Aligning Methods With Goals
Apparently, this board member and several others are extremely frustrated. The executive director is well-liked, has a passion for the cause and has achieved some remarkable outcomes. When it comes to reaching out to potential donors and investors, her outlook becomes quite cynical, seeing philanthropists as strictly interested in the quid pro quo.
My response to the board member was flatly that I don't have an answer to this dilemma — at least not a painless one. The one where there isn't some sort of organizational upheaval.
To be honest, the seemingly intractable positions that the executive director have taken put her front and center in opposition to board members and the pressing need to improve the organization's financial standing.
The inevitable will probably be the departure of the executive director — voluntary or involuntary. Her departure will cause significant ripples within the ranks as she is a 10-year veteran of the organization who is well-liked both inside and outside the organization.
So what's the lesson from this regrettable situation? I could do a lot of moralizing about need for a fundraising focus for staff, but I won't. I believe the lesson that each of us can take from this is that boards should be focused on ends; staff focused on means.
The proper role of a board is to expect and demand from staff workable, realistic plans for revenue generation. Both board and staff have a role in implementing these plans. The inability — or unwillingness — to create such a plan to which both board and staff agree is when you make the decision to move in a different direction. Not when circumstances have overtaken you.
I extend my thanks to the concerned board member, who felt enough comfort to reach out and share her unfortunate situation. I send my very best wishes for a near-term solution to this dilemma — for both board and staff.
An internationally recognized philanthropy and fundraising thought leader, Larry C. Johnson trains the staff and volunteers of worthy causes to achieve real impact through the creation of reliable, growing revenue streams. He emphasizes principles before methods as the key to long-lasting success. He stresses the simple, the practical and the joyful.
Larry is the founder of The Eight Principles, the premier brand for educational products and services in relational fundraising and philanthropy. The Eight Principles provides digital education, live workshops and structured coaching to nonprofit organizations.
Author of the award-winning book, "The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising," AFP named Larry Outstanding Development Executive in 2010. The Wall Street Business Network ranks him in the Top 15 Fundraising Consultants in the USA. Larry is a graduate of Yale University. Larry speaks widely and serves on numerous nonprofit and corporate boards, including The Philanthropy Council of The Carter Center, the philanthropy of the 39th President of the U.S.