“No nonprofit organization can obtain greatness by stumbling over its board.” – Dr. Fred Lange, co-founder of the United Way.
By Mel and Pearl Shaw of Saad&Shaw
Complaining is an important part of life. On the positive side of things it can lead to much needed improvements. On the negative side it can be viewed as “hot air” from people who don’t want to do anything to change a situation. In terms of nonprofit boards, complaining – like fundraising – can be both an art and a science. Before complaining consider a quick self-assessment using any or all of the following questions.
As a board member….Do I personally have the skills, resources, and experience to help this nonprofit fulfill its mission, vision, goals, and raise the funds it needs? Am I – in consultation with my family – in a position to make an annual meaningful gift, along with gifts to other fundraising initiatives as they arise? Do I really know the organization’s strengths and challenges? Importantly, ask yourself, “Do I care?”
You may know the answer to the “do I care” question or you may be hiding it from yourself. Here are a few more questions to ponder, to help reveal your answer: Do I regularly attend board meetings? Do I let people know if I cannot make a meeting? When was the last time I had meaningful conversation with the CEO about the organization’s health and finances?
If you want to complain about fundraising, ask yourself: When was the last time I gave or secured a meaningful financial contribution? Can I effectively make the case? If called on, would I be able to serve in an interim leadership staff position? Am I accessible when needed? Have I committed myself – in writing – to the role I am willing to fulfill? Do I know what others expect of me? Who is benefitting most from my board service: me or the organization? What about my impact, is it quantifiable?
These can be hard questions to ask yourself, or to ask of your fellow board members. But it is important to assess what you are doing and willing to do before complaining about what others are doing or not doing. Consider these words from Roland Martin via a video on Facebook. “The job of board members…let me be real clear. The job of board members is to ensure that the finances of the institution are strong, that processes, accreditation, things along those lines are there as well, and to go raise money. Let me say it again: when people sit on the board it’s to go raise money. It’s to not sit on boards thinking you high and mighty and then just somehow thinking the money just gonna come rolling in. No! It’s working in concert hand in hand with the President.”
Martin’s message is clear. No one else will say this to you directly because they don’t want to upset you. But the most successful boards are comprised of people who give, govern, and fundraise. You can do it too.