Throughout my professional career I have had the pleasure to sit on a variety of different non-profit boards. I even, in what seems like my former life, worked directly for a start-up non-profit. One thing that’s been clear to me over the years is the importance of communication and expectations of board members and volunteers.
To put it bluntly, a disorganized board can destroy a non-profit. Especially if it’s a small organization that has few to zero paid employees. The success of the organization rests solely on the members of the board and if communication, planning and fundraising is poor the organization will fail.
The problem arises when you are involved with the first type of non-profit (the one headed down the tube). What do you do? Just walk away while shouting “Good luck!” over your shoulder? I don’t know about you, but I don’t really have that in my DNA. If I commit to something I have to give it my all before abandonment kicks in. Plus, let’s remember that this is a non-profit that likely (hopefully!) has a good and worthy cause. What about the population you are serving? If everyone jumps ship they are left in the dust.
Having been in this position in the past I know that it is a difficult situation. A few steps can be taken to evaluate the next steps:
1. Reorganization is usually necessary. Certain individuals may be serving in the wrong position on the board. Just because someone had the original vision of the cause and mission does not mean they should be necessarily overseeing the operations of the organization. Put the Secretary in the President’s role and see what happens – you might be surprised.
2. Reevaluation of the commitment and passion of members might be in order, as well. Are they really connected with the cause or are they just looking for a resume builder? Also, is the non-profit giving their board members a reason to be excited about the mission of the group? It’s a give and take and the organization cannot take for granted the time and sacrifice of the board members.
3. Determine if the planning and fundraising goals of the organization are realistic and attainable. A brand new group striving to raise millions of dollars in their first year through fundraisers and grants will likely get discouraged quickly. Stick to reachable goals and increase them year by year. Eventually you might hit that million dollar mark, but be realistic about when.
Have you experienced a board in distress? How did you turn things around or did you decide to walk away? Do you think you did the right thing or would you reevaluate and do things differently if faced with the problem again?
- How to Build a Better Non-Profit Board (wepay.com)
- Enfield to face another board with conflicts when she comes to Highline (highlinetimes.com)
- Creating A Board for Your HOA or Condominium Association (atlantahoaservices.wordpress.com)