3 essential tools for homeschool leaders

TipsTrapsVideo3

At the Indiana Association of Home Educators 2014 conference, I spoke to homeschool leaders about

Tips and Traps for Homeschool Leaders

In this video I discuss the 3 essential tools that homeschool leaders need.

In the video I mentioned a handout. You can download it here: http://wp.me/aF6pa-1c4

I hope the video is helpful.
For other videos for homeschool leaders visit HomeschoolCPA.com/Videos

 

Carol Topp, CPA

HomeschoolCPA.com

3 Tools for Running a Successful Homeschool Co-op (video)

Are you in a homeschool co-op or thinking about leading one? I have some advice for you! (I even write a book about homeschool co-ops!).

Here’s a video clip from my recent presentation of Homeschool Co-ops Are Like Marriage: Know What You’re Getting Into given at the Midwest Great Homeschool Convention in 2014.

Part 5 is titled 3 Tools for Running a Successful Homeschool Co-op.

In the video I mentioned my book Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out.

Here’s a handout for the presentation.

More clips from this presentation can be found at HomeschoolCPA’s YouTube Channel.

 

Carol Topp, CPA

Should your homeschool group have members? Maybe not!

conference_presentation_400_clr_7669
Many homeschool organizations file to become nonprofit corporations in their state and they are usually asked

 Does your corporation have members?

 Well, naturally most homeschool groups have members, so the answer is “Yes”, right?

Maybe not.

 

Read the question carefully. It asks if your corporation has members. Your group may have members, but not the corporation.

What’s the difference?

For-profit corporations have shareholders. These shareholders are entitled to a vote on matters brought to their attention. A nonprofit corporation may have members, but is not required to have members. If a nonprofit corporation has members, then those members are entitled to a vote on matters brought to them. Typically, this might be electing board members, approving the budget, choosing  to hire paid staff, etc. (the bylaws usually spell out what members vote on).

Voting memberships are useful when an organization wishes to be democratically controlled by its constituents. Voting memberships structures are commonly used by member driven organizations such as social clubs, churches, chambers of commerce and trade associations. In such cases, the organization exists to serve its members and its makes sense for control to be vested in the members.

Source: http://charitylawyerblog.com/2011/04/26/nonprofit-law-jargon-buster-voting-members-vs-self-perpetuating-boards/

Some nonprofit corporations do not have members; instead decisions are made by the board. The members do not have a vote, nor do they elect board members. The board appoints replacement board members (it’s called self-perpetuating).

Many homeschool organizations may have members participating in their activities (co-op classes, field trips, clubs, etc), but not have voting members of the corporation. Instead, they have a board that makes the decisions.

Advantages of a board-run organization (i.e., no members of the corporation)

  • A board-run homeschool group does not have to gather members together for a vote.
  • Decisions can be made more quickly.
  • A smaller group of people, the board, makes the decisions

Disadvantages of a board-run organization (i.e., no members of the corporation)

  • No input from the members
  • The board replaces itself and could become insular with no new ideas.

 Should your homeschool nonprofit corporation have members?

Well, of course, that is up to you, but I believe that it is more cumbersome for most homeschool organizations to have voting members. Many homeschool organizations are run by a self-perpetuating board very successfully.

What if your Articles of Incorporation state you have members, but you want to change that?

You will have to amend the Articles of Incorporation. This will probably take a vote of the members. State law dictates who can change the form of the corporation. Start researching “amend nonprofit corporation and YOUR STATE”  It usually involves holding a member meeting to change the Articles of Incorporation, filing some paperwork with your state and paying a small fee to your state (typically $30-$50).

 

Carol Topp, CPA

Save

What can you do when your leader is overly-controlling?

figure_underfoot_400_clr_6003

Does your homeschool group suffer from a dominate leader? She may have founders syndrome.

What can you do when your leader is overly-controlling?

How-matters.org offers this advice for boards:

  1. Understand and take full responsibility for the role of board member. Insist on focused board training to review the roles and responsibilities of a governing board. Undertake a yearly self-evaluation of the board to ensure it is operating effectively.
  2. Once a year, conduct a key exercise: pretend the founder suddenly left the organization. Who will/can quickly step in? Are you sure? What activities are the staff really doing to carry out programs? In the case of non-profits, what grants does the organization have to perform against and report on when? What is the cash flow situation? What stakeholders must be contacted? Where are the files/records?

