Have you experienced the nonprofit “meltdown” that happens 72 hours before a board meeting? Does your stomach churn? Are you anxious? Do you fear the “other shoe” waiting to drop? If you’ve ridden the “board preparation roller coaster,” this column is for you. If you haven’t taken such a ride, here’s what it looks like.
Everything comes to a complete stop as the organization prepares for the board meeting. People are working at the last minute, hoping to get the board packet to members before the meeting. The hunt is on for who has the official version of minutes from the last meeting, and questions fly: Are there any action items in there we need to report on? The financials are pulled together, but when they are reviewed it turns out there is other information in the packet that contradicts the financials. The finance team and others have to “redo” their materials.
There is confusion about who is coordinating the process of pulling together all the information. The server goes down, files get corrupted, the printer doesn’t work… everything that can go wrong does. The agenda keeps changing, which changes the information that needs to be included in the packet. Staff wonder, “will there be a quorum?” because they don’t know which board members will attend.
There may be a last-minute conversation with the board chair, or an “important” board member, that requires the agenda and other materials be “redone” again. Importantly, it’s not clear who’s bringing the donuts and coffee!
Here’s what else is going on: Even when board packets get sent out in advance, there are still changes to be made. New documents are distributed at the board meeting causing board members to roll their eyes. At the same time staff is placing bets on what will be the big surprise or unanticipated conversation that takes everything off track, so nothing gets done and everyone is discouraged. At the end of the meeting, staff is exhausted so the minutes don’t get typed up and distributed within 48 hours, no one is tracking who said they would do what by when, and the cycle starts again!
What could cause this craziness? Here are a few ideas about the root causes.
Lack of organization and preparation. Disconnect between the executive director and the board. There’s a political agenda lurking in the background, unspoken, but active. Lack of clarity re: board and staff roles and responsibilities. Unrealistic expectations, apathy, and/or resentment towards the board in general or board chair in particular. Or fear!
Organizational data is not current, not relevant, or not accurate. The executive team and staff cannot deliver on what is promised to the board. There is a lack of transparency and accountability. There is no system in place to prepare for meetings.
Consider which might be operating within your organization and take time to make adjustments: we guarantee this will take your stress level down!
Learn more about how to create a strong partnership between the executive leadership and the board. Order Strong Leaders, Better Results: Learn to Optimize Your Nonprofit Board (http://bit.ly/OptimizeYourBoard)
Copyright 2020 – Mel and Pearl Shaw of Saad&Shaw – Comprehensive Fund Development Services. Let us help you find your way through this unknown time. Video and phone conferencing services always available. Call us at (901) 522-8727. www.saadandshaw.com.