It’s a happy accident that the articles in this month’s Northwest Nonprofit Notes have a common theme, namely, how we take care of each other.  But, it’s not really a surprise.  After all, like you, we do this work because we care about people and the world in which we live. We believe that when we make an effort to treat each other well, better things happen.  And this month’s articles provide you with a rich and multi-faceted look at ways to provide for the people in your organizations, including your staff, board, donors, and friends.

Emily Anthony’s interview with one of her clients about their unlimited PTO policy describes how treating your employees like grown-ups can create a happier, more productive office culture.

Sara Lawson breaks it down for you and gives you a process for having meaningful conversations with your board that lead to more fulfilling experiences for both you and them.

Dani Beam explains how excellent customer service is the super power that helps develop deep loyalty and satisfaction among your donors.

Jennifer Weber walks you through three critical steps you need to take in those rare occasions when you really mess up and need to offer a heartfelt apology.

And finally, the group column offers you several ideas for how to make your board meetings better. It’s a must read if you want to keep your meetings fresh and engaging. 

Northwest Nonprofit Notes is one way we seek to take care of our clients and colleagues and support the work you do.  We’re grateful for the opportunity to walk beside you and delighted to share these thoughts with you. We hope you enjoy the latest edition.

Happy Reading!

Dani, Julie, Heidi, Emily, Donna, Jennifer, and Sara


Unlimited Paid Time Off for Nonprofit Employees: Truly Great or Too Good to Be True?
Spring 2017 by Emily Anthony


Last year, when Zeno’s Executive Director Julie Marl asked me to circulate a job description for her, I wrote her back as soon as I read it. “Happy to circulate – but it says the benefits include ‘Unlimited Paid Time Off.’  Really!?!”  Honestly, I thought it had to be a typo.   “Yes, ma’am!” she wrote right back. “I put it into place. We’ll see how it goes!  So far so good!”

An organization offering unlimited paid time off to an employee?  It was a new concept to me, but I was behind the times: Netflix, Zappos, and several other large tech-based companies have been offering this for a while, and even the Gates Foundation has recently gotten in on the act.  But Zeno is one of the only smaller, Seattle-based nonprofits I know of right now that is offering this benefit.  Which is surprising when you think about it, because in many ways nonprofits seem like the ideal organizations to make this work: it’s a compelling benefit that they could offer without a huge increase to the bottom line, and small, close-knit staff teams seem like excellent candidates for having success with a system that is based on mutual trust, responsibility, and shared commitment to a mission.  So it sounded like a great experiment to me.  “Ask me how it’s going again in a year!” Julie said . . . and so I did. Read on to learn how Zeno has made the unlimited PTO policy work over this past year, how the staff feels about it, and a few things to think about if you want to give it a try at your organization.


Building a Strong Board: Key Questions to Spark Meaningful Discussions About Leadership, Teamwork, and Engagement
Spring 2017 by Sara Lawson


Recently, a former board member of an environmental organization explained to me why he resigned: “When I joined the board, I sat through meetings for six months. We sat around and listened to reports. We never really made any meaningful decisions, nobody asked questions, and I didn’t feel like I was adding any value. I felt like a potted plant. So I quit. I told them I was too busy, but really, it just felt like a waste of time.”

I see this pattern play out more frequently than it should. Great volunteers like this guy—smart, hard-working, dedicated—drift away. By his account, everybody else on the board appeared to be satisfied with the status quo. As a newcomer, he didn’t think that it was his place to challenge the passiveness of the board.


Customer Service – The New Super Power!: How providing great service creates loyal champions for your organization
Spring 2017 by Dani Beam

Customer Service

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. – Maya Angelou

I admit it.  When it comes to customer service, I’m a stickler.  And when I experience poor customer service?  Let’s just say I can get a little testy. It’s because customer service is so critical to the donor or consumer experience.  When sectors are so crowded with options from which to choose, excellent customer service can power boost your relationships with your donors and clients.  Alternatively, few things can tank a relationship and destroy trust quicker than really poor customer service (Hi airlines!).  Let me give you a few examples from my personal experience to illustrate what I mean.


The Art & Heart of the 3-Part Apology
Spring 2017 by Jennifer Weber, CFRE

Apologizing. Just the word itself can make us feel nervous. Why is that? For most of us, it’s because apologizing comes with the realization that we’ve done something wrong. We’ve made a mistake. We’ve hurt someone’s feelings. Or we’ve made a misstep that creates tension or a break in a relationship that’s important to us. These incidents can be small, with few ramifications or they can be big, with long-term impacts. Either way, the first step towards healing the relationship and restoring harmony is a sincere, heartfelt apology. But how exactly do you do that? I’ve thought a lot about this, and I believe there are some essential things to consider when apologizing. Here’s what I’ve come to learn and put into practice.


BEST EVER Ideas to Improve your Board Meeting: NNN Contributors Share Favorite Examples
Spring 2017 by Emily Anthony, Dani Beam, Julie Edsforth, Sara Lawson, Heidi Thomson-Daly, Jennifer Weber

Improve Board Meetings

“Best Ever” is our new feature at Northwest Nonprofit Notes, an article with one favorite idea from several of our contributors all on the same topic.  This month we asked our consultants to share one of their “Best Ever” ideas for improving board meetings, creative ways to breathe life into board meetings that may be feeling a little lackluster.  Pick a couple of these and try them if your board meeting feels like it needs a little “spring cleaning”, and let us know how it goes in the comment section! (And check out last issue’s ideas on donor stewardship if you missed them!)