Questions for the Nonprofit Board

Corrections or additions?

These aricles were published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on September 15,

1999. All rights reserved.

Cyberspace Ad Hits

When a cutting-edge E-Business like Paytrust.com takes

out a billboard on Route 206 South in Robbinsville, you have to wonder

if there’s a future for advertising on the Internet. But Gary

Wien,

who runs the print/online New Jersey Web Guide on the grace of

advertisers,

says the perception that advertising on the `Net fails is out of synch

with the reality. "Internet advertising is up this quarter over

last year’s quarter," says Wien, citing recent statistics.

"Revenues

are climbing. Sure it’s a far cry from radio or television right now,

but it took television three years to get to where radio was."

The Internet could theoretically catch up with print advertising

dollars

in less time, but for fear of losing their bread and butter, says

Wien, the traditional media are mum on the subject. "There is

a definite fear showing, that’s why newspapers like to report that

revenues are down — click is down," he says. "The way

a newspaper makes most of its money is classified ads, and classified

ads have been the first ones to be hit online."

"Everything the Media has told you about Internet Advertising

is Wrong!," is the title of Wien’s presentation at Technology

New Jersey’s E-commerce seminar on Wednesday, September 22, at 8 a.m.

at Mercer College. Wien joins competitor Peter Levitan,

president

of New Jersey Online, and Russ Lockwood, founder of MagWeb,

at the seminar. Call 609-419-4444. Cost: $45.

Wien’s core business is NJAvenue.com, a state-wide search engine

for business and entertainment, and New Jersey Web Guide, a yellow

pages for the state’s websites. Wien, who graduated from Lynchburg

College with a B.A. in English, Class of 1992, is actually a

playwright.

"English degrees don’t go as far as they used to," he says.

"Computers have always been easy for me and at the time there

were over 200 new website designers starting companies a month. I

thought eventually they’ll want to have places to promote their

websites."

The idea to make it a New Jersey-only search engine was spawned by

typical search engine angst. "We tried searching locally and we

got a lot of things that weren’t relevant," he says. "If you

search for New Jersey in AltaVista you may up with some stuff in

Europe,

like off the coast of Jersey." NJAvenue makes it possible to punch

in car dealers in Flemington and get a precise answer. The search

engine is fueled by the database, key words, and the comments of

people

who review each site registered.

Since he decided to throw up fences in cyberspace and make all of

New Jersey his target audience, Wien has also pitted himself against

a formidable competitor — the Newhouse chain of newspapers,

including

the Star Ledger and the Times of Trenton. Levitan’s New Jersey Online

is a division of the Newhouse family’s media businesses. "I love

the irony of always speaking in front of Peter Levitan," says

Wien. "NJ Online has all the money on the world, but they think

like a print company. Newspaper companies usually don’t get it.

Newspapers

had a chance to dominate the ‘Net. There were very few newspapers

that actually did a really good job online. If you look at the top

20 sites, they’re never there. They missed the boat."

Wien credits the Bergen County Record, however, and CNN, for making

the transition. "One of the greatest sites is CNN," he says.

"They recognized that rather than fighting for people that turn

on your cable station, get them to go to the website. It’s the same

thing as tuning in — you’re not waiting the next day."

When Viacom announced the deal to purchase CBS for $34.4 billion last

week, it secured a leading position in the next century by creating

a conglomerate that spans the entire media spectrum, from film to

Internet. In New Jersey, Wien has been making some similar moves.

He bought a cable TV production studio and two important domain names:

njradio.com, and njradiostation.com. "I’m building my own little

empire," Wien jokes. "A year or two down the line, everyone

will be doing video on the Internet, and this gives us time to learn

the technology to do that without rushing. Internet Radio is also

coming."

That’s the format, Wien believes, that is going to be as much of a

force in people’s lives in the future as newspapers are in the

present.

Ironically, says Wien, the very thing that makes Internet advertising

so appealing — the ability to measure hits to ads — is what

the media uses to prove failure, pointing to low percent of

"clicks."

"They call 1 percent on the Internet a failure," he says.

"It’s going to be a low number. There’s a fair amount of people

who don’t click because they think clicking means you’re buying

something."

The value of ads aren’t always in "clickthroughs" either.

"Just having your ad out there does something. It’s branding.

You look at the typical newspaper, do people really pay attention

to every ad? I believe if we could report on other advertising media

the numbers would shock advertisers, but the Internet is the only

one that’s measurable."

If newspapers miss the boat, advertisers will be left high and dry,

says Wien. "What’s going to happen in a year or two when people

are walking around with Palm Pilots and they read it for free?,"

he asks. "Are they going to buy a paper for 25 cents?"

— Melinda Sherwood

Top Of Page
Questions for the Nonprofit Board

Who is responsible when the government starts asking

questions about a nonprofit’s use of funds? Who might get sued when

an employee slips and falls and holds the nonprofit organization

responsible?

