Russell Dennis

  Russell Dennis


The best laid plans for delivering premium service do not always work. Effective nonprofits begin by looking at things they can control before going outside to discover what went wrong. When emphasis is on doing an external scan, problems inside the organization go unnoticed.
Dedicated people in nonprofits do not set out to be ineffective at solving social problems. Many difficulties can be traced to poor communication. People talk to each other in disrespectful ways or critical issues are ignored. Expectations about what has to be done and how to do it stifle conversations around change.

Everyone in the organization turns to the board of directors to provide that leadership
They need not agree on every aspect of operations to be effective. A group with different backgrounds creates a larger capacity for understanding multiple audiences. Diversity and inclusion are key ingredients. It is not enough to have people who look different; their voices must be considered and given equal weight in every discussion.

Before getting to the tough questions every board faces, putting six things into practice paves the path for highly effective boardroom communications.

  1. Remember everyone on the board is valuable and worthy of respect. They bring a unique set of knowledge, skills, and abilities toward accomplishing the mission.
  2. Always use a respectful tone when addressing each other and do not make anything personal. Focus on the vision, mission, and the people who need your services.
  3. Focus on good qualities each member of the team possesses. This is not always easy in the heat of discussion. Build pauses into conversation when agitated or doubtful about the direction it takes. Allow time to reflect and adjust to what has been said. It is possible to be wrong. Everyone has a right to be wrong. Angry language will not bring others around to your way of thinking. Empathy is the best tool for getting the conversation back on track in these situations.
  4. Listen and ask questions. Repeat what someone has said, in your own language, then ask if that was what they meant. Conversations may last longer, but this approach is worth the extra time invested to eliminate misunderstandings. Active listening includes full engagement, openness, going below the surface of the words to hear what is not being said, and not interrupting the person speaking.
  5. Fifth, be clear about what you want to say and how you say it. Show respect by avoiding “you” statements in the event you are addressing a disagreement or talking about your reaction to something they said or did. Address your response to the action not their action. Listen very carefully to their response and thank them for taking time to listen to your point of view. Focus on the problem, not the person.
  6. Continuously celebrate what is working. When you notice others good qualities in action, verbalize how you admire them in front of the group. Openly state how much you value and appreciate each other. Making these six strategies a habit will increase your effectiveness and individuals and as an organization.

Here are the questions these techniques free you to answer. You are on your way to tackling any challenge when you’ve answered them!

  1. What’s our primary purpose? – Always stay focused on the vision and mission.
  2. What are we best at? – Always work from your strengths.
  3. What is our biggest challenge? – Work at the most important things first.
  4. What are we not doing that we should start doing?
  5. What should we stop doing?
  6. What should we keep doing?

Russell Dennis is CEO of RD Dennis Enterprises, LLC. He is host of the Nonprofit Culture of Success Show and Co-host of SynerVision Leadership Foundation’s Nonprofit Exchange Podcast. He creates customized tools that are easy to access, understand, and use to help social profits raise more funds and attract more support for their missions. You can find him at and at user name RmanRussDen on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. Go to to schedule a complimentary consultation.

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Join Hugh Ballou and Russell Dennis and their guests on our weekly Tuesday afternoon Nonprofit Exchange at 2 pm Eastern time.
If you already have a nonprofit or are thinking of starting one, this will be very helpful. Put it on your calendar NOW! It’s a session that you don’t want to miss! Discover what’s blocking your success!
The Nonprofit Exchange on Tuesdays at 2 pm ET has been quite beneficial for many participants and we have enjoyed sharing thoughts and tips for moving past the stuck places we all find in leading an organization to achieving its mission.
Learn more and access archives HERE.
As the famous British Composer and Conductor Ralph Vaughan Williams once said, “Music does not reveal all of its secrets to just one person.” If you replace the word “Music” with the word “Leadership” or “Team” or “Strategy” etc., then we all give and receive value from others. That’s the spirit of the Tuesday afternoon Nonprofit Exchange encounters, sponsored by SynerVision Leadership Foundation’sCommunity for Community Builders.”

You can join the conversation on Zoom or watch on Facebook Live Video. It’s your choice. You can comment on Facebook and on the Zoom chat box on any device.

Put this on your calendar NOW! It’s a session that you don’t want to miss! Discover what’s blocking your success!

We’ll “see” YOU on the call. Here’s to your greater success!

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