I really like the idea of pretending your key leader suddenly left. It’s a great idea!

The blog post from How-matters.org offers other terrific suggestions for boards facing a founder who won’t let go.

Author Stephen G. Donshik in an article “The Creator or the Destroyer: Dealing with Founder’s Syndrome”  says it can take a long time, many months, to get a founder to loosen the reins.
It might require many discussions between the parties; it may take months before the founder acknowledges the need for a change in leadership.
What should you do if the founder won’t let go of leadership? Mr Donshik advises,
At some point if the founder is not receptive to planning for a succession of leadership in the organization, the board of directors may have to make a difficult decision to remove the founder from her leadership position when her continuing in the role is destructive to the agency.

I hope your organization will deal with founders syndrome and come out stronger and continue to serve more homeschool families.

Carol Topp, CPA

Does your homeschool leader have founders syndrome?

group_leader_400_clr_11526

Does your homeschoool organization suffer from founders syndrome?

I’ve talked to dozens of homeschool group members who have dominate leaders and they recognize founders syndrome when I describe it.

How-matters.org gives the symptoms of founder’s syndrome:

  • The founder is at the center of all decision-making. Decisions are made quickly, with little input from others. No one really seems to know what’s going on.
  • Planning is not done collectively and any ideas that do not come from the founder usually don’t go very far. People can even become afraid of the founder.
  • The board is recruited by the founder, rather than by the board itself. Often they are friends of the founder, who may have been there from the beginning.
  • The board’s role is to “support” the founder, rather than to lead the organization. They are often a rubber stamp board, having little understanding of the work the organization does.
  • Board and staff members are unable to answer basic questions about the organization, such as the size of the budget, the major funding sources, the extent of the programs, without checking first with the founder.
  • A casual observer would hear a lot of “I, me, my” in conversation. “My staff…” “My organization…” “My vision…” It would also not be unusual to hear the words, “Because that is how we have always done it.”
  • There is resistance to any changes that will result in a (perceived or actual) loss of control. There can be a resistance to new staff or outsiders because they are perceived as a threat. There is a (perceived or actual) fear that the organization will become “something we no longer recognize.”

 Some may ask, “So what’s wrong with that?” And the answer is simple: If the founder is hit by a truck tomorrow, the team or organization is at risk of not being able to continue its programs. All the good work people have done over the years is in danger of ending.

 Sound familiar to you?

Your homeschool leader is a control-freak. She suffers from founders syndrome.  It’s time to recognize it and start dealing with it for the health of your homeschool group.

Carol Topp, CPA

Should my homeschool nonprofit corporation have members?

voting_line_ballot_box_400_clr_9468

Carol,

I’m filling out the paperwork for my homeschool co-op to be a nonprofit corporation in my state. They ask “Does your organization have members?” We have families that pay for co-op classes and we call them members. Is this what the form is asking?

Joann in IN

Joann,

The state is asking about members of your corporation, not what you call members who participate in your homeschool co-op classes.

Here’s a helpful explanation from Nolo.com

Although a nonprofit corporation can choose to have members who have voting rights, many nonprofit corporations decide not to adopt a membership structure and, in the interests of efficiency, leave the decision making up to the directors. If a nonprofit does opt for a membership structure, the members participate in major corporate decisions. Specifically, the members have the exclusive right to elect directors, amend articles and bylaws, and vote on a merger or dissolution of the corporation.

I have found that most homeschool co-ops are run by a board and do not have members participate in decision making or vote on anything.

One homeschool group incorrectly checked the box on their nonprofit corporation application stating they had members. Later, they needed to amend their Articles of Incorporation  when applying for 501c3 tax exempt status with the IRS. This meant they had to gather the members together for a vote to amend the Articles. This was not easy because co-op classes had ended for the summer and the members no longer gathered together. It also involved explaining complicated IRS language to a group of people who didn’t really care, gathering ballots for votes, etc.

So be careful about what you are agreeing to when you check the box stating your nonprofit homeschool corporation has members.

Carol Topp, CPA

 

Starting a nonprofit homeschool group correctly! Dollars and Sense Show # 5

DollarsSenseShow5_320pxSq

In this episode of the  Dollars and Sense Show host Carol Topp discusses

Starting a nonprofit homeschool group correctly

In this episode,  Carol  discusses how to start a nonprofit homeschool group. She shares her knowledge as the Homeschool CPA on important steps to take when organizing a group such as having a board and a clear mission. She’ll also share tips on how to legally operate your homeschool group.