Who is responsible for the organization’s financial health?

The board members, that’s who. So if you are invited to be on a board,

ask lots of questions — before you accept and while you are

serving.

That advice comes from Mark Lamar, executive director of Family

Guidance Center Corporation at 253 Nassau Street.

As a panelist on the topic of "Building Better Boards," Lamar

will speak at the Executive Forum of Greater Mercer County on

Thursday,

September 16, at 9 a.m. at the United Way of Greater Mercer County

at 3131 Princeton Pike. Executive directors of non-profit agencies

may attend free of charge by calling 609-896-1912, but the topic is

pertinent for anyone who serves on a nonprofit board.

Lamar’s overview is entitled "Why Have a Board?" and Zuline

Gray Wilkinson of the Union Industrial Home for Children will speak

on "Recruiting, Retiring, and Communicating: Diplomatic

Challenges.

Patricia Hart of Womanspace will discuss how to use board

orientation,

training, and education to facilitate board effectiveness in

understanding

the key issues being faced.

"There is no owner in a nonprofit corporation; in that sense we

are somewhat in the public trust," says Lamar. A graduate of

Boston

College, Class of 1972, he has both an MSW and an MBA from Rutgers

and was made executive director of the Community Guidance Center in

1986. In 1993 his Nassau Street-based organization merged with Family

Service Association of Trenton and Hopewell and now employs 100

people.

"The board is responsible for the asset management and the

property

resources. The board is to whom the government looks when they ask

questions about financial ownership and liability."

In the late 1980s a law was passed in New Jersey to make it

"somewhat

less dangerous," in Lamar’s words, for people to serve in a

volunteer

capacity as, for instance, Little League coaches and fete committee

members. But his group — just like many others — carries all

kinds of insurance, including policies on directors and officers,

professional malpractice, general liability, automobile, and a general

umbrella policy. A prospective board member should check on the

insurance

history of the nonprofit and should also ask about the leadership

history (has there been rapid turnover?), the rating by funders (what

the track record), the rating by peers or accreditation organizations,

and the overall financial condition of the organization.

The most difficult board member, as described by Lamar, is the person

who "after many tries doesn’t seem to understand the organization

and remains ambivalent or unconvinced. Then you need to ask the person

if they can help or not."

Why have a board at all? Board members offer contacts to the greater

community for outright financial resources to the organization. When

it comes to selling tickets or chances or getting donations, nothing

beats eyeball to eyeball contact. Marketing help also can come from

the board. Members who are respected in their professions can debunk

the myths about nonprofits, says Lamar, "by showing them to be

efficient, focused businesses, run by professional people who are

driven by a sense of mission."

Unlike some organizations, Family Guidance Center has a firm policy

of not requiring board members to ante up a certain contribution.

Past president Michael Spicer, of the law firm Jamieson Moore

Peskin & Spicer, insisted on this policy. "Because we are a

community

agency, we want to be able to attract people from all strata of the

community. If it became exclusive we would miss our mission,"

says Lamar. His 22-member board has lots of lawyers and executives

from big companies, but it also has schoolteachers, ministers,

entrepreneurs,

state workers, and human resource consultants.

"We say `here is our average board member contribution, here is

what the board was able to do last year, and here is the big picture

of what we hope for this year. And that we don’t require it, but we

will be looking for similar help from you,’" explains Lamar. The

help could take the form of contacts — asking friends to work

on committees to raise funds, or asking people who work for

corporations

to elicit donations.

This year, he reveals, the average board contribution was around

$1,500,

including donations garnered through personal contacts. This year’s

black-tie gala, "Dancing in the Dark," is set for Saturday,

October 2, at the Masonic Temple in Trenton (call 609-924-1320 for

$125 tickets).

The gala is expected to gross $90,000, including major contributions

from the companies of three board members (Jamieson Moore, Stark &

Stark, and PNC Bank) and one vendor — The Tribus Companies. Board

members contacted three more companies who anteed up support: Merrill

Lynch, and Aetna US Healthcare, and Bristol-Myers Squibb, as

represented

by co-chairs Mel Campbell and Joseph Villafranca.

The National Center for Nonprofit Boards

(http://www.ncnb/org)

says that among nonprofit boards basic responsibilities are to select

the executive, support the executive, and review his or her

performance.

But the legal responsibilities can be described three ways:

The duty of care — what a prudent person would

exercise

under similar circumstances.

The duty of loyalty — never to use information

obtained

as a board member for personal gain.

The duty of obedience — act in a way that is

consistent

with the central goals of the organization.

Good board members are like Marines — hard to find. "We

are all competing for a shrinking pool of ever-busy people for a board

members," says Lamar. He opposes term limits: "You don’t want

to rely on the clock ticking to make decisions about whether someone

should stay or go."

— Barbara Fox


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