. While we're feeding Ukrainians that are in Ukraine and and trying to make sure that we can be effective there, we also needed to create a safe environment for our contractors, volunteers and our staff. That flexibility what we call the urgency of Now that's the sort of the front, but the back is just incredibly busy making sure that we're establishing those pillars that we're creating for the front lines. It's fascinating, it is. I'd love to hear more, like what are you accomplishing in Ukraine and what have the challenge has been? Well, the challenges have been the war obviously, and also the movement of the troops and and the war itself. Um. Right now, we as of as of July, we were feeding a million people a day. So how do you make that happen? We made it happen through partnerships, through Ukrainians that are not leaving no matter what, that are still baking bread. We buy locally. We're giving money back to the economy. Uh. To some people that don't have anything, we give hot meals to to others that do have at least a way to cook, we give food kits that will last a week for a family of four. So we we make all these determinations depending on what what the circumstances are. So a million meals a day requires a tremendous amount of revenue. So the back office for that is making sure that we're raising that those funds to make it happen. It's an incredible process. We cannot do it without our local partnerships, though you have thousands of partners in Ukraine itself. That's fantastic, you know. So obviously a war is a very large pivot. When you have a board, um and you are you're you're planning these things out and you're working together, and I'm curious, and people out there are probably curious, how is that team of a board different from say any other team. Is there any uniqueness to it? The uniqueness is that we're all volunteers, so that there's no compensation and um, what that means is that everyone comes with a different thought. So the secret sauces to make sure that we're all on the same page, that there is a common ground and that we're understanding what the organization needs from us as opposed to a corporate environment. I mean, I was in the hotel business for twenty five years. I knew what I had to do. I knew what I needed to to lead my team with and I was given the training appropriate for that. Here, some of us are untrained, some of us have different cultures, different backgrounds, different everything, so that we also need to understand that we need to find a common ground. And I think that that helps focus the board on what the mission is. I could see how it could turn into a too many chefs in the kitchen situation, especially when you know you're so invested in it from an emotional...

...and personal perspective, and you know, maybe even more so than a traditional job. And I would assume you took some some lessons learned from the hotel business and the event business into their you know, did you and wol do you have any tricks on how you find the common ground and how do you get all the cooks in the kitchen straightened out. I think there's some basic theories, which one is, create a win win situation UM, so that the outcome everyone feels good about the outcome of whatever issue opportunity is on the table. Number one. Number two, leave your ego at the door. There's no possible way that a person can be in the hospitality industry with a strong ego. The guest is always right, whether whether you like it or not. So so in that case, taking that to the boardroom and understanding that my my agenda, my ego is not what this is all about. It really is about the organization and its mission in some way moving it forward. So UM. That has taught me a lot guest experiences, UM, guest reactions. Establishing trust every day with with a hotel, guest or or whatever circumstance I was in is key. So establishing that trust with the team, establishing a trust with board members that is also very very important. So you're working from a platform of I respect you, you respect me. We're moving forward with the same notion. Mm hm. That makes a lot of sense. I feel like a tough one in there is the making sure everyone feels good about the outcome because I know I've probably been guilty of this multiple times, because I always I air towards speed and it doesn't need to be perfect and and a lot of times, you know, I'll get impatient if everyone's taking too long to make a decision, and I'll go with the Hey, not everyone's going to be happy about this, but this is the way that we're going. You know, if if most people are okay with it, then that's probably good enough. You know, how do you how do you balance that talk communication? Just just making sure that you're listening and you're listening to everyone's way of thinking and why they're thinking that way, deconstructing it and trying to reconstruct it in a way where everyone at least is satisfied. You don't have to win, but you have to be satisfied. There's compromised. That's another word that's very important as to what we're trying to do and frankly towards these days with the E d i A or equity diversity inclusion, access, equity, diverse diversity, inclusion, and belonging. Those are all new ways of thinking that we're focusing in on a lot more than we did before. So we do have to respect that new pathway so that we can we can really understand where all each of each of us is coming from. We're not all coming from the same place for sure, and we all have our own story, so we we do have to to listen. Yeah, I've really taken the time to understand what everyone's you know, their baggage, their motivations, their intentions, their their history, and what what makes them the person that they are. UM and maybe after this I'll have to bribe Lizette to be my executive coach to help me work through these things as well. I would love that. So is that UM six boards, your own career's still working, you have a personal life. How do you find balance within the boards and within yourself? They really align with each other. My the the clients that I have are are mostly clients that have been with me for a long time, so that we have already established that platform of trust, which is important. UM. I have one client where I've worked with...

