Reflections on BLF14: Introduction to Nonprofit Debt

 And other gems from the 2014 Board Leadership Forum, submitted by Laura Boyer

GOB in Washington, D.C. at the Board Leadership Forum last autumn
GOB in Washington, D.C. at the Board Leadership Forum last autumn (Laura is third from the right)

The Get on Board* committee is made up of a handful of talented people who are passionate about our community.

At its core, the GOB* initiative encourages nonprofit board service among  young professionals and other untapped emerging leaders.

Through the hard work of our committee co-chairs, we recently had the honor of sharing our story nationally with other nonprofit leaders at the BoardSource 2014 Board Leadership Forum.

Here is my first post, and gems from some of my favorite sessions:

Introduction to Nonprofit debt – I love hearing from people who love their jobs, so this presenter had me from the beginning.  She specializes in working with nonprofits at her small bank. We learned when it might be good or bad for a nonprofit to take on debt.

For example, nonprofits may wisely choose to get a loan in anticipation of capital campaign pledges to allow them to start the work on their buildings right away. Generally, small organizations with uncertain income streams have deeper problems if they need to resort to taking on debt.

Arts organizations were the classic example of organizations that should not need debt. A vocal member of the audience was on the board of a dance organization that depended on loans to survive. She was going to ask her organization some deep questions about why it should keep borrowing money.

Larger organizations, with variable income sources that are certain but might be delayed, like program fees paid by government agencies, are good candidates for a line of credit to help with cash flow.

Overall, the forum gave me a renewed appreciation for the resources we have locally. The programs I have attended with the Foellinger Foundation and the PCNRC have been as good as if not better than the programs at the forum, which were excellent.

Although I learned many new ideas, my favorite part of the conference was getting to know my fellow committee members in depth.  Collectively, we are some of the kindest, most talented, most passionate folks I’ve ever met.

Submitted by Laura Boyer.

More gems from Laura’s BLF14 experience will post soon – watch for them! Other sessions topics will be:

  • Non-profit fraud – A forensic accountant showed board members why it was necessary to review the organization’s finances.
  • Legal issues for Nonprofit Board members – Two lawyers who specialized in assisting nonprofits with their business posed questions based on actual cases. The stories seemed so outlandish that they could not have possibly happened.
  • Consensus-based Leadership – I have experience with collective decision making, so I was excited to hear more about it from consultants who train people in the process. They demonstrated the benefits of their process visually by lining us up in different formations that represented different forms of hierarchies.

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