The Board of Directors of a nonprofit organization provides leadership and direction. But what happens with the Board doesn't do its job?
Too many small nonprofits have felt the pain of an inactive or ineffective Board. Staff members have high expectations that are never met by Board members who don't understand their roles and responsibilities. Here's a question I got recently about cleaning up after a Board that went astray.
"I am the current Executive Director of a not-for-profit organization. I have been working very hard this past year to correct issues and bad organizational practices that were left by the previous ED and Board. I have worked very closely with our new Board President and we have a stunning new board as of this month. The past board had become stagnant and not productive."
"We have just been granted finances to hire an assistant, but still there is so much to clean up financially and organizationally that I don't know where to start. Demands on my time pull me in so many different directions that I think I need a plan of action to really be effective. Can you help? I am truly passionate about this charity and we have made some progress in a short time, but I need to know if we are on the right track. What would you recommend?" Pat
The first thing you need to do is make a list of all the things that need to be done. Then go back through the list and decide who is the best person/group to work on it (you as the Executive Director, your new assistant, or the Board). Once you have your list, prioritize it into three categories:
1) things that are critical and must be done immediately (things that could be detrimental to the organization if they aren't handled now),
2) things that are important and really need to be dealt with soon, and
3) things that would be good if they were done.
As you prioritize, keep in mind the strategic direction the organization is trying to go. This will help you focus on the things that matter.
If your Board is truly stellar, members should be ready, willing, and able to jump on a list of tasks, and that should give you some encouragement that you aren't in this alone. Delegating tasks as appropriate to your new Board will not only lighten your load but give them something to do.
Your Board President needs to be diligent in keeping the new Board engaged. You might want to consider investing in some training to be sure everyone knows what they are supposed to be doing and that they have the skills to do the job.
It can take some time to clean up a mess left by others. Roll up your sleeves and get your house squared away so you can turn your attention to the mission of the organization.