...from one project to another. First I had we had to change their board from a clinical board to a what we call a public board, a fundraising board, and a clinical board. So we had to make those rotations happen. Through by laws, etcetera. Now I'm working as their interim director of Development UM, which is so my third year with them. So with that trust, we can really go anywhere and we can we can figure out what needs to be done UM. But every single either volunteer work or my clients, it's a lesson learned for me. It really is. No matter how much experience I have, there's always a lesson that I can learn and that openness is going to be is going to serve me. Well, I don't know it all and I can't google it all. Done it, Lizette, I thought I knew everything. Yeah, So so that's interesting. So even with all those that diversity of efforts, there is a there is a level of focus around there and focus around you know, and that then allows for a focus of your network and and all of those things kind of I'm not going to use the word synergy because I'm gonna get Sultan and I hear it too many times, but there is a fair amount of of of overlap and uh and the same focus of intentions across those. It sounds like I think that's a good way of putting it. A focus of intention and really understanding what the outcomes are going to be. I can't tell you how many times I've had to pull people back and say, remember why you're here, Remember the mission, Remember what your role is. It's so simple, yet so complicated for for people that are in the in the thick of things to understand the simplicity of why they're here. So I do have a tendency of pulling back and saying, just let's remember why we're we're here, let's remember what our role is and what we need to do, bringing it back to simple theories as opposed to extremely complicated ones, which makes it it's it complicated. Yeah, nothing makes my blood boil more than people making I can see you thinking, well, you know what I was thinking about? Two is the uh what I'm hearing in there? Also is It's so important on a regular basis to say the obvious things out loud, even at home, you know, saying to your spouse, I love you all the time, even though it's very obvious. But you know, in work, I find myself to a lot of times I'll even pause after I say something or before it, and I say, I know we all know this, but I want to make sure that we say it out loud because we haven't said it out loud in a while, and and maybe that's a good habit for people to get into. It is. I also believe in sitting on something for ten seconds, just in case what you're going to say is not correct or appropriate or we'll we'll bring any value to the conversation. So I have I have mentored a lot of a lot of young, wonderful leaders to just sit on it, Just sit on it for ten seconds and then think about it. That's another thing that sounds easier than it is. You know, I've I'll I found that I'll use the timer application on my watch or my phone and I'll hit it and I'll just sit there waiting for the time. You know, sometimes I'll see almost like a deep sea diver, to see how long I can wait before before I say something. But every time it's worth it. I feel like, so live that through all these accomplishments and efforts, what are one or two things that you're really proud of that you'd like to talk about and brag about a little bit. Perhaps, Well, I'm going to brag about that I just finished a hundred kilometers walking in Portugal and Spain, crossed the border to Spain and ended up again in Santiago. The Compostela one...