Listen to the show here

Three steps to launching (or running) a successful homeschool organization:

1. Board: Chose a group of leaders so no one carries the burden of leading alone.

2. Bylaws: Write up bylaws to structure your group. Decide the Who, What, Where, How often and How much issues. In the bylaws mention its purpose (what), its members (who) and its leaders. The Where, how often and how much change frequently and do not belong in the bylaws.

Sample bylaws here

3. Budget: Planning with numbers. Estimate your income and your expenses. Plan a small surplus for emergencies.

Cover Money Mgmt HS Org

Carol’s new book, Money Management in a Homeschool Organization will help your treasurer create a budget and stick to it!

 

On the show Carol mentioned:

Tune in for the next Dollars and Sense show on December 19, 2013 when Carol will discuss tax exemption and how to get it for your homeschool group.

 

Homeschool group elections and spouses on the team

stick_figures_team_puzzle_400_clr_7003

The current leadership (or our homeschool group) as well as those being added right now are hand picked and invited to be on the team.  In the future do we need to hold elections? Should the invitation to the leadership team be open to the husbands of the ladies on the team?

Angela

 

I have been on the board of several nonprofits that do not hold elections for the board and it can work well. Sometimes it is difficult to get the membership together to hold a vote or sometimes an election turns into a competitive popularity contest.

A middle ground is to ask for nominations (people can nominate themselves) and then the board (or a sub committee of the board) chooses new members based on talents, skills and the board’s needs.

I belonged to a nonprofit board that had advisers and the legal adviser was the husband of the director.  He was asked to be an adviser because of his experience as a lawyer and his passion for our mission, not just because he was married to the director.  Hopefully all the invited advisers will be judicious in offering their opinions and not try to overtake the meeting or the decisions being made.

Carol Topp, CPA

Does permanent leadership work in a homeschool group?

 

Does there  need to be a limit to how many times that person can serve on a homeschool group’s board, if she is still willing and the members still want her leading?

Has anyone had permanent leadership in a homeschool group and seen it work?

 

I have concern about a director or chair staying too long because it can create founder’s syndrome (“we always do it her way because she’s done it for so long”).  But I have seen groups run successfully with the same leaders for 10+years. But,  I would be concerned about burn out for the leader.

I’m less worried about a secretary or other members staying on indefinitely.

I do not think a treasurer should serve more than 3-5 years, even if she is doing a good job and wished to continue serving.  Too many mistakes, or even embezzlement, can occur if a treasurer is not changed frequently.  A treasurer unwilling to step down is a red flag signaling misappropriation of funds.
The pope is appointed for life, but Pope Benedict just resigned. He’s just too tired and old (at 85 years) to continue to do his job. It’s the first time on 600 years a pope has resigned!

In the USA, only the supreme court judges are appointed for life and it is debatable as to whether that system works!

Your homeschool group is not the supreme court nor the papacy, so I would not recommend permanent leadership for a board member.

Carol Topp, CPA

Board turnover may mean the purpose of the homeschool group could change

I am concerned that a regular turn over of the leadership of our homeschool group could result in the vision and purpose of the group changing year to year.

 

A shift away from your original vision and purpose is always a concern, so make sure you never turnover the entire board in a year or do not turn over more than half the board at once.

Also, do some training for new board members. Give them the bylaws and mission statement. Allow them to read minutes from prior board meetings. That way they will understand the purpose and mission of your group.

Additionally,  keep the mission in front of everyone’s eyes at every board meeting. Put it on a poster.  Read it out loud if you have to.

Regular meeting are a good way to remind members of the purpose of your group.

Sad but true story: One homeschool group only held board meetings when there was a crisis (and then those meetings lasted 3-4 hours!). The founder did very little to reinforce the mission and purpose of the group. She assumed everyone on  the board thought like she did.

Imagine her surprise when a board member proposed an idea that was in complete disagreement with the founder’s vision!  The meeting was a horrible experience and ended in the board member resigning. She went on to form a competing homeschool group. It bread ill-will in our homeschool community for years.

I hope that helps,

 

Carol Topp, CPA