Happy Boss’s Day to non-profit board members! 10 reasons they deserve recognition.

  • Posted on October 16, 2010 at 8:37 pm

People who make a difference in the community are not always visible.  Non-profit board members are some “difference makers” that don’t always get recognized.  I’d like to take the opportunity of October 15th, Boss’s Day to tell you about some great things board members do!

The top ten reasons board members deserve to be recognized:

1.) Unique power structure.  Typically the board as a collective group, supervises the non-profit operations, including staff.  No one board member is boss, the group together makes decisions, develops policy and is accountability for agency operations. 

2.) Rigid volunteer schedule.  Most volunteering is on an as needed, or with some control over scheduling on the part of the volunteer.  Not so with being a board volunteer, you have to attend monthly meetings, committee meeting and other events as scheduled by the non-profit.  The SCVRJP board, that governs the non-profit I run, meets monthly at a minimum, usually a second meeting happens each month for committee work.

3.) Difficult volunteer work.  Board member have to make difficult agency decisions.  Day to day executive directors are well, executive we make agency decisions as needed.  We do the best we can from direct service to grant writing.  On certain matters we are forced to be “middle managers” getting board approval for specific actions.  Often times we know what we want, we wouldn’t ask a board for something we didn’t strongly want or believe in.  Board members need to say no.  Saying no is not easy.  Especially because of number 4.

4.)Dealing with ED’s.  To be an executive director of a non-profit, means you have passion for the cause.  You’ve got to be enough of a risk taker to grow programs, try something new, ask for funding, while at the same time, be organized enough to keep a budget, a schedule and important agency documents.  I haven’t met an executive director who isn’t a strong and talented person.  Executive directors can be like football coaches, they make or break a team.  It takes the right chemistry to match a director and board to bring out strengths in both.

5.) Rotating leadership.  Most boards have terms and term limits.  The board members by design of the bylaws or just by the rotation of volunteers, boards are not stable.  It requires patience and tolerance to get new people up to speed.  To bring in new faces with new ideas and agenda’s makes volunteering on a board unpredictable and uncontrolled.

6.)Always in the kitchen on the tough issues.  Board members get called on when times are tough.  Board members have to take responsibility and actions when agency issues get out of hand.  Board members have to take the heat and problem solve and address critical issues.  This can be difficult when the director needs replaced or issues threaten the livelyhood of a non-profit.

7.) Managing the inter-personal.  Not every member on every board is going to get along.  The director is not going to see eye to eye with every single board member 100% of the time.  Board members are left navigating these personality issues, while keeping sight of the bigger picture of the agency mission.  If you can’t tell who the difficult board member is, it might be you, be careful!  These dynamics can split a board and members will leave in groups.  These issues hurt peoples feelings and often there is no place for that hurt to be repaired.

8.) Flowing with industry. A big change of late has been boards managing non-profits as they manage social media.  Board members contributing to blogs, or reading what the executive director posted.  Five years ago boards didn’t have to deal with a non-profits outreach on Facebook, Twitter or other social media efforts.  My executive committee had to discuss me guest blogging for another site.  There was no bylaw or precedent to follow, board members are left to discover new things and make the best decisions possible.

9.)Not a lot of thanks.  I try to compliment and point out my board members as much as possible.  Not everyone understands what it means to be a board member.  It is a bit complicated, and what you do can be hard to describe.  People don’t always go out of the way to say “thank you” to someone for doing something they don’t understand.  People don’t often connect how a board member helps promote what the non-profit promotes.

10.) The 10th reason board members deserve to be recognized is because without them, non-profits wouldn’t exist!  The board/agency partnership is much more than a legal requirement, it is a social bond as well.  If people in the community didn’t step up to govern by serving on boards we wouldn’t have the agencies.  Board volunteer service is a statement that community members believe in a cause.  They believe in it in a way to give time, talents, and resources.  The majority of board members I have ever known are interested in doing a good job and helping out.  Like most things of value it comes with tough and frustrating times, as well as rewarding and encouraging.

Next time you meet a board member, say thanks!  They are really good neighbors.

Happy Boss’s Day to all board members!

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