...of my favorite places in the whole wide world as far as the value that it has and the and the meaning the meaning of being there. This is my fourth time I am not fit, so for me, a hundred kilometers is quite uh, quite a task. So I am very very proud of that that I can still put those hoka onon ees on and make it happen in one way or another up the hill and down the hill and across bridges that I would never hear in my own environment do. So I'm happy that I can meet that challenge and move forward. And during those times, those are my times of thought. Those are my times of figuring out, okay, what what what is my purpose? And what am I trying to accomplish? And what I always now think what will my epitaph say? I wanted to be really really long and not short, so so I'm always thinking of that as well, and that helps me center again again going back to the basics. So maybe you just answered this, but I was gonna ask, um, you know, why do you do this and why do you keep doing it? Is it? Is? It? Just to find that centering on a regular basis. It's the centering. It's um, it's walking away from the noise, the chatter, the the incredible business business information overload that we have Google emails, tweets, etcetera, etcetera. So it just it just makes me sit back a little bit and say, Okay, this is great. I love my life, but let's let's just think about what we what we really are doing here. And it gives me an opportunity to do that and also meeting a challenge that I don't usually do because we can become very comfortable what we do. And oh yet we move here, we move there, and everything's good, work, all good, it's great. Well maybe it's let's let's get out there and see get some challenges going and get ourselves a little bit motivated again on on what we can do and what we I think we can do and just do it. I completely agree that time is so valuable. And I feel like some people, um, they worry, Oh the boss doesn't want me to take the vacation, you know, the the executive team, they don't. They just want us to work all the time. And I tell you know, our employees all the time that that is some of the most valuable time to them as a human and to us as an organization, because you come back as a much better part of the team when you can get that time away. And sometimes it can be big and long like that, and sometimes it can be just you know, I know for myself, I'll block off time to go for you know, a hike in the woods to go think through some problems around my house. And and it's always better problem solving at that point when you can just get out and get away. Very important. Let me ask you, how how has the virtual world, with our new the new way of the new world of doing business, how has that affected you personally? I'm curious. So we've been virtual for since day one, so that's eighteen years at this point. But it's funny we were still impacted because even though we were virtual, we would get together with our clients and we get together with each other, and we'd have a few events during the year where we get the whole team together and and so you know, and I know you just asked me about myself. Um, it's funny that I'm talking about the company first. Um, But I'll go I'll come back to myself. So you know, the company it's is the well, no, okay, myself. Relationships with people they took longer, um. You know, especially we had we hired new people and new members of our executive team, and the it just it accelerates quicker when you can get that time together and not just time together working,...

...but time together going for a walk in the woods, are going to go play golf or whatever it might be. And and so there was that and and I found that that then made when the foundation is not as strong as those relationships, I found that it then taxed me mentally and physically, because you know, when there's not a strong foundation, you're kind of doing mental things and and other tricks to kind of keep things balanced. And that's exhausting and you don't even know that you're doing it. And so that was you know, I could go on and on about that topic, but that's that's one way that it impacted me. Is this this exhaustion because there was this other foundation that just wasn't typically there. I agree. I think I wasn't able to establish as much trust and uh and a deeper deeper foundation um than I can on a one on one personally so that part was hard. Also, I was able to multitask, which was not good. So not in this case, but I'm able to maybe listen to a client, but look at my emails as well and maybe a tweet or two. And that part was I lost the focus, the mindfulness of making sure that I was really really focused on one thing, not for so that that was an interesting exercise that I'm trying to wean myself off of. It's a tough one. I just had a two week vacation at the beach and we didn't really plan anything. I just every day went to the same beach and made sand castles with my daughter and and about five days in I was telling my wife that I felt weird, and she's like, I think you're just relaxed, and this is what relaxation feels like. And so you know, that's this that's why it's so important for everyone to really take the time. And it does take five days, does it? It? It does? It? Did? It did take that, and you know, I was like, it shouldn't maybe doing something, but it was. It was a pleasure just to make sand castles with with my daughter and the beach, you know. So let's that I always like to finish these with m through you know, all these amazing relationships that you've had and an amazing career. What's the best advice that you've ever personally received that I have personally received. I think when I was going through a tough time. I've been a single mother since my my children were six and ten. So someone I was going through a tough business moment and someone said, remember it's all about the family. That's all that matters at the end of the day, your family. And that was very strong advice, very strong advice. So I was able to pull back, disentangle, get all the worms out of that, can straighten them out, and realized that they were right. So that's uh, that's my big piece of advice. We have. We can where we can be totally fulfilled with our our professional life, our volunteer life, but at the end of the day, it really is all about your family. Sounds simple, but very powerful. Is that. Thank you for everything you do and thanks so much for being on here. I really enjoyed it. You've been listening to see Sweet Blueprint. If you like what you've heard, be sure to hit subscribe wherever you get your podcast to make sure you never miss a new episode. And while you're there, we'd love it if you could leave a rady. Just give us, however many starts you think we deserve. Until next time,.

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