Dear board volunteers . . . please speak up at board meetings

mardi gras mask19DonorDreams blog is honored to be hosting the May 2013 Nonprofit Blog Carnival. The theme this month is “Dear board volunteer . . .” and the idea is “If you could write an anonymous letter to a nonprofit board about something they do that drives you crazy, what would that letter look like and what suggested solutions would you include?” If you are a blogger and would like more information on how to participate and submit a post for consideration, please click here to learn more.

I wanted to expand the Nonprofit Blog Carnival concept in May. So, I reached out to real non-profit people and asked them to also write an anonymous letter to their board volunteers. These folks are executive directors, fundraising professionals, board members, donors, community volunteers, consultants and front line staff. I promised everyone anonymity in exchange for their submissions.

We will celebrate May’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival on Wednesday, May 29, 2013. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this real look at real issues that our community deals with on a daily basis.

Here is today’s letter:

Dear Board volunteers,

First of all, thank you for your service and time. Your commitment is invaluable to the organization and helps us push forward in achieving our mission.

As your Director, I work hard to implement your strategic plan, vision and goals. I am grateful that you have outlined a clear strategic plan, and chart of work with measurable objectives so I know your priorities are and what areas you want me to focus on.

Having said that, I would ask that we could work to clarify the best way to communicate.

As you know, putting together a board means bringing together a group of people with different ideas and experiences. It is very difficult to manage requests from each of you to focus on a project, a lead or an idea that each might have.

The strategic plan and my chart of work was outlined and clearly defined in order to ensure that we are on the same page and we are working towards meeting strategic goals to move the organization forward. Once we leave a board meeting, it is not helpful for board members to contact me and give me all of their thoughts and strong feelings on a topic that was covered in a meeting — a meeting at which they sat silent.

I can appreciate how intimidating some of the group norms can be in a board of directors setting; however, it is each person’s responsibility to provide his/her input and contribute to the conversation and ultimately the decision.

On another similar note, as each board member has their own opinions and areas of interest, it is important that the board provide the director guidance as one voice.

For a moment, please imagine having a dropper filled with water, and 23 different cups. If that dropper must put a drop in each of the 23 cups, there is little impact towards filling the cup; however, if there are perhaps three cups, the little dropper makes much more of a difference in filling the cup.

It is critical that the board stick to the agreed upon strategic direction and a measurable work plan for the Director.

Thank you for understanding.

The CEO who is NOT kicking stones in the parking lot after meetings with their board volunteers

If you have some advice for the author of our anonymous letter, please share it in the comment box at the bottom of this post in a respectful manner.  If you want to submit an anonymous letter for consideration this month, please email it to me at the address in your signature block below. If you are a blogger looking to participate in this month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival and want to learn more, then please click here.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

About DonorDreams

Erik got his start working in the non-profit field immediately upon graduation with his masters degree in 1994. His non-profit management and fundraising experience numbers nearly 20 years. His teachable point of view around resource development is influenced by the work of Penelope Burk and those professionals subscribing to a "donor centered" paradigm. Donors have dreams and it is our responsibility to be dream-makers because donors are not ATMs.

Posted on May 15, 2013, in Board development, Board governance, leadership, nonprofit, volunteers and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Dear NOT kicking stones,

    Good for you! You have a strategic plan and a chart of work – and you’re not kicking stones. It used to drive me crazy too when Board members called me the morning after a meeting to complain about a vote that took place in a meeting they attend, yet sat mute.

    What I started to do was encourage new Board members during the orientation, and any other chance I got, to engage in robust discussion and challenge all ideas with which they didn’t agree. I also started to redirect board members who called me and sent them to the committee chair or the Board chair. The idea may be great or it may not be, but once a vote takes place, the CEO’s marching orders are clear. If a Board member wants to make a change, they need to bring it back to the Board. It not only reduced the calls I received about things I couldn’t do anything about and ideas I didn’t want to own, it also reminded my board members that they have a voice and a vote.

    Keep fighting the fight,


  1. Pingback: May 2013 Nonprofit Blog Carnival | Donor Dreams Blog

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