Unite Your Board and Blast Off!
In these columns I address real-life obstacles and challenges that nonprofits face in creating sustainable funding to deliver their missions and achieve real impact. Readers write via email to receive a quick consultation and perhaps have their particular problems addressed in these columns.
I received an email just before New Year's from the executive director of a social-services organization in the Northeast. Mary related to me her frustrations with getting her board members to become a group with a solid mission and purpose rather than just a collection of well-meaning individuals who meet periodically.
As Mary described their situation, it seemed healthy enough. Board members attend meetings reasonably well. They usually do what they say they will do. And they are regular donors, for the most part.
So what's Mary's beef, you say? What she sees lacking is the energy and passion that a group unified behind a single purpose and vision can provide.
Why is this important? Mary sees not only what is being done but has a vision for what can be achieved in their small community. As she ran through the list of board members, each and every one, their motives for board service were positive and valid.
And yet …
I sensed Mary's frustration, as I have also seen what I call "robot service." Don't get me wrong: Many a charitable organization would love to have a leadership board operating at this level of competence. When you've seen a group that is truly united, however, you realize how much more can be achieved. It's the power of synergy.
After a few questions via an email exchange, I suggested that Mary use an upcoming board session to try something new. In advance of that meeting, I suggested she contact a board member whom she knew had a story to tell, a heartfelt reason for being there. At the meeting, Mary would use her time on the agenda to suggest that everyone present briefly share his or her "story" with the others. The prearrangement with the one member would allow for the process to get off to a smooth start.