I recently encountered two tough nonprofit situations. 1) two executive committee member resignations and 2) governance issues related to high turn over of executive staff.
I’ve created a solutions for situation #1. The solution is to convene existing executive committee board members and identify new ones. In this case, there are people interested in taking on additional responsibilities and the resignations presented an opportunity to move forward with new leadership. The lesson here is to work with people who want to do the work and not convince or change people so the work gets done.
Situation #2 is a bit tougher. In the new political environment there will always be room for highly skilled people in the nonprofit sector. The issue for boards is to be able to retain leaders. Leadership retention is important to the stability and sustainability of an organization. Especially in small organizations where only a few people are known to donors and volunteers. Although organizations should never be about one person, when an organization experiences repeated (2+) changes in leadership in a short amount of time (<5 years), instability arises.
In the case I’m working on, high staff turn over has resulted in board members playing the role of both operations and governance. In an ideal world, nonprofit board members should focus on governance and the staff should focus on operations. Both working collaboratively to fulfill the mission, thus creating public benefit.
The people involved at both the board and staff level need to get clear on roles and responsibilities. This starts with open and honest communication. It also helps to recognize and focus on the strengths of the people involved.
Additionally, change needs to be acknowledged and fostered. Obviously, operating in the same way is not going to work for all parties involved. When you are directly involved, the focus on change is not as obvious. As Jack Dixon said, “if you focus on results, you will never change. If you focus on change, you will get results.”
Stayed tuned, I plan to share some of the results.