Who calls the shots at your nonprofit?

Who calls the shots at your nonprofit?Sometimes the multitude of decisions that need to be made can be overwhelming. If you are a nonprofit leader you know that the need to make decisions is never ending. But how do you make decisions? Better yet, how does the organization make decisions?

Some organizations find they aren’t able to advance as they desire. If you are in this position, consider looking at how decisions are made, and who manages the decision making process. Things may not be as clear as they seem. Sometimes the executive is not really making the decisions, even though she is technically empowered to do so. Consider these  examples.

  1. By committee. A number of options and opinions are put on the table by various individuals within and outside the organization. These are collectively discussed. Often, whoever talks the loudest, is the most aggressive, or stays at the table the longest has the most influence on the final decision.
  2. By the CEO only. The CEO makes decisions without consultation and guidance from internal and external sources. The extreme version of this is “my way or the highway.”
  3. Outside influencers and stakeholders. These individuals and organizations can apply what feels like constant pressure regarding what they think is best for your organization. Depending on the weight of their influence, they may expect the leadership to “bow down” to pressure.
  4. Donors and grant makers. This is where major donors feel that because of the investment they make in your organization they should dictate the organization’s direction.
  5. Who calls the shots at your nonprofit?Powerful board members. Because the board’s role is to provide oversight – and in many cases financial resources – members have the power to influence the organization’s direction. They have the power to hire and fire, and to block initiatives. This power can be exerted in negative ways.
  6. Those with a long history of involvement and a passion for an organization’s mission can have a unique influence. They may have strong community ties, or high corporate or social profile. They may try to “extort” the organization because their resources or connections within the community can make or break your nonprofit.
  7. Alumni or clients. College alumni and nonprofit clients can offer important guidance. They can also create havoc. Each of these groups can mobilize their constituency, use social media, and or the press to exert pressure when tough decisions need to be made.
  8. A combination of all of the above. Sometimes a decision maker tries to satisfy everyone. This is different from seeking diverse inputs. It can be very difficult to satisfy everyone; sometimes it turns into a nightmare.

Who calls the shots at your nonprofit?There are many constituents to consider when making decisions. You need input. The question is: who is making the decisions? Sometimes you think you are calling the shots, but maybe you’re not. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just important to be aware. You may want to bring in an outside consultant to assess your organization’s processes and culture, and to make recommendations that can help you move forward.


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Copyright 2019 – Mel and Pearl Shaw

When you are ready to build a fund development program, grow your fundraising, or increase board engagement we are here to help. (901) 522-8727. www.saadandshaw.com.

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